Remember Pearl Harbor

Every generation has an event that galvanizes and defines them, an event for which they look back and remember where they were at that exact moment, and knew their lives would change forever. For my parents' generation, it was the attack on Pearl Harbor.


For those who missed it, we recently passed the 65th anniversary of the Date that Will Live In Infamy, the attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Forces of Japan on December 7, 1941. This anniversary marked, in all likelihood, the last great gathering of Pearl Harbor veterans, many of whom are in their mid-80s and many of whose comrades have died off. Older, grayer, and more infirmed than the young men they were on that Sunday morning, they still have an ineffable spirit, particularly those who, like one veteran, said he would keep coming back to Pearl Harbor as long as he had life in his limbs.


The battles fought after Pearl Harbor propelled the United States into the Second World War were punctuated by cries of "Remember Pearl Harbor" and, more specifically, "Remember the Arizona." The Arizona and the remains of its crew still lie entombed at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. The names of the men who died on the Arizona are listed on the Arizona memorial, a graceful structure that spans the sunken vessel. More poignant is the columbarium: survivors of the Arizona who lived out a full span of years nonetheless have come back to the Arizona, their cremated remains resting forever with their entombed shipmates. If there is anyone who can visit the Arizona without being moved to tears, he has a heart of stone.


There is a book by historian Victor Davis Hanson that I rather like, called Ripples of Battle, about how the battles of the past echo through history, influencing how we fight, what we think and how we live. Pearl Harbor has continued to ripple through my parents' lives -- and mine -- on both a personal and professional level.


The first US admiral to be killed in WWII was Admiral Ike Kidd, who still lies entombed in the Arizona. His widow lived a couple blocks from my parents when I was growing up in Annapolis, his son (also an Admiral) my parents met many times, and his grandson was a year or two ahead of me at the prep school I attended (and later attended the Naval Academy -- the third generation of Kidds to serve in the Navy). Another beloved neighbor (with whom I attended my first Army-Navy game) had been the berthing officer at Pearl Harbor, the guy who decided where the ships were parked that fateful day.


I could hardly turn around growing up without remembering Pearl Harbor. My father was stationed at Hickam Field, Honolulu in the 1950s, and there were still bullet holes from the attack scarring the buildings. My sister was stationed at Pearl Harbor decades later and there were still bullet holes in the buildings, left there "to remember."  A colleague at Oracle stationed in Hawai'i a few years ago assures me that bullet holes still remain in many buildings at Schofield Barracks. Nobody in the military can ever forget Pearl Harbor. We would all do well to remember it.


The ripples of Pearl Harbor spread wide. America, keen to exact a measure of retribution, launched a retaliatory raid on Tokyo. (A damnfool idea if ever there was one, flying B25 Mitchell bombers off the aircraft carrier Hornet, except that it worked.) The Doolittle Raiders successfully bombed Tokyo April 18, 1942, a feat which Japanese military leaders had told Emperor Hirohito was impossible. Though there was little physical damage, there was considerable damage to the Japanese military psyche. As a result, Japan was determined to destroy the remains of the US fleet, and sailed for Midway six weeks later. Because of Pearl Harbor, the Doolittle Raiders attacked Tokyo, because of the Doolittle Raid, Japan came to Midway, where they lost the war.


Admiral Yamamoto, who meticulously planned the attack on Pearl Harbor, nonetheless felt that it was a strategic mistake. "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve," he said. He did not live to see the defeat of Japan; his plane was shot down over Bougainville in 1943. In an eerie coincidence, his plane was shot down a year to the day of the Doolittle Raid.


In the 1920s, a Marine Corps officer named Col. Earl Ellis foresaw the rise of militarism in Japan, and the Marine Corps listened to him. The Marines developed their amazing amphibious warfare capabilities in part because of the vision of Col. Ellis, who foresaw that a war with Japan would necessarily involve storming beaches and taking back islands. The rest, as they say, is history. My mother once was in the uncomfortable position of being asked, by the Japanese ambassador to the US (who was attending a Navy football game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis at the time), what the names were emblazoned across the stadium? (They were, in fact, the names of great Navy and Marine Corps battles, a number of which were from WWII: Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa.) That there was no diplomatic incident I ascribe to my mother's great tact.  We think Pearl Harbor was an attack out of the blue, but it wasn't, not really. That the US ultimately prevailed in the Pacific was due in some measure, to people like Col. Ellis reading the handwriting on the wall and planning for a future years ahead.


A drawback of the information age is that so many people's memory spans only the latest round of technological innovations, but the ripples of history play out in years, not nanoseconds. History is timeless; technology, as we know, is all too temporal. The lessons of history, too, are timeless, if we care to learn them.


