As Pearl Harbor’s witnesses slip away The National World War II Museum vows to preserve their memories.
NEW ORLEANS (December 4, 2008) – "Never forget." Those two words serve as both a remembrance and a call to action as America commemorates the 67th anniversary of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor this Sunday, December 7th.
The surprise air and submarine attack by Japan on the U.S. naval fleet stationed in Hawaii that early Sunday morning more than six decades ago shattered American neutrality in World War II. Pearl Harbor launched the country and its fledgling army headlong into a global conflict; it led to the invention of the atomic bomb; it created institutions, ideas and technologies that hold sway over us today.
It is impossible to overstate the significance of the “date that will live in infamy.”
"You can count on one hand the number of events that changed everyone's life – everywhere, forever," says The National World War II Museum President and CEO, Dr. Gordon “Nick” Mueller. "December 7th, 1941 was certainly one such event, and though Americans are fighting other wars today, we must never forget the bravery and sacrifice of our Armed Forces that morning in Hawaii. The National World War II Museum is dedicated to telling and sharing their stories so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn."
Though World War II was the most pivotal event of modern times, the memory of the valor and sacrifice of America’s Greatest Generation grows harder to summon as the men and women who fought its battles both around the globe and on the Home Front are passing away. Veterans are dying at the rate of 900 a day, and vanishing with them: the personal stories of epic battles and deeds of sacrifice and heroism that museums and historians must keep alive.
Recognizing the importance of saving these stories for posterity, The National World War II Museum is committed to preserving veterans’ histories. Museum historians have recorded more than 2,500 personal accounts from every branch of service and theater – including more than 500 video accounts recorded in high definition. These powerful interviews include men and women of all ethnic backgrounds, and even some who fought for the Axis. The collection began with the work of author, historian and Museum founder, Stephen E. Ambrose and includes testimonies from 30 Pearl Harbor veterans including:
John Finn, a naval gunner awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Kaneohe Naval Air Station. Under fire, the lieutenant fired back at the airplanes with a 50-caliber machine gun exposed to the strafing Japanese planes. Painfully wounded many times, Finn returned the fire. He is now 99-years-old.
Don Stratton, a young sailor on the Battleship USS Arizona (BB-39). After the attack set off the ship’s powder magazine the seriously burned Stratton crawled across the Arizona’s burning hulk to another ship. He was one of only 335 men out of a ship’s crew of 1,500 who survived.
Zenji Abe, a pilot aboard the Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi. Abe’s targets included Hickam Field and the U.S. naval cruiser Raleigh. He passed away in 2007 after spending the rest of his life advocating peace and seeking reconciliation with Pearl Harbor survivors.
Such stories are an invaluable source for historians, researchers, filmmakers and future generations and they now serve as a cornerstone for current and future exhibitions. The Museum is now in the second phase of a $300 million expansion. The multi-phase project will open its next attractions in the fall of 2009: The Victory Theater will show the exclusive presentation Beyond All Boundaries, a 4-D, immersive cinematic experience created by The Hettema Group with Tom Hanks as Executive Producer, and The Stage Door Canteen will be a lively venue recalling the days when a weary soldier could find food, entertainment and fellowship at these remarkable venues where USO-style shows boosted morale from the homefront to the battlefront.
The National World War II Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National World War II Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-527-6012 or visit www.nationalww2museum.org.