The sun was lazily rising on horizon. It was around breakfast time on a stunning Sunday morning. It was quiet, peaceful, calm. People felt secure. There was a small tropical breeze as the American flag was being raised on a nearby flagpole.
It was this day that Luke Trahin, a 22-year-old sailor from Beaumont, in southeast Texas, noticed large formations of aircraft darkening the glistening sky. He kept watching in awe until suddenly the aircraft broke formation, dove from the sky and unleashed a fury of deadly, devastating bombs and torpedoes on a place called Pearl Harbor in the Pacific. It was this day, 70 years ago this morning, when Luke and his fellow sailors, soldiers, and marines saw war unleashed upon America. It was December 7, 1941
The Japanese had caught America by surprise and took advantage of an unprepared nation. And after the smoke cleared on that morning of madness, 98 Navy planes and 64 Army aircrafts were destroyed. Luke’s unit, Patrol Wing One, lost all but three of its 36 aircraft. 2,471 Americans, servicemen and civilians were killed by this unwarranted invasion of terror from the skies.
The pride of the United States Navy, the battleships — West Virginia, California, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Maryland, Nevada and Arizona — were trapped in the harbor. They made easy targets for the Japanese pilots. The sailors onboard these battle wagons fought with the courage of entire legions of warriors when they were attacked by a skillful, fanatical, and tyrannical enemy. All of these fierce U.S. Navy battleships were sunk or damaged. Their guns are now silent.
The hull of the USS Arizona became the sacred graveyard in the peaceful Pacific for more than 1,177 American sailors and marines. I have seen the oil that still seeps to the surface from the hull of the battleship Arizona.
Luke Trahan and his Navy buddies in Patrol Wing One quickly got organized, prepared, and waited for two days for the expected land invasion of the Japanese. It never came. But America was at war. It was World War II, and the war was long. It spread from the Pacific to Europe to Africa to the Middle East to Asia. The Japanese, then the Nazis, seemed undefeatable. But even the Japanese were concerned about the spirit of America. The Japanese commander of the Pearl Harbor invasion remarked that what Japan had done was wake a sleeping giant.
World War II was hard. Millions served in uniform overseas; millions served on the home front; all sacrificed for the cause of America. The nation woke from a somber sleep of neutrality and, with our allies, defeated the tyrants that would rule over the world. That was a time when Americans put aside all differences and united to defend freedom in our Nation. When the war was won, over 400,000 Americans had given their lives for this nation.
I’m always intrigued by the stories of those war heroes and the folks of their generation. There isn’t one of them that cannot recall the exact moment and place they were when they heard the news of Pearl Harbor. Both of my parents, barely teenagers at the time, still talk about what they were doing when they heard the radio broadcast that Sunday morning.
Until September 11th, this was the deadliest attack on US soil. "December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy," were words spoken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that became forever embedded in the minds of patriots across our land, igniting and launching a nation into the fiery trenches of battle throughout the world.
Those of that greatest generation proved that when freedom of this nation is threatened, our people will stand and fight. They will bring the thunder of God upon our enemies. Defending freedom and liberty was the battle cry of the sailors, marines, and soldiers that died 70 years ago at Pearl Harbor.
We remember December 7th , 1941 and the Americans who stood tall and kept the flame of America burning brightly. They were a remarked bunch of people. They were the Americans.
My friend, Petty Officer Luke Trahin, stayed in the United States Navy for 38 years, either on active or reserve status. He wore his uniform at every Memorial Day and every Veterans Day, and spent a lot of time speaking proudly about this country. He died 4 years ago on December 5, 2007. He was 89 years of age.
And that’s just the way it is.