"Remember Pearl Harbor."
The words are the rallying cry that took the United States into World War II a day after the Japanese attacked the U.S. naval base in Hawaii. The date: Dec. 7, 1941.
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu lasted two hours and left 21 U.S. ships heavily damaged, 323 aircraft damaged or destroyed, and 2,390 people dead and 1,178 wounded. A bomb ripped open the USS Arizona, sinking the ship at its mooring along Battleship Row in nine minutes. It remains an underwater tomb for more than 900 of its 1,177 crewmen.
Before Sept. 11, 2001, the Pearl Harbor attack was the most deadly ever launched against America on our nation's soil. It remains America's "Day of Infamy," so named by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt in seeking and obtaining a declaration of war against Japan on Dec. 8, 1941.
Pearl Harbor and World War II must not be forgotten even as subsequent generations continue dealing with the reality of another surprise attack.
It's been more than 15 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Many are the parallels between the events of the Day of Infamy in 1941 and the modern-day infamy of Sept. 11, 2001.
The attacks of Sept. 11 in Washington and New York took twice the number of lives. The attacks opened the eyes of generations unaccustomed to war. Our president then, like Roosevelt in 1941, promised a war to save our way of life. George W. Bush said it would be a long, protracted war against terrorism.
He was right. American involvement in post 9-11 wars have produced conflicts longer than U.S. involvement in World War II.
Some doubt American unity in the war on terrorism because it is a different kind of struggle than World War II: no armies to defeat nor surrenders to be signed. No one knows where the next attack will come, where the next battle will have to be fought against extremists bent on destroying western civilization and the freedoms it embodies.
Not to be forgotten on Pearl Harbor Day: We are all Americans. As divided as our nation is politically, all Americans can and should be proud that ours is land where discord is accepted and expected, debate and division are not trampled by a dictatorial government, free speech and free religion are foundations of society.
We're all in this together.
As Japanese attackers and American survivors of Dec. 7, 1941, met in 2001 at Pearl Harbor, this time as friends harboring no bitterness, the assessment of a Japanese pilot from World War II sent a message to the world.
Kunio Iwashita told The Associated Press it was not until Sept. 11, 2001, that he realized how Americans felt in 1941.
"I was very impressed with all the flags on buildings and cars, with the patriotism Americans showed after Sept. 11," said Iwashita, who was visiting relatives in Boston on 9-11. "I realized what a big, strong country America is. I had no idea about that" in 1941.
Dec. 7, 1941, and Sept. 11, 2001: The lessons of those painful days must never be forgotten.