December 7th commemorates the attack on Pearl Harbor. We remember it officially as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, “a date which will live in infamy.” This famous phrase was coined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his Presidential Address to Congress that followed the dramatic events of that fateful day in 1941. Until the attacks of September 11th, this was the greatest act of war ever launched against the United States on our soil, and was the catalyst that brought the U.S. into World War II.
The event is personal for me as my wife’s grandfather was in Pearl Harbor on that day.
Ernie Franks came out of his small bungalow on base to get the newspaper. As he bent down, he suddenly heard the drone of aircraft. He expected to see “our guys” flying, but instead, saw Japanese Zeros appear. A popping sound on both sides of him let him know that the enemy was firing at him! He immediately grabbed his wife and small child (my wife’s mother) and headed for the sugar cane fields behind the base. Many of the dependents of the military members, as well as many locals, hid there until the attack subsided.
Ernie was one of the few pilots to make it into the air that day and was able to shoot down some of the enemy attackers. One would not know this unless you visit the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, as my wife and I did when we got married. During the short film shown there, you get to see footage that can’t be seen elsewhere. This is when we first learned that some of the pilots did get up that day. This was confirmed by Ernie’s diary and flight log.
After the attack and his return to base, Ernie along with many others, got their families onto a British frigate that steamed off to San Francisco. Ernie was able to fly in the escort of that ship. He saw his young family one last time before returning to duty in Pearl Harbor. He would fly missions for the next two years and not be reunited with his family until 1944.
Such great sacrifice and dedication is seen even today in our men and women who serve this great country all around the world. They provide the blanket of security that covers us all. Thank them for their service to our country. Also, take the opportunity to meet, speak with with, and thank one of our great World War II veterans if you can.
Thank you to all who serve and have served this nation!
Mark DeAngelis is a senior manager for Sodexo Supply Management and the National Co-Chair of HONOR Employee Network Group.