Seventy-four years ago today, airplanes swooped in over Honolulu and bombed the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor.
Battleship Row was decimated. The pilots in those planes then took aim at Hickam Field, where the U.S. Army had a substantial air base. More destruction followed.
Japan had committed an act of war against the United States.
The next day, President Roosevelt stood before the Congress and asked for a declaration of war. He got it by the end of the day.
War was a simpler endeavor back then.
One nation attacked another. The victim of that attack then declared war; the nation that did the attacking declared war right back. Both nations mobilized and sent young service personnel to the battlefield to fight it out.
Yes, we remember Pearl Harbor today as a “date which will live in infamy,” as FDR told us.
The young men we sent off to war — or what’s left of them — are old now. They’re in their 90s.
All told, the United States put 16 million men and women into uniform during that terrible period. Last I heard, there were around 2 million of them left.
We owe them everything. Our freedom. Our way of life.
Today, war looks different. We aren’t fighting nations. We are fighting ideologies. We are fighting a cunning and ruthless enemy.
Is a declaration of war possible now, in this era when we’re waging a conflict with an elusive force that stops at nothing to kill innocent victims — in the name of what they call “religion”?
I believe it is. The current president, Barack Obama, has asked Congress for what amounts to a war declaration. He wants a vote to “authorize” continued warfare against an enemy that has committed acts against us that are — in FDR’s words — every bit as “dastardly” as the attack on Pearl Harbor.
War, though, isn’t as simple now as it was then. Politics has gummed up our national resolve.
Still, we ought to keep those brave warriors — the living and those who have passed from the scene — who answered their nation’s call to arms more than seven decades ago in our thoughts today.
Their nation rallied behind them and crushed the tyrants who sought to bring so much harm to the world.