The 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor Attack is commemorated today. On this “date which will live in infamy,” the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor precipitated America’s entry into World War II. That day 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 wounded.
Predictably, my favorite book about this event has to do with family history. It’s USS Arizona’s Last Band: The History of U.S. Navy Band Number 22, by Molly Kent. She lost her brother, C.R. William, who was aboard the USS Arizona, so her book is a labor of love. Of another sailor, Gerald Cox, Meg Jones of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes:
Two rows of uniformed band members stood on the USS Arizona’s fantail warming up, waiting to play the national anthem at 8 o’clock sharp on a sunny morning 75 years ago.
They held trumpets, saxophones, trombones, drumsticks. Among them was Gerald Cox, a clarinetist born in Viroqua, Wis.
More than musicians, they were friends who had met in the U.S. Navy’s music school. More than half were teenagers, a few were married, many were the sons of World War I veterans. Most were still making payments on new musical instruments.
They didn’t get to play a note of the “Star-Spangled Banner” that morning.
Japanese dive bombers began swooping down out of the sky a few minutes before the colors could be posted. All 21 band members dropped their instruments and ran to their battle stations below decks. They had been trained as ammunition handlers in the event of an emergency.
When the Arizona blew up a few minutes later, 1,177 men on board the battleship lost their lives. Among the casualties was the entire band.
Pause today to remember the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor Attack.