Still a day of infamy

Date of Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is fuzzy for some, crystal clear for others

Date of Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is fuzzy for some, crystal clear for others

December 07, 2005|By TIFFANY ARNOLD


David Turnbull, 61, swirled the paper cup of Coca-Cola in his hand as he tried to stir up an answer to the question: What happened on Dec. 7?

He said he had no idea.

"I would have remembered back when I learned it in school," Turnbull, of Smithsburg, said Tuesday. "It's been so long since I heard that date."

Today marks the 64th anniversary of the attacks at Pearl Harbor.

Few would question the significance of the event that triggered the United States' involvement in World War II.

But knowing the exact date the attacks occurred? That's another matter.

"I don't think that's important if you know what happened and why it happened," Turnbull said.

George Owings, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, said he was disappointed in the number of people who didn't know when the attacks happened.


"It's not like it's a holiday," Owings said. "If it ain't a day off, people don't even know what the day is for. Maybe it's a little cynical on my part, but maybe there's a kernel of truth in that."

In Maryland, WWII veterans make up 20 percent of the state's population, according to the department of veterans affairs.

Hagerstown resident Ron Poe's father, Paul, was one of those veterans.

Poe, 57, said his father served in the Navy during the war. However, the date Dec. 7, 1941, did not ring a bell for Poe.

"It was a World War II thing," Poe said.

John "Bill" Ambrose remembered the date without hesitation.

"I was alive when that happened," Ambrose said as he was watching an art store for his son-in-law at Martinsburg Mall.

Ambrose, 76, of Martinsburg, W.Va., said he was working in a woolen mill in Martinsburg when the news broke about the attack and can remember being with co-workers when the word spread.

"It didn't sink in much at first, but once you thought about it, it was pretty bad," Ambrose said.

Ambrose said he had a brother who was in the Navy at the time. His brother was on a ship in the Pacific Ocean, but was not close to the action, Ambrose said.

"We didn't get to see him for some time," Ambrose said.

Stephen Johnston, 35, of Martinsburg, remembered what happened Dec. 7. Johnston's grandfather was around during the attack, and Johnston said he remembers his mother telling him about how she had to participate in air raid drills to practice for possible attacks.

"Pearl Harbor. Japan attacked the military base," Nicole Cleary, 23, of Chambersburg, Pa., said when asked about the date. "That was an easy question. I was expecting something much harder."

"Actually, I kind of forgot," a man standing near Cleary said when the question was posed. "Once she said it, it all came back to me," he said.

Ryan David, an eighth-grader at E. Russell Hicks Middle School, knew immediately the year of the attack. His classmates struggled with the dates, but could readily identify the countries that had fought in the war.

Though his classes have not covered World War II, Ryan, 13, said he has picked up some modern history knowledge.

"T.V., I watch the History Channel a lot," he said.

Jimmy Green, a computer support technician for Washington County Public Schools, drew a blank when asked about the date.

"I'm trying to think, I saw something on it ..." Green said as he helped take apart equipment used during an assembly at the school.

Travis Kessell, who turns 13 today, did not hesitate with his answer.

"I know. It's my birthday ? Pearl Harbor."

Linda Riker, 58, of Martinsburg, said she visited Pearl Harbor two years ago and took a tour where the fighting occurred.

"It was eerie to me," Riker said.

Rikki Martz, 20, of Martinsburg, knew what happened without a pause.

"My grandfather wouldn't let me forget," Martz said.

Martz said her grandfather's twin brother was drafted at the time, and Martz's grandfather went in his brother's place.

Martz said when she was young, her grandfather used to show her photographs of him in the war.

Mike Diaz, who thought the attack occurred Dec. 6, 1942, said it was important for people to know the right date.

"I think it is," said Diaz, 27, of Hagerstown. "It's a pivotal part of American history. I actually like history. When you have to go to extremes to accomplish a goal, then there's something wrong. That's what happened at Hiroshima."

A man in Pennsylvania linked the date to a musician's death.

"The day after (John) Lennon was shot," said Fred Herr, 27, of Hagerstown, a computer subcontractor who was in Chambersburg. Told that it was the date the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Herr said, "I thought it was closer to Christmas."

The former Beatle died 25 years ago on Dec. 8.

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