Series Blog

Remembering Pearl Harbor

It seems for every generation there is one event that changes the course of history. It's the day that people begin stories about with, "I remember where I was when..."

September 11, 2001, January 28, 1986 or November 22, 1963 are just some of those days we stop, reflect and remember.

For what Tom Brokaw called, "the greatest generation," that day is December 7, 1941. Seventy years ago, "a date which will live in infamy" shocked America and launched the nation into the throes of World War II

The attack on Pearl Harbor has been the subject of countless books and films. There have been eyewitness accounts and fictionalized depictions of the cataclysmic event. The stories of December 7, 1941 make up a part of who we are, just like the stories of 9/11 or the Kennedy assassination do.

This week there will be a ceremony in Hawaii to remember the thousands who died that Sunday morning. There will be a flurry of media attention and press accounts. The people who can say "I remember..." are fewer in number than last year and will be even fewer next year. Despite those dwindling firsthand memories, this is a day that lives in infamy -- a day that is an important part of the American narrative.

One of the values of history is reminding us of days like this when we stop, reflect and remember.


AMERICAN EXPERIENCE's "FDR" site features a primary resource of Roosevelt's December 8, 1941 "Day of Infamy" speech.


Jim Dunford is the series manager at AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and has always been interested in how history is treated by Hollywood.  

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