Remembering Pearl Harbor

Published 7:52 pm Thursday, December 6, 2018

Looking back across time, there are certain events that undoubtedly changed the course of human history. Seventy-seven years ago today, one such event changed the trajectory of United States history and altered the lives of millions of American military personnel and civilians.

On one wall in the offices of the Washington Daily News, enlarged facsimiles of front pages remind us significant moments of 21st century history: the armistice that ended World War I, the advent of the atom bomb, the assassinations of JFK and MLK and the tragedies of 9/11. Among these front pages, one in particular bears special significance today — the one dated Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the one that will “forever live in infamy.”

On Dec. 7, 1941, the United States of America was “suddenly and deliberately” attacked at Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Among the men and women stationed at Pearl Harbor on that fateful day were Beaufort County natives.

From Pinetown, Thomas Windley’s ship the USS Honolulu, was among the vessels attacked by the Japanese. While the Honolulu suffered hull damage, Windley survived the attack and would eventually come home to Beaufort County. Although he died in 2008, Windley’s family continues to honor his memory every year during the Fourth of July.

Another Beaufort County sailor, 20-year-old Howard David Hodges, was also at Pearl Harbor that day aboard the USS West Virginia. When his vessel was struck by a torpedo, Hodges and his shipmates were lost.

The events of that day awoke a slumbering giant. Abandoning the policy of neutrality that had defined the American position on the war, the United States Congress formally declared war on Japan, and shortly after the entirety of the Axis powers.

The entry of the United States into World War II impacted the lives of almost every American in one way or another. Whether joining up and serving abroad, planting victory gardens and going to work at home, rationing or collecting scrap metal for the war effort, men, women and children alike banded together to help Uncle Sam.

When the war ended, the impacts and consequences were plentiful. Among these was a period of unparalleled economic prosperity. Returning veterans pursued higher education through the G.I. Bill. New ideas on race and equality came into focus, building to a crescendo in the 1960s.

The impact of World War II on American society could fill many volumes. Had America not entered the war, the possibilities might have been dire for our country and the rest of the world. Today, let us remember where and when it all started.