Relaxing ashore in one of the many bungalows not far from the nested ships of the United States Navy at Pearl Harbor, sailors on this Sunday morning were luxuriating in the warm tropical environs of a paradise that would soon turn into a killing field. Planes were heard flying along the island coastline, raising little interest in the minds of the sailors who were enjoying liberty ashore.
This story was told to me about ten years ago by a couple of Pearl Harbor Survivor veterans when I was asked to speak to their group. They continued to recount the events of that day.
The planes flying by the bungalows along the beach sure looked like Jap Zeroes! But, then again, these sailors had seen the Marines paint their planes to look like the Zeroes with the big red “Meatball” on the sides of the fuselage and wings. And after all, Sunday was often just another day of the week when it came to military training. Yet it was a bit unnerving to see these planes looking so much like Japanese bombers. Standing on the bungalow’s lanai the sailors could clearly see the pilots of the aircraft, and, dang! they sure looked like Japanese! Waves of aircraft were filling the skies now, flying by, heading directly for the ships berthed at Pearl. In a matter of minutes the thunderous sounds of detonating bombs captured everyone’s attention. Alarm bells exploded in their heads. In their haste to throw on their uniforms and scramble into the car some of the men forgot their wallets containing their ID Cards. At this point, returning to base was paramount!
Pressing the accelerator of the car as far as they dared, they rolled up to the gate practically skidding to a stop for the sentry. The Marine guard, holding his M1 Garand, was unwilling to allow these sailors to pass without their IDs. And you can hardly blame the Marine. At this point he didn’t know who to trust. The sailors attempted to explain the haste which they were in, needing to return to their ships. It was obvious to all of them that something awful was happening down at the harbor. The Marine seemed unsure, recognizing that a crisis was brewing, yet wanting to obey his orders in not allowing any unlawful personnel to pass. Finally, exasperated, the sailor driving the car announced to the flummoxed Marine that they were going to drive onto the base and return to their ship. So if he was going to shoot them, then start shooting!
The car shot forward aiming for the harbor. No one dared to look back to see if the Marine was drawing a bead on them with his M1. The Marine stood with his rifle raised but did not fire. What they found when they arrived at the dock where their ship was tied up was utter devastation. Their ship was already sitting on the bottom of the harbor. Thus, World War Two began for the United States of America.
Another friend recalled this same event from a different perspective. Isaura and I met this elderly couple while I was stationed as a Navy chaplain from 1984-85 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in Southern California. George and Mamie Tintori had long been regular attenders of the Mainside Chapel on the base. We soon developed a lasting friendship and spent many enjoyable times together. They became surrogate grandparents for our girls, Laura (5) and Jenny (2). What a wonderful godly couple they were! They were loosed from their earthly bonds quite some years ago.
But one story they shared was their indirect connection with Pearl Harbor. George had enlisted in the Navy in 1922. Working his way up through the ranks, he became a warrant officer, and later, a commissioned officer, retiring as a Lieutenant Commander. He was given orders to report to a destroyer, home based at the naval station in San Francisco. They were living in a hotel in the city while waiting for base housing to open up. So George says to Mamie one morning that his ship was going out on maneuvers for the weekend, but that he’d be back late Sunday and that she should plan to join him for dinner Sunday night. Well, it just so happened that the Sunday George was out to sea was December 7, 1941, “A day that will live in infamy,” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt so eloquently stated. What is often forgotten is that Germany declared war on the United States the next day.
The next time Mamie saw George was four years later when the war mercifully ended.
America was hit hard at Pearl Harbor. Our military was at a dangerously low number having been downsized by Congress following World War One. What emerged from the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor was a resolve by a unified nation to not only strike back at an enemy that had attacked us without provocation, but to reduce that nation and their people to the point where they could not hurt anyone again for a very long time. The same attitude was aimed at Germany.
The Greatest Generation rose to the occasion and successfully defeated two daunting enemies, once again securing our freedom and liberties.
I fear our current generation might be called on to engage in a global war against Muslim radicals and their despotic followers. As our fathers and grandfathers did in WWII, this generation will undoubtedly step up and win the day for America and all freedom loving peoples throughout the world, crushing those who would seek to destroy us.
God bless America!