By Rear Adm. Brian Fort
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific
Winston Churchill, who was a World War I warfighter and World War II Prime Minister of Britain, famously said, “The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward.”
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is an opportunity for the world’s citizens, especially those of us in the United States and Japan, to remember key lessons of the past and reflect on the meaning of the Second World War.
Seventy-six years ago, under Western sanctions for having invaded Manchuria and Southeast Asia, Imperial Japan miscalculated and attacked Oahu. Veterans who were around then said they knew war was inevitable. War was already underway in Europe, as Churchill tried to stave off Hitler and the Nazis. When Japanese planes destroyed our battleships in Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, we rose to the challenge to fight fascism, both here in the Pacific and in Europe.
On the home-front, families also rose to challenges and confronted new realities. Women joined the workforce in nontraditional occupations. The armed forces became more diversified. Our nation came together in the name of freedom.
In the first year after the attack here in the Pacific, despite some initial setbacks, our aviators literally rose up in the Battle of Coral Sea and Battle of Midway. Submarines and surface forces took the fight to the enemy like never before. We continued to turn the tide in the Battle of Guadalcanal 75 years ago.
Just as our military would descend throughout Europe to fight fascism, our Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen would rise from the South Pacific and move steadily up the island chain toward the Japanese archipelago. Even back then, we were “ready to fight tonight.”
Today, America’s relationship with the people of Japan is a model for good citizenry and good relationships everywhere. Britain, France and Germany, once mortal enemies, in some cases over centuries, are now strong democracies, friends and allies in Europe.
Our Navy trains and operates with the Japan Self-Defense Force and other navies throughout the world, including here in Hawaii during the Rim of the Pacific Exercise. The world, with just a few outliers, values security, prosperity and stability. History shows democracies, in general, work together to foster peace and cooperation.
Churchill encouraged us to look deep into the past to study history and understand how we can look forward. On this Dec. 7, we will once again remember and honor those who were killed 76 years ago and in the war that followed. At the same time, we will commemorate the reconciliation, security, stability and prosperity our veterans and their families achieved, beginning here at Pearl Harbor.