The terrorist assaults in New York and Washington have brought numerous comparisons to the attack on Pearl Harbor that killed more than 2,300 people and pushed the United States into World War II.
Headlines such as “Second Pearl Harbor” or “New day of infamy” were common following the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
There are about 9,000 Pearl Harbor veterans still living throughout the United States,according to members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association,and for many Sept. 11,2001 took them back to Dec. 7,1941.
“My feelings are very similar to Pearl Harbor. My first reactions were astonishment,surprise,fear and finally,enormous anger,” James D. Welker,79,said. “I have exactly the same feelings with this. I want to strike back and strike back hard.”
Welker,of Lima,Ohio,was asleep in Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu when Japanese planes started bombing Pearl Harbor. “My bed was shaking so violently that it woke me up. Then I smelled gunpowder,” he said.
A rise in patriotism is another commonality between the two tragedies,said James L. Evans,77,of San Marcos,Calif.
“This has brought the country together as nothing since Pearl Harbor. We went from Monday morning a bunch of squabbling idiots to today where you see flags all over the streets. It is like people realize just what we do have and how easy it would be to lose it,” he said.
Most said that while they felt similarly,the terrorist acts themselves were different from the events 60 years ago.
“(The terrorists) have attacked completely innocent people in the middle of a city. The Japanese at least attacked military targets,” said Daniel S. Fruchter,83,of Mt. Vernon,N.Y.
“Pearl Harbor was totally different. There we were soldiers on Army posts. At the time,there was a war going on in the world – an official war,that is. We had always known the Japanese were going to do something and we had trained for that.”
Some veterans said they figured any attack in the 21st century would utilize recent technology,like biological warfare.
George Murray of Anniston,Ala.,said he was shocked by the method the terrorists took.
“I never gave it a thought that it would happen here on the mainland. Terrorists,we always figured,were going to do something in the subways or with poison gas,” the 82-year-old said. “It never entered anybody’s mind,at least mine,that they were going to fly planes into a building.”
Fruchter wanted to know why the nation was not better prepared.
“The motto of our Pearl Harbor Survivors Association is ‘Remember Pearl Harbor,keep America alert.’ What in the hell was the matter with our bureaucrats that they don’t want to know that or remember it or even act on it?” he asked.
Charles Wieland of Rio Rancho,N.M.,had similar sentiments.
“You just gotta keep alert. That’s all I can say. You don’t leave your guard down because (terrorists) sure as hell aren’t,” the 79-year-old said.
The veterans were unanimous in saying the attacks did constitute acts of war.
“My opinion,having been a soldier,is that anybody that tramples on our freedom is asking for a declaration of war,” said Marshall McCloud,82,of Powell,Tenn.
“If someone hits you right between the eyes,” said Welker,”that’s a direct act of war.”