President Franklin D. Rossevelt said that it was “A Day in Infamy.” Admiral Yamamoto, the head of the Japanese Imperial Navy, after the attack, said “We have awakened a sleeping giant.” It was the event that profoundly changed the lives of my parent’s generation. As with all changes, it was for better and for worse. My father and mother ended up with jobs and responsibilities of which they never dreamed. The men on the battleships Arizona and others — the dead whose lives flamed out and the survivors whose lives were forever changed and traumatized — were those who suffered most deeply.
In those days, the population centers of the United States were still mostly on the East Coast. While it was early morning in Honolulu, it was mid afternoon on the East Coast. Many people remember the exact moment they heard the news. The late Senator Barry Goldwater was on the golf course in Arizona and had just putted out. He left the course in the middle of the round and went directly to the recruiting station to join the Army Air Force.
I can imagine from my own experience at hearing the news of the John F. Kennedy assassination, November 22, 1963. I still have vivid memories of where I was standing, who told me the news, and the shock and disbelief that I had both that very moment and for days and weeks afterwards. The 9-11-01 attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were also events that make you feel that life will never be the same afterwards.
But, Americans awakened to the challenge and won the War. Not alone. Americans, to use a phrase that was popular with that generation, “we did our share.”