It was a Sunday morning, December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Growing up and attending school it was a day of remembrance and the flag flying in the front yard of our house. Today, some 30 years later I didn’t see any flags in my neighborhood and I haven’t heard Pearl Harbor mentioned in the news. Has our country just forgotten about this day?
Thank goodness for authors such as James Diehl, author of World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware who keep the memory of the World War II heroes alive and helps remind us that our country hasn’t always been at peace. We caught up with him during his virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion and asked if he would give us a guest post about Pearl Harbor.
Welcome to Paperback Writer.
PBW: James, would you give us an explanation of the words “Pearl Harbor” and the importance of your book?
James: Ask someone who was born in the 1970s or beyond what the words “Pearl Harbor” mean and you’ll likely get an answer straight out of the 2001 movie that became a blockbuster at the theaters for Touchstone Pictures.
Ask that same question to someone who was raised in the 1940s and you’ll get an entirely different answer, one filled with realism and sorrow for what happened on Dec. 7, 1941. Now take the next step – ask a veteran of World War II what those two simple words mean to him. It is likely a day he will never forget; most veterans from that era know someone who made the ultimate sacrifice as a direct result of what happened on that early December day nearly 70 years ago.
Listen to John Ross, who was on the deck of the U.S.S. Selfridge in berth X-9 that fateful day, just off the famed Battleship Row. It’s a day that has defined his entire life, and a day he will never, ever forget.
“We were lucky because they weren’t after destroyers [like the Selfridge]; they wanted the big ships. But it just seemed like all hell had broken loose – bombs were raining down on all the battleships,” Ross recounts in my book, World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware. “I saw the [U.S.S.] Arizona take a bomb through the deck and just settle down in the bottom of the harbor with a lot of people still trapped below deck. I was just dumfounded.”
Or the memories of U.S. Army soldier Clayton Cugler, who was stationed at Schofield Barracks, just a few miles from the harbor.
“When we went around the city, we looked out and the oil was all over the water and it was on fire. And those poor boys from the Navy, the ones who were on the ships that had been blown up, they were out there in the water fighting the fires and trying to get to shore. A lot of them died trying. Those Japanese really caught us by surprise. They had us really puzzled and mixed up for awhile.”
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 was a resounding and complete victory for Emperor Hirohito. On the flip side, it was a devastating defeat for the Americans and thrust then into a war they had been hesitant to enter.
The day changed the course of history and eventually led to President Harry S. Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base lasted for nearly two hours. When it was complete, 2,403 Americans were dead, 1,178 more were wounded, eight battleships were damaged or sunk and 188 aircraft were lost. It was a complete sucker punch to the gut of the United States, possibly the biggest ever, leading to a declaration of war and an intense wave of patriotism all across the county.
For Ross and Cugler and thousands more just like them, it was an event they will never forget. Sadly, our country’s World War II veterans are passing away at record numbers now and with them go their stories, their first-hand accounts of a time unrivaled in the history of the world.
We owe it to all the brave men and women of the World War II era to never forget the sacrifices they made all those years ago so that we may live today in the greatest country in the world. They truly were members of the “greatest generation” as Tom Brokaw so eloquently stated a few years ago. Without them and their service, who knows what the world would be like today. And it all started in a quiet little harbor in the territory of Hawaii, on a peaceful morning that suddenly became one of the most historic days ever.
We must never forget!
About the Book: World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware is a book unlike any other ever written. In its pages are profiles of 50 ordinary Americans who did extraordinary things during a time unlike any other in American history.
These are men and women who today call southern Delaware home. In the 1940s, these brave Americans put their lives on hold to fight for freedom and democracy against the horrific threat imposed on the world by Emperor Hirohito of Japan and German Fuhrer Adolph Hitler.
When Imperial Japan attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, the world changed forever. These men and women were a big part of that change; they fought to protect our freedom and our way of life.
About the Author: James Diehl is an award-winning journalist who has covered Sussex County, Delaware for various media outlets since 1998. Since 2007, he has owned and operated a freelance writing company based in Seaford, Delaware and is also a partner in a Lewes, Delaware-based public relations and marketing firm. He is the author of two works of non-fiction – Remembering Sussex County, from Zwaanendael to King Chicken, published in 2009 by The History Press, and World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware, published in 2009 by the DNB Group, Inc.
James can be found online at www.twitter.com/sussexwriter, at www.facebook.com/sussexwriter, at www.worldwar2heroes.blogspot.com or via www.ww2-heroes.com.