The biggest and most formidable lesson of Pearl Harbor is the unobvious one. A number of studies before Pearl Harbor described the possibility of a Japanese attack. However, few believed that Japan would actually do such a thing. The key takeaway from Pearl Harbor is one of the lessons that seem to be learned, and forgotten, and relearned again through history, a ripple that never ends: where there is capability, an enemy may develop intent.  Woe to those who only consider what they think will happen instead of what may happen. A good history lesson, a good security lesson, a good life lesson. Where there is capability, an enemy may develop intent.


As Col. Ellis did, we need to think the unthinkable.  Where there is capability, an enemy may develop intent. It is only after we think the unthinkable in the technology world that the industry as a whole will be able to adequately protect against looming threats.


On a family trip as a child, we happened, strictly by chance, across the USS Missouri, which was then in mothballs in Bremerton, Washington. I had no idea why a wistfulness crossed my father's face, until he explained to me that he participated in the flyover of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay when the peace treaty ending the war with Japan was signed. It seems fitting to me that the USS Missouri resides today in Pearl Harbor: the site of the end of the war docked a short distance from the Arizona, where it all began. Rest in peace, faithful warriors.


Remember Pearl Harbor.


For more information:


Find Ripples of Battle at:


For more on Col. Earl Ellis:


For more on Yamamoto's "sleeping giant" quote:'s_sleeping_giant_quote


A really excellent book on the Doolittle Raiders (where do we get such men?):



The best book on Pearl Harbor is still At Dawn We Slept by Gordon Prange. You can find it at:


For more on RADM Ike Kidd:


Amazing pictures of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7. 1941:


FDR's Date That Will Live in Infamy Speech:



