Nearly eight decades after Japanese forces attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, memories of the shocking event and the nation’s participation in World War II still echo in the minds of Chicago-area veterans and their families.
Nearly 60 Americans from Illinois died at Pearl Harbor that day, and after the attack, several thousand servicemen and women trained at Navy Pier.
On Thursday, local veterans, servicemen and women, and their families gathered at Soldier Field to commemorate the day with speeches, live music and reflection. It was a gusty, 21-degree morning, the sound of swirling wind a fitting backdrop for the solemn observance.
“Imagine what it was like that day, 76 years ago,” said retired Adm. Cecil D. Haney, former commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. “Pearl Harbor was an attack on our sovereign land, and a provocative attack. It damaged our
More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack — including several dozen civilians — and nearly 1,200 were wounded. The act prompted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to declare war on Japan and to dub Dec. 7 “a date which will live in infamy.”
But the country bounced back, Haney said, and the events at Pearl Harbor remain a reminder of the importance of preparedness and vigilance. Others agreed.
“The importance of the day is not only to remember the supreme sacrifice that servicemen have made,” said retired Maj. Gen. James Mukoyama, who served in the Vietnam War. “But to be ready.”
Mukoyama, a Chicago native of Japanese descent, became the first Asian-American in U.S. history to command an army division in 1986. Though he recalled, somberly, being taunted after Pearl Harbor by “ignorant” citizens and classmates because of his Japanese heritage, he still joined the Army. He later earned a Purple Heart./aside">>
The event was orchestrated by the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Navy Memorial Foundation. The foundation plans to open a Navy memorial at nearby Navy Pier.