"Pearl Harbor, a place we'd never heard of"

Photo Credit Melissa Findley

Photo Credit Melissa Findley

"We could hear the pounding on the sides of the ship, and the screaming of the boys inside. This lasted for days but there was nothing we could do." These were the words of a Pearl Harbor Survivor on the 70th anniversary commemorations (four years ago) of a day in which the course of American history would be forever changed: the bombing of the American Naval and Air base at Pearl Harbor. The ship he was speaking of was the USS Arizona, and the sounds were the sounds of the 1,199 boys locked inside, begging for help, but never to breathe fresh air again. 

One of those boys was a handsome young sailor named Robert Moody. Fresh with life, and a smile that would make a lady's heart go pitter patter, he lost his life that day. Three years later, inspired by his brother's sacrifice, a young Harmon Moody would join the Navy as well. As an appropriate finale to the story, Harmon's Destroyer was one of those on detail at Tokyo Bay when the war came to an end. Today, Harmon speaks proudly of his brother's sacrifice. 

Maxine Andrews (one of the famous Andrews Sisters), later wrote about this fateful day.  "As we walked farther down the aisle, [where they were to hold their performance that evening] we could see the doorman and the stagehands were gathered in a small cluster on the stage, huddled around a small table model radio. There was only a bare light bulb illuminating that one small spot at centre stage. When we came within hearing distance, a radio announcer told Laverne, Patty, and me what the workers on the stage already knew: Pearl Harbor, a place we'd never heard of, had been attacked. I looked at the doorman and asked the question that millions of other Americans were asking each other that day, "Where's Pearl Harbor?" He said he wasn't sure, but that the voice on the radio was saying we were finally in the war. Suddenly, the empty sidewalks outside the theatre symbolized a stark reality: The world was different now and would be for the rest of our lives. 

It wasn't long before we were singing a song our parents had sung earlier: "Over There." George M Cohan wrote it as an inspirational song for Americans in World War I, and now, twenty three years after what was supposed to be the war to end all wars, we were in another world war and rallying our spirits over again with Cohan's message: "We won't come back till it's over, over there."

As hard as I try and recall, I don't remember the name of the veteran who spoke so vividly of the terrors he witnessed on December 7th, 1944; Yet regardless of that, his words struck a deep cord then, as they do now. How could it not when one has carried such a memory with him for 70 years. What happened on December 7, 1941 was perfidious and treacherous in the extreme. But it did something to America. It united her in a way we had never been united before. From that day on phrases like, "Remember the Alamo!" were echoed by "Remember Pearl Harbor!" "Remember Wake Island!". "Remember Bataan." And America went on to fight a war for which we will never be the same again.