Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Tomorrow is Pearl Harbor Day. As FDR said, “A Day that will live in infamy.” But as with many crises, the day before, December 6, was like any other day. The weather in Hawaii was pleasant, and the night sky bright with a nearly full moon. Some of the soldiers and sailors stationed at Pearl had gone ashore to clubs and parties. Others were attending the charity dance going on at Hickam Airfield. Parked on the macadam outside the dance hundreds of fighter planes were lined up in neat rows.

But a mere 220 miles away from Oahu dozens of Japanese ships awaited the signal to launch the attack.

Myriad eyewitness accounts exist of the attack on Pearl Harbor. From servicemen to newlyweds to high school students, they all said the same thing. They has arisen and gone about their Sunday morning routine-some to church, others to breakfast, still others to work. Never believing for a minute they would be victims of an air attack from a foreign country.

Despite the fact that relations with the Japanese were strained, most Americans were more concerned about what was happening in Europe than a potential attack from the Far East. Many U.S. citizens didn’t know where Hawaii or Pearl Harbor were located.

Then it happened.

At 7:53 AM, the first of two waves of bombings occurred. The second one came at 9:55 AM, and by 1:00 PM, the ships carrying the planes responsible for the attack were headed back to Japan. In their wake were over 2,400 people dead, 188 destroyed planes, and a crippled fleet that included eight damaged or destroyed battleships.

The U.S. was in the war, whether they wanted to be or not. And Americans were very aware of where Hawaii was located. And their knowledge of geography increased as the war raged on. My father was a young child, but still recalls the maps plastered across the front of the Baltimore Sun. And the battle cry “Remember Pearl Harbor” that galvanized our country to action.

Do you remember what you were doing during one of the terrible milestones in our country’s history-JFK’s assassination, MLK’s assassination, the Iran hostage situation, the attempt on President Reagan’s life, the Challenger disaster, 9/11, the Boston Marathon event?

A freelance writer for over ten years, Linda Shenton Matchett writes historical fiction. Her novella Love’s Harvest is available on Amazon. She is currently seeking a publisher for her series about WWII war correspondent Ruth Brown. Visit her at www.LindaShentonMatchett.com


  1. I was in my college dorm room when news of the assassination attempt on Reagan came over the radio. A handyman named Harold was in our room. Don't remember what he was fixing, but he was a Southerner and talked about his daddy.
    I was commuting to my library job in Fullerton, California, listening to the launch count of Challenger. Delays meant I didn't get to hear the liftoff. I worked in a back office, and went out to the main desk. The clerk asked if I'd heard the news. I hurried back to the office and told our student assistant. He looked so shocked. I gestured to the radio. "Turn it on." The rest of the day, I felt kind of sick.

  2. I was at the beauty shop when news of JFK's assignation came over the TV. And sitting on my sofa knitting and watching The Price is Right when the Challenger disaster happened.

    1. I hit publish too soon. Each of these disasters brought such a sense of helplessness and sorrow.

  3. I was in a grade school classroom when the announcement was made over the intercom system about JFT assissination. I was at work with the the Challenger diaster, 9/11 attack on American and the Boston Marathon events. Each event brought sadness and disbelief of what was happening with us employees stunned and hard to focus on work. I was thankful I knew God and He was in control.

  4. Our eighth grade basketball team was playing in a tournament that afternoon in 1963 and we were on our way back to school when our teacher told us. My family and I were glued to the TV the whole weekend. We always went to church but we didn't go that Sunday so we saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. This time was when my generation's innocence changed forever!
    That September morning my husband and I were just leaving our driveway when the news of the first plane came across the radio. I thought it was an accident until the newscaster announced the second plane. Once again, almost 38 years later, our nation faced another loss of innocence. This time we realized that we weren't safe from terrorism.