It was 'A day which will live in infamy'

Monday, December 7, 2009
The forward substructure and the No. Two 14" gun turret of the sunken USS Arizona are engulfed in flames and smoke after the attack. (Courtesy National Park Service)

Sixty-eight years ago President Franklin Roosevelt uttered the famous line, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941--a date which will live in infamy--the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan" while addressing members of Congress to declare a state of war following the tragic bombing of Pearl Harbor.

At 8:06 a.m., Dec. 7, 1941, the world changed in an instant as Japan launched an attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii which damaged the USS Pennsylvania, USS Nevada, USS West Virginia, USS Tennessee, USS Maryland, and the USS California. The USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, and the USS Utah were left unable to be salvaged.

Roosevelt was correct in his opening statement. Many people remember exactly what they were doing when they heard the news. Charles Magee was 21 years old when the news came over the radio.

The front page of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin's second extra edition on the day of the attack is filled with news from a wide range of angles on the attack. (Courtesy National Park Service)

"It was a Sunday afternoon and I was waxing my old '35 Ford," Magee said. "I had just got a radio put in it."

Magee was working at Boeing in Wichita at the time and was instructed by the military to remain working for the aircraft company because that was where he was needed.

Maxine Rimbey was a freshman in high school during the attack.

"I remember sitting in a chair doing my algebra listening to the radio," Rimbey said. "I remember it so well ... I was so scared."

At the time, many people thought that the United States of America would never be involved in another war. Rimbey said she remembers talking about war in school thinking it could never happen.

"People had been talking about war for the last few years but I just didn't think we would get into it and all of the sudden we were," she said.

Knowing how to react to the tragic events was something unknown to many residents in the area. At the time few people knew what Pearl Harbor was or what the significance of the attack really was.

"I felt terrible, but Pearl Harbor didn't mean a whole lot to me because I didn't know it was our major Navy base," Magee said.

George Hudiburg heard about the attack on the radio while on a road trip. He said at first he didn't believe it really happened, then after hearing Roosevelt's address, it became real.

"When I first heard it, I thought it was a joke," Hudiburg said. "The next day, sitting in our fraternity house when Roosevelt gave his speech ... it became very real to all of us boys."

In 1980, the USS Arizona Memorial was built on top of the sunken ship to remember the more than 1,100 sailors and marines who were killed on the vessel. Due to fires which burned for 2 1/2 days, only 107 crewmen were positively identified, according to the National Park Service.

According to the NPS, as of March 2006, 38 of the 334 USS Arizona survivors are still living.

The USS Arizona rests in about 40-feet of water. After being stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in December of 1942, the USS Arizona was symbolically re-commissioned when a flagpole was erected on the ship on March 7, 1950. The ship is treated as one of the current fleet. The flag flying on the ship's mast only flies at half-staff when the other ships fly their flags at half-staff, according to the NPS.