Breland: Pearl Harbor attack recalled on Dec. 7th

Published 1:07 pm Friday, December 10, 2021

The Dec. 7 date had been on my mind for a couple days, but somehow it hadn’t clicked why the date should be remembered. Was it somebody’s birthday and I had forgotten? When I awoke that day it occurred to me — it was Pearl Harbor Day.

This was on this past Tuesday, as I write on that day. I don’t know how this date escaped me, but just realizing it is December is tough enough. This year is passing so quickly.

I have so many reasons to remember this date. I am sure it has been on the news all week, as 80 years ago on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese bombers and torpedo planes staged a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This brought the United States into World War II.

In less than two hours, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was devastated, and more than 3,000 Americans were either killed or wounded.

Well over 35 years ago, my mom and I made a vacation trip to Oahu, Hawaii. The day was July 4th and we were disappointed there was no parade in Hawaii, as we were used to attending one at home. We decided it would be a good day to take a boat ride out to the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, put there to honor those who died that fateful day and are buried there.

It seemed everybody else was also waiting as the line was long, so we decided to take a different cruise out to sea, and come back down Pearl Harbor, where we would view the Arizona, but not go aboard.

After a great trip out to sea, we made our way down Pearl Harbor, and the guide on the boat went over the attack story and pointed out the different ships, some still there in the water, where they were bombed and left to decay. It was both saddening and fascinating.

I wondered if the ships are still there, but checking I find the wrecks of only two vessels now remain in the harbor — the Arizona and USS Utah. Most of the ships hit that day were eventually repaired and put back into service or scrapped.

I wrote a story several years ago about the late Bill Matheny of Bogalusa, who was there at Oahu, but was away from his ship when it was hit and he survived. Eight battleships, three cruises and four destroyers were present in the harbor. Many precious lives were lost and the damage was irreversible. There were also those ships that faced minor damage and returned Japanese fire.

As our boat circled the Arizona, many of those aboard threw flower leis into the water. The silence was astounding and brought serious faces to all and tears appeared here and there.

Although we saw interesting events in Hawaii, nothing compared with that July 4th experience and our trip through Pearl Harbor.

As the war spiraled, my dad was drafted into the U.S. Navy and spent some time training and likely getting ready to go to the Pacific. By some miracle he was discharged before that could happen. The war ended in 1945 after the U.S. attack on Japan. The late Carl Cutrer of Bogalusa was there for a threatened land attack on Japan. There are a lot of stories yet to be told.

We hadn’t thought much about visiting Pearl Harbor until we arrived in Hawaii, but it quickly came to our attention. Many things had changed, and among the people we saw in Hawaii at the time, the biggest tourists were the Japanese.

Over the years I have written many stories about our men and women in service. Nothing brings it home like being able to go and see where it happened.

A serious thank you again to our armed forces for the freedom they still bring to us, as we remember Pearl Harbor.

Retired as Associate News Editor, Bob Ann Breland writes a weekly column for The Daily News. You can email her at bobann70@att.net.