In many ways, it was just a typical December day in the Chicago area. My dad, Frank Boyle, told me that he was lying on the floor with a pillow positioned behind his head. He was listening to a radio broadcast of an encounter between the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Cardinals.
But at about 1:30 p.m., the game was interrupted by a bulletin. Reports had confirmed that the U.S naval fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii was hit with a surprise attack by the Japanese.
My father listened intently to the reports that did not have all the details as of yet. The football game later resumed and my dad knew exactly what he was going to be doing very soon -- he was going to war.
My father was right. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared war on Japan the following day. Roosevelt told Congress the next afternoon that Dec, 7, 1941 is “a date which will live in infamy.”
This nation has been shaken by surprise attacks, random acts of violence, and numerous natural disasters. Shootings at grade schools, high schools, colleges and universities have become too common the past 16 years.
So, to a degree, it is understandable that many younger Americans are unaware of the impact the invasion of Pearl Harbor had on our country. On one hand, the day was no different than any other at this time of the year. The temperatures were in the mid-20s and reached an afternoon high of 38 on Dec. 7, 1941. The temperatures reached a morning low of 31 and a high of 38 degrees on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor this year.
But when my father and millions of other Americans heard the radio bulletin about the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, everything changed. My father was typical of that generation. He couldn’t wait to sign up to defend his country. But he still had to finish high school. Many other American teens did not wait, dropping out of school and signing up.
I imagine many of them felt the U.S. would defeat Japan quickly while bringing down Hitler as well. It was a different time. When the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center fell to the ground in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, the nation and the world was stunned. Many of us saw it live on TV. Terrorists took over two planes and intentionally crashed them into the structures. We were also aware of the tragedies near Shanksville, Pa. and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. by the end of that morning, also the work of terrorists taking over planes. In all, 2,977 people were killed.
No one had televisions in 1941. My father could not have turned on a TV to watch wall-to-wall cable news shows for updates. Many people who lived in my dad’s Englewood neighborhood in Chicago had to wait until the evening editions of daily newspapers for further news on the invasion.
They had no Twitter or Facebook. The attack on Pearl Harbor took place at about 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time. My father and millions of other Americans found out about this attack later on.
But this much we do know about Pearl Harbor. The USS Arizona was completely destroyed and the Oklahoma was capsized. More than 2,400 people were killed and over 1,000 more were injured. The attack lasted just under two hours. Twenty American ships were damaged. Most of those fatalities and injuries were from the USS Arizona.
Dec. 7, 2016 was the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. While we have dealt with more tragedies in this new century in the U.S. and throughout the world, the Pearl Harbor attack is still shocking. This was the first time this young, vibrant nation, which was just shaking off the effects of the Great Depression, was attacked. Hawaii was an American territory at the time. Americans now had legitimate fears that the mainland could be next.
My father told me several stories about his time spent in World War II. He joined the Marine Corps and served in Okinawa, an island 350 miles south of mainland Japan. He did not elaborate much about his time being a gunner for the Marine Corps. Someone once asked him if he ever killed anyone. He was quiet for a moment and the said he did not know because he was far away.
With the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor invasion, memories of my father are still with me. The numbers of Americans who can recall that day are dwindling. But as a nation, we can’t forget. The lessons of Pearl Harbor are that freedom cannot be taken for granted.