Pearl Harbor: Heroism that lives on in history



Today we pause to remember the “Day of Infamy” that plunged this nation into war.

Japan, early on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, without warning attacked the United States at the American Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. President Franklin D. Roosevelt the next day stood before Congress and described Dec. 7, 1941, as  “a date which will live in infamy.” Across history, the attack has.

Veterans of that battle and the others that followed are elderly men nowadays, their numbers fading. But the memory of their sacrifice should forever be a torch for future generations. These warriors, after all, paid with blood, sweat and tears for our freedom.

The Japanese attack on that day was fierce. Carrier-based warplanes sank five battleships, severely damaged three others anchored alongside, crippled or sank other ships of the U.S. fleet, and destroyed much of the nation’s Hawaii-based combat airplanes. The attack left 2,403 military and civilians dead – 1,177 from the USS Arizona alone.

Two Army Air Corps fighter planes got into the air to engage the Japanese attackers. One of those was flown by Ken Taylor, who survived several more combat missions during the war and who lived in Anchorage until his death in 2006.

Taylor accounted for four Japanese dive bombers on Dec. 7 and was injured. After his retirement from a long career of active Air Force service, Taylor headed the Alaska Air National Guard, a brigadier general whose wartime heroism is still hailed.

Four years later, World War II ended with victory over the Axis forces of Germany, Italy and Japan after bloody fighting in the North and South Pacific, in North Africa, in Europe, China, Burma and India. In the rebuilding that followed, nations once our enemies became our friends, allies and trade partners.

At Pearl Harbor, the attack of more than seven decades ago is remembered at the USS Arizona Memorial, erected over the sunken remains of one of the battleships shattered in those opening moments of America’s entry into World War II.

On this day, we salute the gallant men and women who fought for our freedom, a job that seemingly has no end.

Read more at the Anchorage Daily Planet.


  1. I just last week finished re-reading “At Dawn We Slept” by Gordon Prangle, The untold story of Pearl Harbor, which I had first read per my notes in 1982. It is perhaps the best sourced and written account of the years leading to December 7, 1941, the attack itself and what happened following the attack. For those who love History it is a great read…

  2. Over a decade ago, I was at a dinner with my daughter. The movie “Pearl Harbor” with Ben Affleck had just been released. Affleck played one of the two aviators who got airborne at Pearl Harbor on December 7th. Ken Taylor was also attending that dinner. Since I knew Ken, I asked him to meet my daughter. She was amazed to meet an actual World War II hero. She had just seen the movie and so asked him which of the two pilots played his part in the movie. With the wit of an American hero he replied, “ The one who got the girls.” Probably not politically correct today, but Ken Taylor was an American hero with a wonderful sense of light-hearted humor. We could learn a few things today from America’s Greatest Generation.

  3. My farm neighbor in Zearing, Iowa was Dick Lang. He was in the Army Air Corps stationed in the Philippines when hostilities began. He disobeyed orders to surrender and went into the jungle. Eventually, he joined with other servicemen who had disobeyed orders and they conducted operations behind the lines for the duration of the war. Never said a word about it to me. Found out from other sources. Admiral Halsey said, “There are no great men; there are only great challenges, which ordinary men like you and me are forced by circumstances to meet.” My neighbor was a man who met the challenge.

  4. Tora! Tora! Tora!
    Best movie ever about the attack on Pearl Harbor. If that movie was made today, it would cost over $1 billion.

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