Pearl Harbor at 75: ‘We have demonstrated the toughness of our political fiber.’

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Editors' note: Today we mark the 75th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attacks on Pearl Harbor. This editorial appeared in the Dec. 5, 1942, issue of America.

No national celebration of the anniversary of Pearl Harbor will be observed, if we follow the President's counsel. Japan's act of treachery is a hateful thing to be recalled, not a joyful matter to be commemorated.


But a nation-wide retrospect is in order as to the country's first year of this renewed experience. What will be the story of our country in conflict with the most terrible enemy of all times? This was the question every American asked himself when he heard the crisp news spoken over the wireless that bright, cold December afternoon. The answer to that question is the record of our titanic struggles, grueling disappointments and the glorious victories of ourselves and our Allies.

But today, in this same retrospect, we add another question. What has the war revealed concerning the nation at home? Every war is a revelation. This, the hugest war of all times, has laid bare many a hidden reality concerning our own United States. A year at war has revealed the greatness of our nation.

Before Pearl Harbor it seemed as if the issue of war itself would split upon the dissension between the isolationists and the interventionists. The year, however, has proved the solidity of our unity.

Despite all alarmist predictions, we have demonstrated the toughness of our political fiber. A free national election has, none the less, been held.

The year of war has turned the searchlight upon the infinite resources of courage and morale which lay hidden in the youth and the age of the American home. Almost overnight a supposedly soft, pleasure-loving generation steeled the muscle of their bodies and established the mastery of their spirits. Capital and labor have written jointly an epic in the conversion of our industry into war production: an epic of resourcefulness, flexibility, determination. The year has shown our ability to plan and execute global schemes of swift action.

But the record is incomplete that fails to note the debit side of war's revelations. United against the outer foe, we still tolerate the violation of democracy at home. Egotism, hatred, greed still live. Politics are played upon a new theatre, but they are still played. Factions and ideologies lay their plans for future vengeance in the post-war world. Hitler still lives, as yet unconquered and unpredictable. We breathe a bit easier, but Tunisia is not yet won nor are the Japanese as yet out of the Solomons. December, 1942, is burdened with the grim and tender thought of those thousands of our boys who listened to the radio on December 7, 1941, but will hear no future message of triumph, save in the world to come.

The anniversary of Pearl Harbor is best spent in prayer and penance for our sins. But our prayers, sober as they be, are no longer tinged with terror, but with a great and certain hope. We have looked into the abyss and we live. We ask that God purify our hearts and lives and steady our hands and minds, unto victory.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Chuck Kotlarz
2 years 7 months ago
Times have changed. Prior to Pearl Harbor, the US stayed out of WWII even though Hitler's armies had invaded most of Europe and Russia. Today a suicide bombing can get the Hawks calling for war.


The latest from america

So what does it matter what a celibate woman thinks about contraception?
Helena BurnsJuly 20, 2018
Former US President Barack Obama gestures to the crowd, during an event in Kogelo, Kisumu, Kenya, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo Brian Inganga)
In Johannesburg, Obama gave what some commentators consider his most important speech since he vacated the Oval Office.
Anthony EganJuly 20, 2018
With his "Mass," Leonard Bernstein uses liturgy to give voice to political unease.
Kevin McCabeJuly 20, 2018
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, arrives for the Jan. 6 installation Mass of Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Women often “bring up the voice of those who are the most vulnerable in our society,” says Hans Zollner, S.J., who heads the Centre for Child Protection in Rome.