One hundred and three year-old Pearl Harbor survivor Jim Downing was serving on the USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941. On CNN, Jake Tapper invited former Lieutenant Downing to discuss the Japanese attack on the American fleet on the 75th anniversary. Downing testifies: “It’s frozen in our minds the destruction that took place that morning…Somehow that image of the attack is frozen in our minds.” Downing’s valor and patriotism shine through this brief interview.
The anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor yesterday also occasioned Charles Kesler’s NRO column “The good war” and Kirk Kolbo’s Star Tribune column “Pearl Harbor and the ‘first shot’ Minnesotans of the USS Ward.” Both Charles and Kirk are friends and both taught me things I didn’t know in these excellent columns.
In the video below President Roosevelt appears before Congress on the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor (text here, first draft here). Roosevelt predicted that December 7 was “a date that will live in infamy” and called for a declaration of war against Japan. I’m afraid today we would have to modify that to “a date that should live in infamy.”
Roosevelt both summoned and expressed the will of the American people: “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.” Those words echo down the corridors of our history.