Shelby: On December 7th, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor changed the course of history. It was a devastating day for the United States, but it united Americans in their determination for victory in World War II. Seventy years later, Pearl Harbor now serves as both a somber memorial and a symbol of patriotism for Americans young and old.
“I’m 17 years old.”
“I’m 17 years old.”
“I was 21 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.”
Shelby: Allen Bodenlos was not much older than many of these teens when his life dramatically changed.
Allen Bodenlos: I was in Honolulu the day before buying instruments for our drum and bugle corps and the next morning they ordered us back to our bases immediately and I said to my buddy, ‘Look at all that smoke and look at all those airplanes, there must be hundreds of them!’
Shelby: It is a story not too many people can share. In fact, most survivors are in their 90s. It is also a story not too many can remember. It happened seventy years ago.
In 1941, much of the world had been embroiled in World War II and for two years, the U.S. had stayed out of it but that all ended on December 7th, 1941.
Just before 8:00 am, the Japanese surprised the United States and attacked Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor is an American naval base located on the island of Oahu, one of eight main Hawaiian islands.
In less than two hours, nearly two hundred American planes had been destroyed, twenty-one ships including eight battleships had been damaged or destroyed, and more than 2,300 Americans died that day.
“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 is a date which will live in infamy. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.”
Shelby: President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan, and on December 8th, Congress agreed. Three days later, the U.S. also declared war on Germany and Italy.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor became a defining moment in U.S. history because it officially brought the United States into World War II.
One of the battleships that was sunk that day was The Arizona. It submerged underwater behind me. And today, a memorial lies above it honoring those who lost their lives in the attacks on that tragic day. Inside the memorial, Pearl Harbor survivor Allen Bodenlos is sharing a lot more than just his story. He is sharing a bond.
In honor of the 70th anniversary of the attack, twelve high school bands from across the U.S. have come to Hawaii to learn more about Pearl Harbor and participate in the anniversary ceremony. It was an idea thought up by Pearl Harbor survivor and master bugler Allen Bodenlos.
So, Allen, it was your idea to have these bands play at Pearl Harbor. What does it mean to you to have young people involved?
Allen: It’s just awesome because it brings back memories of when I was in the high school band.
Shelby: Allen also hopes this event will help teach younger generations about Pearl Harbor.
Allen was pretty much your age when Pearl Harbor happened. Can you imagine what that would be like?
“I don’t think I can. I don’t think anybody can. To be seventeen, eighteen, nineteen years old.”
Shelby: Nick Foster is one of the students playing at the anniversary ceremony. In order to participate, he and his bandmates had to write an essay about Pearl Harbor.
Nick Foster: Well, usually writing essays, most kids dread the process. But being presented the opportunity to come to Hawaii and honor the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, it was just an honor to write it and to be able to come here.
Shelby: Why is it important for young people to learn about Pearl Harbor?
Nick: Because they need to know how to prevent things like this from happening again, because no one should have to go through this. You can read about it in books and see it in TV shows and movies, but you don’t really comprehend and fully grasp what actually happened here until you see the Pearl Harbor and see the memorial and meet some of the veterans.
Shelby: World War II ended nearly four years after the attacks on Pearl Harbor and it came full circle with the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri, which now serves as a museum here at Pearl Harbor.
Later today, Allen will lead the bands as they perform on the USS Missouri to honor the veterans.
- Why is the attack on Pearl Harbor important to American history?