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Lest We Forget

December 12, 2017
by Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

I've always had a deep appreciation of history through my life, as a student in school and through our contemporary times. To demonstrate, how many area residents under the age of 30 remember where the village of Fallow was located in Palo Alto County? A hint, it was located in Walnut Township, southwest of Graettinger.

There are lots more similar trivia questions one could ask about our home sod of Palo Alto County, but I?need to broach a different subject.

Once again, this past Thursday, a milestone in our nation's history went by, sadly almost unnoticed except by a few of our population.

It was a peaceful, sunny Sunday morning at the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii, as well as other U.S. Military bases in the Hawaiian Islands. Just before 7:00 a.m. aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy swooped out of the skies, dropping bombs and torpedoes on the anchorage of Pearl Harbor, sinking a third of the United States Pacific fleet, damaging several other ships and killing thousands of service men, 76 years ago on December 7, 1941.

That's the basic history lesson, I'm sure most of you remember it from your days in school. For me, the reality of "the day that will live in infamy" became real for me in 1981, 40 years after the attack.

As a student at Iowa Lakes Community College, I?had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii, a trip I?will always remember. Along with the standard tourist trips to the North shore and the Polynesian Cultural Center, the highlight of the trip for me was a visit to Pearl Harbor - specifically the Battleship U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.

As we sailed on the Navy launch to the memorial, we were taken past Ford Island, and saw the rusted remains of the Battleship U.S.S. Utah, which was torpedoed several times and capsized and sank adjacent to Ford Island. Damaged beyond repair, the ship was stripped and left to gradually rust away in the harbor, with the remains of some 60 crewmen who died in the attack still entombed in the war grave.

Arriving at the Arizona Memorial, the brilliant white structure commanded silence and a sense of reverence. The memorial structure does not rest on the sunken battleship, instead, it straddles the beam of the ship, which can be seen through the clear waters below. Very little of the mighty vessel remains above the surface of the harbor today, and buoys tethered to the bow and stern give visitors a sense of the size of the ship, which is designated a U.S. Military Cemetery, in honor of the 1,102 sailors who perished when the ship's ammunition magazine exploded in the attack, sinking the ship. Some 1,177 sailers were serving on the ship at the time of the attack, and as the number of survivors gradually decreases with time, the ship becomes the final resting place for those who survived the attack, as they are allowed to have their ashes interred inside the ship with their shipmates. Such ceremonies are private for the family only, and a fitting tribute to those young mem who gave all for future generations on that Sunday morning.

In my visit to the Arizona memorial, I was struck by the silence, the gentle lapping of the waters against the ship's structure, and the muffled murmurs of visitors. A wall inside the memorial structure lists the names of all crew members that lost their lives in the attack and are interred in the hulk - which was so badly damaged it was deemed impossible to salvage.

The memorial was constructed in 1962 and just a few years ago, the battleship U.S.S. Missouri, was anchored directly behind the Arizona. The Missouri was the battleship that anchored in Tokyo Bay in 1945 to host the official surrender of the Japanese Empire to the United States and her Allies to bring an end to World War II.

IT seems only fitting that the Missouri now stands watch over her fallen sister, the Arizona, guarding the final resting place of those brave souls who paid the supreme price for our freedoms today.

Leaving the Arizona, there was little talk on our launch, out of respect for those brave young men so long ago. We can never forget their sacrifice as they rest in deserved peace.



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