Nation Remembers Pearl Harbor Dead, Salutes Attack Survivors

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2011 — Pearl Har­bor sur­vivors rep­re­sent the best of Amer­i­ca and serve as role mod­els for the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion that respond­ed to anoth­er dead­ly sur­prise attack, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta said in a mes­sage issued today to Pearl Har­bor vet­er­ans.

Tomor­row, Panet­ta will place a wreath at the Navy Memo­r­i­al here to remem­ber the more than 3,500 Amer­i­cans killed or wound­ed in the Japan­ese attack 70 years ago.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma signed a procla­ma­tion today nam­ing tomor­row Nation­al Pearl Har­bor Remem­brance Day and urged all Amer­i­cans to fly their flags at half staff in mem­o­ry of those killed that day.

The Japan­ese attack on Pearl Har­bor gal­va­nized an Amer­i­can pub­lic that had been lean­ing toward iso­la­tion­ism. “Our ene­mies thought that by this sud­den and delib­er­ate raid, they could weak­en Amer­i­ca,” Panet­ta said in his mes­sage. “Instead, they only strength­ened it. That day tru­ly awoke a sleep­ing giant.”

Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt said Dec. 7, 1941 was “a day that will live in infamy” in ask­ing Con­gress to declare war on the Empire of Japan. On Dec. 11, 1941, Nazi Ger­many and Fas­cist Italy declared war on the Unit­ed States. The Unit­ed States mobi­lized for the glob­al con­flict.

“In the mem­o­ries of that day, we con­tin­ue to draw deter­mi­na­tion and con­vic­tion to pro­tect our free­doms, to sac­ri­fice for our fel­low cit­i­zens, and to serve a pur­pose larg­er than self,” Panet­ta said. “You, the sur­vivors of Pearl Har­bor and of the war that fol­lowed, embody this con­vic­tion, this deter­mi­na­tion to raise high the torch of free­dom and sac­ri­fice.”

The sto­ries and records of the World War II gen­er­a­tion are enter­ing leg­end, and with around 3,000 liv­ing Pearl Har­bor sur­vivors, this anniver­sary is poignant.

“You have lived full lives and wit­nessed years of great pros­per­i­ty because of the free­dom you helped to secure for Amer­i­ca and her allies,” the sec­re­tary con­tin­ued. “I know you take great pride, as I do, that your lega­cy lives on in today’s men and women in uni­form, who have borne the bur­den of a decade of war, and who are tru­ly this nation’s next great­est gen­er­a­tion.”

Like the Pearl Har­bor sur­vivors, the young men and women of the 9/11 gen­er­a­tion stepped for­ward for mil­i­tary duty after anoth­er sud­den and ter­ri­ble attack on Amer­i­can shores. Today’s ser­vice mem­bers emu­late the spir­it of the gen­er­a­tion that placed the Amer­i­can flag at the Elbe Riv­er in Ger­many, and raised it atop Mount Surib­achi on the island of Iwo Jima in the Pacif­ic.

“We trea­sure you,” Panet­ta said in his mes­sage to Pearl Har­bor vet­er­ans. “You have brought ever­last­ing cred­it to your fall­en com­rades. Your exam­ple inspires those in uni­form today, strength­ens our nation’s moral fiber, and proves that with unit­ed resolve our coun­try can sur­mount any chal­lenge.”

Panet­ta thanked the vet­er­ans — most now in their late ’80s and ’90s — for their sac­ri­fices “and for your end­less zeal to see to it that our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren can pass along a bet­ter life to the next gen­er­a­tion.

“This has always been the Amer­i­can dream, a dream we can real­ize because of the deter­mi­na­tion of our cit­i­zens to defend it,” Panet­ta said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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