To: Mary Ann Davidson From: Dana F. Harbaugh Honorary Member Pearl Harbor Survivors Association Carnation Chapter 3, San Diego, CA Subj: Your wonderful blog� �Remember Pearl Harbor� Ms Davidson, Finding the words to thank you has left me only with a desire to share with you a story that I think you will find both interesting and verging on the ironic. First, I must state that I found your blog via a Google News Alert subscription that I receive on the key words: �Pearl Harbor Survivors� and after monitoring these emails for more than a year now, your essay has to be the most heartfelt and touching effort I have read. And I�m hoping that you have a moment to read a bit of my background, and about the current project I am working on. In late 1999, I volunteered my time to organize, build the curriculum for, and instruct a series of basic computer skills classes for older veterans in the San Diego area. By chance, the very first class I seated was comprised of six veterans, five of whom were Pearl Harbor Survivors; and at the time all in their early eighties. The Survivors had learned of the class availability because their chapter held, and still holds, their monthly meetings in the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center located in the same building as the computer classes. Nearing the end of the 12 week course, one of the Survivors approached me and said, �Dana, you have been nominated to become an Honorary Member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association�, and in essence said, �you will agree�. To me, when a true American treasure such as Ben Boosinger, the then-Vice President of the chapter, and Survivor of the USS West Virginia says �jump�, I could only respond with �Yes sir, no sir, three bags full�. Soon thereafter, I found myself standing in front of more than 100 Survivors, spouses and guests with right hand raised, swearing not only to uphold and defend the Constitution, but to �Remember Pearl Harbor, and to Keep America Alert.� Being the son of a World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam Navy fighter pilot, a Navy veteran and combat veteran of Desert Storm myself, I did not, nor do I take this solemn oath lightly. (This same Navy fighter pilot used to plead with me as an unruly, insolent, and trouble-making teenager growing up in La Jolla, California, �Just get your grades up, and I can get you into Annapolis with a phone call.� My response at that time was: �Forget you ol� man� what do you know?� �And rightly so, a truckload of shame and guilt I will carry to my grave. For after he passed one year after I joined the Navy at the age of 26, I started looking through the records of his 23 Navy career, and I am only left with the memories of �A god of Naval Aviation history�) After this Pearl Harbor Survivor oath, my first thought was to tell myself that I would be both remiss and a fool not to bring a camera with me to every meeting and event that I was required to attend. And in doing so, I started to build a small portfolio of photos from various meetings, parades, memorial services, and other gatherings in and around the San Diego area. Within a couple of months of my swearing-in, Ben, affectionately known as �Uncle Ben�, again approached me and said that I was now going to be the Chapter�s �Official Photographer�. Again, �Yes sir!� In mid 2001, I was beyond-honored to be invited, all expenses paid, to attend the 60th Anniversary events in Pearl Harbor that following December. And of course, I brought my then film-type camera hoping to capture the truly historic event. This event was not only beautifully moving, but filled with an incredible sense of irony as dozens of New York Fire Fighters and Police arrived to attend the ceremonies; many of whom had literally left the 9-11 �Ground Zero� the day before. Over the course of the next five years, I became more and more motivated to take my truly amateur photographic skills to the next step. More parades, memorial services and leisure time outings were on the calendar. In late 2005, a business venture led me to pick up and move my life from San Diego to the Las Vegas area. And missing out on the camaraderie with the Survivors was definitely one of the things I thought of most. But apparently, the Survivors hadn�t forgotten about me. For in April of 2006, I received another invitation to attend the ceremonies in Hawaii. And as you so rightly mentioned in your blog, the 65th Anniversary is likely to be the last official gathering of the Survivors. And in knowing this sad fact, I told myself that no matter the personal costs, no matter the sacrifices, I would buy every single piece of digital camera gear, the finest cameras and gadgets that I could possibly afford so as to be able to capture this historic event. I even purchased a beautiful new laptop so as to be able to present the Survivors with a wonderful slide show of the photos I had taken over the years during the cocktail party they held the second night of our arrival in Oahu. I have literally dug myself into a financial hole that will take years to dig out of� but to me, that sacrifice is not only worth it, but it was an honor to do so. My refrain was, �This time, I�m going loaded for bear�. So picture this: 39 Pearl Harbor Survivors, many of their spouses, family members and guests mustering at the San Diego Airport this past December 3rd, awaiting a flight to Oahu. Picture two packed tour buses arriving at the Ohana Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel, that afternoon, and this gaggle of Survivors invading the land of paradise known as Oahu. And �picture this� I did. Leading up to the Anniversary, I counted somewhere between eight and ten thousand photos I have taken of the Survivors over the past six years. My goal became, �I will double this number�. Upon my return home, my initial count of digital photos taken in the course of six days is 11,878 photos� but I can�t be sure since I have something like 32 separate file folders of photos, many of which I still haven�t had time to review properly. So at this time, and never setting out to do so when I first started, I think I can humbly state that I have the largest collection of Pearl Harbor Survivor photos in the nation. And just through the law of numbers, if anyone takes that volume of photos, invariably there will be quite a few photos of a professional caliber. In the last year, I decided that the best and most efficient way to present some of these photos to the greater masses is to put together book of photos. What I envision is a beautiful coffee table-type book, filled with large glossy photos and little vignettes amplifying on the photos. As you well know, there are myriad books, documentaries, articles and essays out there on the �Day of Infamy�. There are numerous websites and books chronicling the stories and oral histories of the Pearl Harbor Survivors. But after a recent attempt at researching strictly the books available on Pearl Harbor, I counted more than 175 books in publication; none of which expose the Survivors other than with the constant question of �Where were you that day?� My collection of photos shows a side of the Survivors few Americans are aware of. These true heroes get up every morning knowing that their duty is to remember. Many don their �official uniform� of Hawaiian shirt, white slacks and shoes, topped off with the famous pin be-speckled cap and go out into America to remind us all to �Remember Pearl Harbor� Many Americans have never seen the personal side of these guys. Just the shear fun and sense of hope they have, which they bring with them everywhere they go; even though their message contains such a solemn admonition and carries the memories of the terrible loses they witnessed. God willing, I�ll have the time and the drive to see this project through. And to borrow from your phrasing, my dream is that this collection of photos will someday make a splash that will create ripples for many years into the future. Ripples that, future generations of young people can look upon as an inspiration for the virtues patriotism, remembrance, and that of honor. In your blog, in your writing, I know the Survivors would find great satisfaction that their message has gotten through to their intended audience� and I know that they are always asking for other Americans to help carry the torch of remembrance that they have carried for more than 65 years now. And with your permission, I�d like to forward your blog to those Survivors who are still using the computer skills I was so-honored to impart to them. Thank you for carrying that torch� and helping to pass it on to others. With great respect, Dana F. Harbaugh

Posted by Dana F. Harbaugh on February 01, 2007 at 10:27 PM PST #

Mary Ann, Thanks for your reminder about PearlHarbor and the universal truth that most Americans do not wish to think about or believe, "Where there is capability, an enemy may develop intent" A constant reminder of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 is what is needed to keep this country vigilant about protecting our children and our future. Thanks again for that reminder!

Posted by gary newman on March 13, 2007 at 03:51 AM PDT #

For another view of Pearl Harbor I would suggest George Morgenstern's Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War. Published in 1947, it makes a good antidote to any of the Prange books.

Posted by Steve Rudomanski on May 10, 2007 at 09:56 AM PDT #

My father is a Pear Harbor Survivor and lives in San Diego. Is there a Pear Harbor Survivors Chapter in San Diego? I have been unable to find their website or contact. Thank You

Posted by Pam on October 15, 2008 at 05:19 AM PDT #

I am also the daughter of a Pearl Harbor Survivor and an active member of San Diego Carnation Chapter Three of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, the largest in the nation. I would be happy to provide any information that Pam would like.

Posted by Cynthea Leilani Clemons-Brown on February 26, 2009 at 03:39 AM PST #

Thanks from sweden for this post

Posted by kläder on August 18, 2010 at 03:17 AM PDT #

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