This week, America remembers the 75thanniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. This remembrance is particularly meaningful to the U.S. Navy, and even more to Sailors serving at Pearl Harbor. But it should have the greatest significance to the Submarine Force, because it was our contributions to the Second World War that suggest that December 7th, 1941, was actually the day that Imperial Japan won a battle, but lost the war.
Submariners are well-aware that World War II provided some of our greatest challenges, our greatest successes, our greatest heroes, and also our greatest sacrifices. And here in Pearl Harbor, we can stand atop the Dive Tower on the Submarine Base and actually see the most visceral reminders of the complete cycle of the war: its opening salvo, the seeds of our eventual victory, and even the war’s conclusion. That makes Pearl Harbor unique – where else in the world is there such a singular vantage point for the breadth of such a major conflict?
The Opening Salvo.
Visual reminders of the start of the war are obvious, and infamous. In the harbor lies the USS Arizona Memorial, which honors the nearly 1.200 Sailors and Marines who lost their lives onboard that fateful day. Seaward of Arizona sat the battleships that comprised Battleship Row, remembered now by a line of white caissons. These caissons remind us not only of the Sailors of those battleships, but of the sheer number of casualties: the nearly 2,400 men, women and children, both service members and civilians, who lost their lives on that “day that shall live in infamy.”
The War’s Conclusion.
Sweeping to the left of the Arizona from the Dive Tower, those caissons now bracket the most powerful symbol of the war’s conclusion: the battleship USS Missouri. Today, we can visit the very place on board that ship where in September 1945 the peace treaty was signed that ended the war. That signing ceremony marked both a beginning and an end. As an end, it meant that the war had been won. But it also marked the beginning of the equally important challenge of how to win the peace. And as a result of having won the peace, the United States of America and our former adversary of Japan are now close friends, partners and allies – committed to each other’s success, to each other’s defense, and to promoting freedom and democracy throughout the Pacific.
The Seeds of Victory.
So the USS Arizona reminds us of the start of the war, and USS Missouri reminds us of the end of the war, but the reminders of how the war was won are also visible from the Dive Tower. Although the results of December 7th were horrific, they did not prevent us from prevailing. There were three significant targets that were not struck, and the omission of the fuel farm, the shipyard and the submarine base had strategic consequence.