Across our country today and here in Marietta, veterans, their families and friends and patriotic Americans remember Pearl Harbor.
In Honolulu there will be throngs of visitors to the USS Arizona Memorial, the most popular of all attractions in Hawaii. The bridge-like memorial spans the sunken battleship Arizona, final resting place for many of the 1,177 crewmen killed in the attack — the greatest loss of life on an American warship in history. The total deaths at Pearl Harbor numbered 2,418, including 68 civilians.
That forms the backdrop for a ceremony in Honolulu today as the Navy and National Park Service honor Ray Emory, 91-year-old survivor of the bombing, for his painstaking work over more than 20 years trying to identify unknown military dead at Pearl Harbor. Because of his stubborn efforts, more than 300 gravestones have been relabeled with the ship names of the deceased. Still, as many as one-fourth of the dead remain unidentified on the markers.
It might seem of little importance today, so remote from Dec. 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy,” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt described it. But not so. When people ask Emory why he has worked at his mission so long, his reply is: talk to those who lost relatives in the attack. To them, it means something like closure. They won’t forget what happened at Pearl Harbor.
Now once again our country is facing a decision on national defense that could have a major impact on our preparedness. The so-called fiscal cliff inexorably draws near while President Obama holds out for higher taxes against Republican opposition. If the country slides off the cliff, the Defense Department will get hit with an additional $500 billion in cuts over the next 10 years — on top of $487 billion cuts already approved.
Even if Republicans and Democrats work out a deal to avoid the cliff, additional cutbacks of several hundred billion in defense budgets could be in store over the coming decade. Procurement — spending on equipment and the like — would be hit the hardest, and the civilian workforce now at about 700,000 could be reduced by as much as 200,000.
Either scenario will undermine our country’s preparedness for the next Pearl Harbor or the next major terrorist attack on the order of Sept. 11, 2001, another date that lives in infamy, when Islamist jihadists wreaked death and destruction on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon while a courageous group of passengers fought their hijackers on United Airlines Flight 93 and the plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks.
The lessons from these attacks on our homeland must not be forgotten. Mistakes of the past must not be repeated. But they will be if drastic cuts are made in our national defense.
Let’s remember Pearl Harbor.