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Dive into Pearl Harbor with resources at your library

 Thick smoke rolls out of a burning ship during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Most Americans have heard the phrase, “a date which will live in infamy.” But do you know where it came from?

It is a line from the famous speech (watch here - Periscope Films archive) by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, broadcast after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, during the Second World War. We mark the 78th anniversary of that event this year on December 7. While hardly a cause for celebration, it is important to remember the events of that Sunday in 1941, in part to honor those who fought and died that day, and in part to discover what history can teach us about today.

Searching through library resources, I found many facts I had either long forgotten, or never learned “back in the day.” You may find your memory tweaked a bit as well.

From John Devaney’s book, America Goes To War, I read that during President Roosevelt’s run for a third term as president he stated, “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.” Regardless of Roosevelt's pledge, the attack on Pearl Harbor meant that those boys would indeed see war; as a result of the attack, the president declared the United States entrance to WWII on December 8, 1941. Devaney's slim (less than 200 pages) book is laid out chronologically from January 1941 through January 1942, highlighting important events of that critical year. It's a great overview.

Two waves of Japanese aircraft comprising about 180 planes attacked Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu at approximately 7:55 a.m. local time. The attack lasted just under two hours, and resulted in the complete destruction of three U.S. ships: the Arizona, the Utah and the Oklahoma. There were many other warships, destroyers, cruisers and fighter planes lost or damaged.

The U.S. Navy, however, was not crippled and was able to quickly recover from the attack as important facilities such as oil storage depots and repair yards were not damaged. The aircraft carriers were not in the harbor at the time of the attack and they subsequently became the most important type of navy vessels in the war.

To this day, the USS Arizona remains at the bottom of the harbor. At the site now is the USS Arizona Memorial site; a US National Historic Landmark.  Every president since FRD has visited there. You might care to borrow the DVD, Pearl Harbor: Into the Arizona, a PBS presentation taking the viewer on an exploration of the bottoms decks of the ship. Or you might select Pearl Harbor: A Day of Infamy; a documentary of the event.

Additionally, Pearl Harbor Extra is a book containing a collection of newspaper articles published throughout the country, shortly before and thereafter. There are even some rare articles printed by Japanese newspapers in English for those English-speaking residents of Tokyo. As might be expected, these present an entirely different perspective of events.   

The exploration of history can be addicting, and hopefully your interest will be piqued enough to visit any of the Jasper County Public Libraries for more information. This truly is just the tip of the iceberg, and just one of many topics you can discover in depth at your library.

Image: Photograph of Pearl Harbor, U.S. National Archives. Thick smoke rolls out of a burning ship during the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. December 7, 1941