It was on this day 70 years ago when 5,000 American Indians were serving in the military, a day when the attacks on Pearl Harbor happened and as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said “a date that will live in infamy.”
December 7, 1941 can be seen as the unofficial start of World War II, as Germany declared war on the United States three days later, and the beginning of a surge in American Indian warriors serving in the United States military.
“In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, ‘This generation has a rendezvous with destiny.’ When Roosevelt said that he had no idea of how much World War II would make his prophecy ring true. More than fifty years later, Americans are remembering the sacrifices of that generation, which took up arms in defense of the nation. Part of that generation was a neglected minority, Native American Indians, who flocked to the colors in defense of their country. No group that participated in World War II made a greater per capita contribution, and no group was changed more by the war,” according to an excerpt from Thomas D. Morgan’s Army History: The Professional Bulletin of Army History, No. 35 (Fall 1995), pp. 22-27) as found here.
Up until the attacks at Pearl Harbor, the numbers of Indians serving had been on the low side in regards to per capita numbers, but by the end of WWII there were 44,500 Native warriors enlisted, a staggering figure that was more than ten percent of the American Indian population during the war – men, women and children, according to www.calie.org.
A 1942 survey indicated that 40 percent more Native Americans voluntarily enlisted than had been drafted according to the excerpt.
It has also been stated that if the entire population of the country enlisted in the same proportion as American Indians the draft would have been unnecessary.
Below are President Barack Obama’s remarks on the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor:
“Seventy years ago today, a bright Sunday morning was darkened by the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor. Today, Michelle and I join the American people in honoring the memory of the more than 2,400 American patriots—military and civilian, men, women and children—who gave their lives in our first battle of the Second World War. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families for whom this day is deeply personal—the spouses, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters who have known seven decades without a loved one but who have kept their legacy alive for future generations.
“We salute the veterans and survivors of Pearl Harbor who inspire us still.
“Despite overwhelming odds, they fought back heroically, inspiring our nation and putting us on the path to victory. They are members of that Greatest Generation who overcame the Depression, crossed oceans and stormed the beaches to defeat fascism, and turned adversaries into our closest allies. When the guns fell silent, they came home, went to school on the G.I. Bill, and built the largest middle class in history and the strongest economy in the world. They remind us that no challenge is too great when Americans stand as one. All of us owe these men and women a profound debt of gratitude for the freedoms and standard of living we enjoy today…
“On this National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we also reaffirm our commitment to carrying on their work—to keeping the country we love strong, free and prosperous. And as today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan come to an end and we welcome home our 9/11 Generation, we resolve to always take care of our troops, veterans and military families as well as they’ve taken care of us. On this solemn anniversary, there can be no higher tribute to the Americans who served and sacrificed seventy years ago today.”
On a side note today, ancestry.com is offering a free search for anyone looking for relatives that served in WWII in honor of Pearl Harbor Day. The free service ends tonight at midnight EST.
The following video posted by WarArchives, titled “Pearl Harbour – A Day That Shook The World” shares footage from a BBC program about the infamous day:
The following video posted by wolf4045 titled “President Franklin D. Roosevelt Declares War on Japan December 8 1941” shares FDR’s speech following the attacks on Pearl Harbor: