AMVETS are Keepers of the USS Arizona Memorial Wall. Rededicated Veterans Day 2014.
AMVETS photo by David Gai
Lanham, MD – Black tears of oil still seep up from the submerged tomb of the 1177 sailors and Marines that perished in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. These are constant reminders of this defining moment of WWII that propelled America into global conflict and forever changed the course of world history.
During the hour-and-fifty minute raid on Pearl Harbor, nearly 2,400 American service¬men died and approximately 1,170 were wounded. Eighteen ships lay sunken or badly damaged and close to 350 planes were put out of commission. The USS Arizona, one of seven battleships moored along Battleship Row was the most seriously devastated. Taking several hits from large, armor-piercing bombs, the great ship went down in less than nine minutes. As the President spoke to Congress, asking them to declare war on Japan, sailors were cutting through the still burning wreckage of the USS Arizona attempting to save others who were trapped inside the ship. The last survivor from the Arizona was pulled from the wreckage that afternoon.
The loss of life that day wasn’t restricted only to military personnel, or even to Pearl Harbor. Forty nine civilians of very different backgrounds, ages, and locations on the island of Oahu also took a heavy toll.
AMVETS is committed to ensuring that December 7, 1941, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared “A date which will live in infamy,” will always be remembered and preserved through the USS Arizona Memorial and the Wall of Remembrance. In the 1950’s, AMVETS helped secure the final required funding of $250,000 for the memorial. Unfortunately, the Wall of Remembrance, a permanent memorial with all the names inscribed in marble panels, began to deteriorate over many years, making them hard or impossible to read. In 1983, AMVETS replaced the Wall of Remembrance, which was rededicated in 1984.
Thirty years later the Wall of Remembrance once again faced the challenges of deterioration and needed replacement. As keepers of the Wall, AMVETS again honored our commitment and raised the funds to replace the 138 Olympian White marble panels adorned with the names of the fallen. Construction on the Memorial began in August 2014 and the wall was rededicated this past Veterans Day 2014.
For many Americans, the bombing of Pearl Harbor on that ordinary Sunday morning marked a change in the world as they knew it. The attack united us as people and strengthened our resolve to ultimately prevail over the forces of aggression. The vicious and unprovoked terrorist attacks of September 11 also served to remind us yet again that we still face challenges to our freedom, and we must be vigilant in defending liberty. Our country will not tolerate those who jeopardize our very way of life.
The upsurge in American patriotism in response to the terrorist attacks — much like the response to the attack on Pearl Harbor— gives us much reason for hope.
As our country fights to eliminate international terrorism and bring those responsible for the attacks to justice, America’s veterans know — perhaps better than most — the sacrifices that must be made until victory is achieved.
AMVETS, which had its beginnings in 1944, near the end of World War II, shoulders the responsibility to see to it that the United States never for¬gets those who served and died at Pearl Harbor. Realizing that freedom is best protected through strength, we will continue to stand firm on national defense issues.
President Lincoln said that speeches and statues are not an adequate repayment for service in defense of one’s country. One day of remembrance is simply not enough for what these veterans did 73 years ago. For we are able to choose freedom today because of the bravery of those men and women whose fate, on that day, had been chosen for them.
It is our duty and our solemn vow to never forget those who fought and died. Let us always honor the brave men of the USS Arizona with this memorial so they may rest in peace among the waves and know they will never be forgotten.