Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dec. 7, 1941

TigerBlog remembers every detail of Sept. 11, 2001. He'll never forget any of it - the horror, the fear, the sadness, the uncertainty of what would come next.

He imagines the same for those who were in TB's stage of life back when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, back on Dec. 7, 1941.

That was 75 years ago today.

Within four days, the United States was at war, both against Japan and against Nazi Germany and Italy. By the time the World War II would end, more than 16 million Americans would have fought in either the Pacific or Europe. Of that number, nearly 700,000 would be wounded and more than 400,000 killed.

By contrast, in the entirety of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since the Sept. 11 attacks, there have been approximately 7,000 American military deaths and 50,000 military personnel wounded in more than four times as long World War II lasted. Those numbers are tragic in their own right; the numbers from World War II are essentially 10 times higher in a quarter of the time.

The final major battle of World War II was the Battle of Okinawa, which lasted basically six weeks. The U.S. losses in just that amount of time were 12,500 killed and 38,000 wounded.

Can you imagine if those casualty figures existed today?

The attack on Pearl Harbor came on a Sunday morning and left the U.S. with 2,400 dead and 1,200 wounded even before war was even officially declared. That's also roughly the same number of American military personnel who have been killed since 2001 in Iraq.

TigerBlog was in Hawaii in December of 1998, for the Rainbow Classic men's basketball tournament. In all of his time working at Princeton, that remains one of his best memories.

Princeton won the tournament, defeating Florida State, Texas and UNC Charlotte on three straight nights. For TigerBlog, the fact that Princeton kept winning meant that the team kept playing at night, instead of in the consolation rounds of the eight-team tournament, which would have meant games in the afternoon.

As a result, TB and Tom McCarthy, then the radio play-by-play man, were able to get into a good routine - go to the University of Hawaii athletic department to update information in the morning (this was before laptops and wireless internet devices), head to the beach, each lunch at Duke's on Waikiki Beach, back to the beach and then get ready for the game.

You can see why the trip was so good. And that doesn't even take into account the trip to Hawaii, when TB and McCarthy were the last two people to get on the flight to Honolulu after getting in late from Newark to San Francisco and had an entire 747 filled with impatient travelers who wanted to get to Hawaii boo them as they walked on.

At one point during their week in Hawaii, TB and McCarthy went to Pearl Harbor. As you get off the highway, there's a sign that points in both directions, with one arrow towards "Aloha Stadium" and the other towards "Pearl Harbor."

As you get to Pearl Harbor, it's impossible to look up and out and not envision the Japanese bombers as they came out of the peaceful Sunday air, bringing destruction both instant and long-lasting.

TigerBlog remembers that it gave him chills. It was surreal, knowing what had happened there so many years before. It was a typical Hawaiian day when TB was there, which means perfect weather, and it seemed so out of place with what happened there.

And the USS Arizona memorial? It's one of the most somber places TB has ever been. It was like nobody who was there wanted to do the slightest thing that might be seen as being disrespectful to those who died there. 

Princeton's men's basketball team is back in Hawaii right now. They're actually playing in a tournament at Pearl Harbor, whose first game was last night against Cal, with a game tonight against Hawaii. When TB was there, the games were on Hawaii's campus.

The games this week are actually at Bloch Arena, which opened at Pearl Harbor in August of 1941. The tournament is to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack.

It's an honor for Princeton to participate in such an event.  

You know what Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the President of the United States at the time, said after the Pearl Harbor attack. He called Dec. 7, 1941, a "day that will live in infamy."

He was right, obviously.

TigerBlog wasn't around in 1941. He was in 2001.

He doesn't want anyone to ever forget what happened on either of those days.

They're way too important for that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written- Thank you.