Sixty years ago today hundreds of Japanese planes attacked the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. I always remember this day because my grandfather, Thomas Harold Hoy, was a Marine on board the USS California on battleship row that fateful morning. My grandfather survived, but more than 2,000 other Americans did not.
"I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve."
-- Admiral Isaroku Yamamoto
Yamamoto was correct in his assessment -- he did not survive the war. Yamamoto died because of a young Army Air Corps pilot from Culver, Ore., named Rex Barber.
While working as a reporter for the Lompoc Record I had the privilege of interviewing Barber at Vandenberg Air Force Base and listening to his story of the attack over Bougainville. I listened raptly as this American hero recounted his flight over the featureless Pacific Ocean in his P-38, navigating with only a stopwatch and a compass. On April 18, 1943, a young Rex Barber shot down the Japanese bomber carrying Adm. Yamamoto.
There was evil in the world then, in the form of the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese. The evil was apparent even before Dec. 7, 1941. It was in apparent to the Polish. It was apparent to the Czechs. It was apparent to the Chinese. It was apparent to the Koreans.
And until Dec. 7, America did little.
The war against terrorism is similar. Before Sept. 11, the threat was apparent.
It was apparent at the Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon in 1983. It was apparent in the wreckage of Pan Am flight 103. It was apparent in Somalia. It was apparent to the crew of the USS Cole. It was apparent in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Africa.
Despite the warnings.
Despite the signs.
On September 11, 2001, America wept.
More than 3,000 civilians are dead. On the island of Manhattan. In the Philadelphia countryside. In the Virginia suburbs.
Today, U.S. Marines are on the ground in Afghanistan. Special forces troops search caves in the mountains for Usama bin Laden.
Americans have died for our freedom. Johnny Spahn. Daniel Petithory. Brian Prosser. Jefferson Davis.
Their sacrifice must not be forgotten. The price of freedom is high. These men gave their lives for it, much like those men of a different generation did, 60 years ago today.