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What Pearl Harbor Can Teach Us Today

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What Pearl Harbor Can Teach Us Today

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Since I was born on the seventh of December, and the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor forever made this same day back in 1941 “a day of infamy,” my mother nicknamed me her “Pearl Harbor baby.” This caused me to take special interest in this historic occurrence. Its 75th anniversary is an opportune time to reflect on lessons from this event as they apply to mankind as a whole.

The attack, which occurred “suddenly and deliberately” as described the next day by President Franklin Roosevelt, came as a total surprise to the United States. Without declaring war or giving any warning, two waves of Japanese dive bombers and torpedo planes virtually destroyed U.S. air bases, battleships, cruisers and destroyers at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

In just 90 minutes, 2,403 Americans were dead and 1,178 wounded, as well as over a dozen naval vessels sunk or damaged.

The following day, Roosevelt addressed Congress to ask for a declaration of war against Japan. In a matter of weeks, the U.S. found itself embroiled in the most destructive war in history.

I am a classic example of how some grow up hearing and learning much about war. Stories from military history were a large part of my childhood. So was learning about ancestors who always seemed to have fought in wars, in which several died.

My family was filled with Army and Navy officers—some of them senior career officers. Both of my female cousins married naval officers. A step-cousin of mine was an Army officer. His younger brother attended the naval academy in Annapolis, Maryland. I was also appointed to Annapolis, though I declined because God was calling me into His truth at that time.

Also, my father was an Army officer and pilot in World War II, and his older brother, also a pilot (who later rose to the rank of captain in the Navy—equal to a full colonel in the Army), was present at Pearl Harbor during the attack. Their father (my grandfather) fought in World War I.

U.S. Navy/National Archives
Under attack: Sailors stand amid wrecked planes at the Ford Island seaplane base as the USS Shaw explodes in the background (Dec. 7, 1941).

Believe me, I understand Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3, which speak of those who “learn war.”

As a child, my father told me stories of his harrowing time as a reconnaissance pilot near Remagen, Germany, in the wake of the Battle of the Bulge. He and another lieutenant in his tiny Piper J-3 Cub, a single-propeller airplane, directed American artillery in order to stop the

Germans from destroying the Bridge at Remagen. Their efforts helped allow the Allies to continue advancing toward Berlin as the war was coming to an end.

Even though I enjoyed hearing such stories as a young boy, I have come to realize the plain truth about war: It is the worst of “man’s inhumanity to man.”

Throughout World War II, the world learned that “total war” casualties draw no boundary between military and civilian. Never before were so many civilians in harm’s way. The percentage of mobilized forces lost in WWII was stunning: Germany, 22.8 percent—France, 3.5 percent—the United Kingdom, 6.4 percent—the Soviet Union, 30 percent—Japan, 20.4 percent. The U.S. was just under 2 percent.

One factor that accounted for the lower numbers of France and Britain was that they had not recovered from their staggering battlefield losses of WWI and were not in a position to field nearly as many troops as they needed. Also, France was overrun and defeated in 1940 and thereafter only fielded smaller resistance forces.

Although the U.S. entered the conflict in December 1941 in the Pacific, and only a little later in the European theater, it is miraculous that the nation’s percentage of military losses was so low. Part of the explanation is that no air attacks were launched on the homeland other than Pearl Harbor. Also, God’s hand was at work on America’s behalf.

When you are in Hawaii today and you see Pearl Harbor (I visited there both in 1996 and 2013), and you see what the Japanese did only a few generations ago, and you have heard all the stories, and you are, like I am, born on Pearl Harbor day, and your uncle was there—what the Japanese did that fateful day lives in infamy more than for the average person. For me, seeing it firsthand brought to life all that happened, and how terrible war is.

U.S. Navy/National Archives
Aerial: A photograph taken from a Japanese plane during a torpedo attack on Pearl Harbor shows ships moored on both sides of Ford Island (Dec. 7, 1941).

Pearl Harbor is a reminder of a time in which the world truly came to the brink of destroying itself. Similar to September 11, 2001, it is a reminder of the vulnerability of the United States without God’s protection.

Today, the world is filled with war, terrorism and threats of more war and terrorism. Yet all nations long for peace. Leaders negotiate for it. Millions pray for it. Armies fight for it. Despite constant effort, it remains more elusive than ever.

While men have created many amazing technological inventions, they cannot “create” peace. Scientists have unleashed the power of the atom, but are powerless to “unleash” peace upon Earth. Astronomers have discovered much about the size, majesty and precision of the universe, but they cannot “discover” the way to peace. They can find galaxies far away throughout the universe, but they cannot “find” peace here on Earth. Neither can leaders end famine, disease, poverty, overpopulation, religious confusion, and hatred, as well as every other misery, evil and woe that unchecked human nature can produce.

But the Bible says world peace will come—and soon. How?

Men seem to invariably go to war in search of peace. Eventually, wars usually come to a truce, which always fails to yield permanent peace. This is because men cannot, and never will, find the way to peace on their own—without outside help. In reality, they have no chance to achieve world peace. Why?

As part of an extensive prophecy about world conditions in our time, the prophet Isaiah answers: “The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goes there shall not know peace” (59:8).

It has not been given to men to understand the path to peace—or, for that matter, the way to abundance, happiness, health and prosperity. No wonder the greatest thinkers, leaders, educators and scientists have failed miserably in their quest for peace on Earth! God has not yet revealed to the vast majority of mankind the solution to its unending wars and world troubles.

Like a newscaster ahead of his time, Jesus Christ came to make an announcement about a complete change in the way the world will be governed. With this change will come unprecedented world peace—and happiness, harmony, universal health, and prosperity.

Everywhere He went, Christ spoke about this coming Kingdom. It was the subject of most of His parables. When He commissioned and sent His 12 apostles to preach, the instruction was to preach about the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:1-2). When He later sent His 70 disciples (10:1), He also commanded that they preach the Kingdom of God.

ErgoSum88, CC by 2.0
Remembrance: A memorial sits over the wreckage of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (Feb. 12, 2008). Oil from the ship, called “black tears,” is seen trailing in the current.

The word “gospel” comes from an Old English word meaning “god spell” or good news. “Kingdom” also comes from an Old English term simply meaning government. In other words, Christ preached “the good news of the government of God.”

This is a great source of comfort for the fewer and fewer numbers of people who remember Pearl Harbor—and for those today who remember the horrors of September 11. No longer will this nation fear a surprise attack or tragic loss of life in such large numbers.

The coming of world peace, happiness, health and abundance is good news for a mankind that has never known it.

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