Peter Hankoff: Remembering Pearl Harbor

Roundup: Talking About History

[Peter Hankoff is an award-winning director/writer/producer whose work has taken him all over the world and all over the cable networks. His programs for Unsolved History (Discovery Channel) have taken him inside Hitler's Bunker and Area 51.]

I don't have a story about where I was or what I was doing on December 7, 1941, but I remember Pearl Harbor"even though I wasn't even born yet.

I heard the stories growing up. My dad remembered. He was in a bowling alley in Forest Hills, New York, when a buddy ran in and yelled “Johnnie get your gun, the Japs just invaded Pearl Harbor.” “Japs” was an acceptable word back then, even if no one knew where Pearl Harbor was. But from that day forward, no one would ever forget.

I have had the honor and privilege of meeting, and thanking, many Pearl Harbor survivors. Most were Navy men or Marines. But the Army and Air Corps were there as well and lost many men. Civilians were also on those casualty lists -- many from collateral damage as we threw everything we could at the attacking Japanese (The stuff that missed had to fall somewhere).

Those I've met are now in their 80s or better. They all lost friends, witnessed horror and survived. Some shot back. Others were stuck below decks and saw little until the aftermath, but all emerged that day in a new America that would show the world we are a resilient, relentless and resourceful tribe.

Hindsight gives us the veneer of wisdom, but the attack on Pearl Harbor was the media event of its time, even though a news blackout kept the world from seeing the exact damage for years. It was an unthinkable, impossible act - the kind that ideologues, think tanks and screenwriters are desperate to conjure up. ..

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