Editor’s note: A version of this editorial first appeared in The Daily Star on Dec. 7, 2009. It is reprinted today in honor of Pearl Harbor Day.
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
Those words were spoken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in addressing a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war against Japan. More than 2,400 Americans were killed and nearly 1,200 were wounded from the early-morning bombing of the Pearl Harbor naval base in Oahu, Hawaii.
Today marks the 71st anniversary of the attack that propelled the United States into World War II. With each passing year, the memories of Pearl Harbor become less prominent within our national consciousness.
Among those listening to the president’s words locally was Perry Shelton, a 23-year-old tool and die maker at the Bendix Corp. in Sidney. Shelton heard the president’s speech on the radio in 1941, not knowing that he would be called to military service himself just a few years later. While serving in the U.S. Navy on a destroyer bound for the Pacific Ocean, Shelton met a young sailor who had survived the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
“He said he was one scared son-of-a-gun,” Shelton told The Daily Star in 2011. “He wouldn’t talk about it much. He said when the war came to an end he was going to put the oars over his back and start walking until he found the place where nobody lived. He wanted to get as far away as he could.”
It’s not likely that the young sailor Shelton met is still with us today. It’s estimated that there are fewer than 2,000 Pearl Harbor veterans still living; the national Pearl Harbor Survivors Association folded in 2011.