News Column

Pearl Harbor Retains Meaning Despite Passing Years

Dec. 7, 2012

Donathan Prater, Opelika-Auburn News, Ala.

It was the 9/11 for arguably the greatest generation in American history.

And while the passage of years has removed the date from immediacy, for Auburn University history professor William F. Trimble, the significance of Dec. 7, 1941, is enduring.

"There's no question that Pearl Harbor defined a generation--my parent's generation," Trimble, 65, said.

Trimble's late father, also named William, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II from 1943 to 1946.

More than seven decades after the Japanese attack that claimed more than, 2,400 American lives and crippled the U.S. Navy's Pacific fleet, there are seemingly fewer events marking the day and fewer survivors of that era.

Neither Auburn nor Opelika have any official Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day events planned but American flags will be lowered to half-staff at Auburn facilities.

The attacks precipitated U.S. entry into World War II, during which 16 million Americans served -- or 10 percent of the U.S. population of 160 million at the time.

Trimble said the events at Pearl Harbor also served as a rallying cry for Americans that had several implications that included heightened racial tensions between the U.S. and people from Asia and culminating with atomic bombs being dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

On a broader scope, the attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequent entry into World War II ended America's isolationism, Trimble said.

"It catapulted the United States into the global environment politically, economically and militarily--and it's been that way ever since," Trimble said.

"It's incumbent of historians and students of history to remember what happened there, what it meant and why it was significant for that generation and for us," Trimble said. "In a way, we have to take on more responsibility for that as time passes."

Source: (c)2012 Opelika-Auburn News (Opelika, Ala.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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