Dr. David Bennardo, superintendent of the South Huntington school district, It was 72 years ago that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941 "a date which will live in infamy."
On that fateful morning the crisp, clear Hawaiian skies erupted with the sights and sounds of over 350 Japanese combat planes and bombers intent on attacking the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.
Although our American military forces displayed great bravery, the soldiers and sailors had little time to respond to this surprise attack.
When the smoke cleared, just 90 minutes after the attack began, 2,386 Americans lay dead with another 1,139 seriously wounded. In addition to the human toll our nation saw 18 of its ships sunk or run aground and the damage to the naval base was beyond comprehension.
The nation stood for a moment in stunned disbelief as our people struggled to comprehend the enormity of the unexpected events. There is no question that the leaders of the Japanese Empire hoped that the swift blow against United States forces would weaken our resolve and diminish our nation's presence in the Pacific. It was this fundamental misunderstanding of the American spirit that would eventually result in the unconditional surrender of Imperial Japanese forces.
The truth is that the leaders who ordered the attack for December 7, 1941 engaged in a grave miscalculation that awoke a sleeping giant.
The people of our nation immediately united behind a common cause as we were quickly drawn into the worldwide struggle against fascism. From the ashes of Pearl Harbor a "greatest generation" came of age as they answered the call of duty with remarkable sacrifice both at home and abroad.
The years between 1941 and 1945 saw tremendous hardships and great triumphs in our nation. Although the American people did not ask for entry into the grand global struggle, their maximum hour of need unleashed a torrent of bravery, ingenuity, and productivity unmatched throughout the world. Once again, our country reaffirmed its reputation as a "shining city upon a hill", proving that democracy, despite all its blemishes, is the greatest hope against forces of oppression.
Although the first-hand accounts of Pearl Harbor fade just a bit each year, the memories of that day and valiant struggle it ignited stand at the very core of our nation's soul.