Pearl Harbor: The Lessons We’ve Forgotten

December 7th, 1941. 75 years ago. To many people that day doesn’t mean anything anymore. But at one point, that day was infamous, maybe more than 9/11 is. You could say that that day forever changed the course of American history.

I’m not here to give an in depth history lesson on what happened. It’s pretty simple: the Pearl Harbor military base in Hawaii was attacked by the Japanese Military, which in essence catapulted the US into WWII. This was the first time that the American homeland had been attacked by a foreign enemy since the War of 1812. From there, events spiraled out. One of the darkest stains on American history came in the wake of the attack: the internment of Japanese-Americans.

In February of 1942, just two months after the attack, President Roosevelt (FDR, not Teddy) signed Executive Order 9066. The order called for the internal relocation and incarceration of nearly 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast of the United States. In essence, we called for – and executed – collective punishment against a group for the actions of another group that they could be loosely associated with. (This is all starting to sound a bit familiar isn’t it?) That attack not only forced our hand, it launched us into a war that spanned the globe, involving countless nations and unthinkable casualties.

After giving the details of what happened, you may notice I started writing in ambiguous phrasing. This is for a reason. The way I see it, 9/11 is this generation's Pearl Harbor. Now, bear with me. When 9/11 happened, it was the first time the country had been attacked by a foreign enemy since Pearl Harbor. When Pearl Harbor happened, it was the first foreign attack since 1812. When America was attacked by the Japanese Military, anyone who was a fraction Japanese was blamed. When America was attacked by Muslim Extremists, all Muslims were to blame. See where I’m going with this?

We owe it to the spirit of our nation to learn from our mistakes. We can’t forget the important lessons that came from that day 75 years ago. Much like we say “9/11, never forget,” we need to continually remind ourselves, “Pearl Harbor, never forget.” Pearl Harbor was a 9/11 level event for an entire generation. The fears that we are experiencing now, 15 years after 9/11, have been dealt with before. So let’s look to our past to better ensure our futures.