It is 7:54 on a beautiful Sunday morning in the place they call paradise. In one minute the world will change forever. This is because at 7:55 the bombing will start, and the tropical sky will blacken with the billowing smoke of exploding ships. Pearl Harbor, a deliciously desirable posting for any soldier or sailor will on this morning become Hell.
Men who had fought in “The War to End all Wars” will send their sons to fight in a second world conflict. Governments will rise and fall; the borderlines separating countries will once more be up for grabs. The United States instantly becomes a major player in a battle already underway in Europe and Asia. That’s the difference of one minute. You breathe the purest of air at 7:54, and one minute later you choke in the blackness.
There’s one more thing that happens here: the skeptics acquire an unending topic on which to sharpen their teeth. The claim will be that warnings of an attack were ignored, that FDR planned it. The theory, as it winds down through the decades will state that President Roosevelt wanted America in the war, and needed a crisis like the Pearl Harbor bombing to achieve his objective. Many pieces of information will be brought forward in support of the contention that the Japanese government was steadily goaded by various U.S. actions into waging the attack.
This allegation is one of those contentions that is as difficult to prove or disprove absolutely as it would have been to see through the dark billows that obliterated the puffy, pristine clouds in that patch of sky at 7:55. We’ll probably never know for sure one way or the other, no matter how many people on both sides of the argument are presently certain about their certainty.
But there is one thing about which we can be certain. Millions of fresh-faced young men, boys really, gave up everything to defend their country. Parents on the home front sacrificed through meat and gas rationing to make sure the soldiers on the front had what they needed. Even those who had attained the security of American celebrity status – actors and actresses, comedians, musical stars, big band leaders – put themselves at risk to go where Broadway composer and performer George M. Cohan called “over there” to visit and entertain the troops. (How many of today’s celebs bother to do that?)
7:55 AM, 7 December, 1941 was a catalyst to an entire nation’s rising to a momentous challenge with a sense of unity not often seen since. And there’s nothing to be skeptical about concerning that.