Remembering Pearl Harbor

Share your memories and family stories of how life changed after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

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How did the lives of you and those you love change after December 7, 1941?

Nearly 75 years ago, our writers recorded the events leading up to, during, and after the attack on Pearl Harbor. To commemorate the upcoming anniversary, we invite you to share your memories of that infamous day with our readers in the November/December 2016 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

Here, Post reader Paul Van der Stelt, who was just 7 years old on December 7, 1941, remembers the morning of the attack:

“That was a terrible Sunday morning and our family gathered around in prayer. We were floored when they said 2,403 had died and 19 ships had either been sunk or damaged. It was 7:55 a.m. And, just as the president announced that day, it was certainly a day that was going to be absolutely remembered in infamy. … If my grandmother could have gotten a hold of the names of those 2,400 people that had died in Pearl Harbor, she would have prayed for every one of them, name by name.” (You can listen to the entire interview with Paul Van der Stelt on SoundCloud here.)

Share your stories with Post readers in the comments below or email us at [email protected], with “Remembering Pearl Harbor” as the subject. All stories will appear in “American Life after Pearl Harbor” linked here, and a few will be selected for the November/December 2016 issue. If you’d like your story to be considered for the print edition, please leave a comment or email us by September 26, 2016.

Japanese Zero plane dropping bomb on Pearl Harbor
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  1. I wasn’t born until 1954, but I feel like I witnessed it, somehow. I didn’t really realize it until my father, a Marine just back from Vietnam, was transferred to Hawaii, in 1970. At first, we were renting a house with a perfect view of Pearl Harbor. We would point my brother’s telescope down there and see such things as the movie “Tora Tora Tora” being filmed. During my first week in high school, there, two of my teachers gave lessons on the attack. For some reason, when they mentioned the Oklahoma, I got an overwhelming emotional feeling, which made me have to choke back tears. The pictures of the Oklahoma, capsized, really got to me, too and I never forgot it. When they told about the fact that they had found evidence that there were men still alive, trapped in the ship, as late as Christmas Eve, that was something I could never forget, either. The same happened when we went to the Arizona memorial. The young man giving us the tour took us to the area where the Oklahoma capsized, and that gave me an overwhelming emotional feeling, too.

    Forward to a few years ago, I learned that the yearbooks of the US Naval Academy, called the Lucky Bag, were all online, in an easy to search form. I also found a list of names, by class, of all of the alumni whose bodies had been lost in service. I eventually focused on those from the last few classes to graduate, who were killed at Pearl Harbor. I focused on the Oklahoma, because I felt drawn to it, and because her crew has gotten very little attention. There are several young men I would like to share some information about, in their memories. Is that something you would be interested in, or do you want only experiences of people who are old enough to remember the attack?

  2. We were nearing the end of morning church services at First Baptist Church, Port Arthur, Texas. The minister was in full voice exhortations when we heard a newsboy outside the open windows calling an Extra. (Extra, Extra, Read All About It). The preacher paused midsentence, then continued. An usher went out to buy a paper, walked it to the front to give to the now waiting minister. He announced sadly that Japanese bombs had fallen on Hawaii. (His son was a missionary in the Phillipines.) After a lengthy prayer, The congregation was adjourned en masse to listen to the radio. All unattached boys and men were immediately eager to “join up.” I was fifteen.

  3. Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be considered fooling mistakes that ended up in deaths of thousands. But I guess we’re not learning from the mistakes of the past. With all that’s going on in the East plus terrorists’ attacks in USA, France and Germany (taking into account axe attack on train) I feel like we are on the threshold of the World War III. Just like Pearl Harbor essay writer says we often look back and point out mistakes of our predecessors but we just don’t seem to learn from them.

  4. Thank you Jesika for this feature on the upcoming Remembering Pearl Harbor book the POST will be coming out with in a few months. I recently turned 59 so I have no stories to share, but surely will have a better understanding of that horrific day from those that did live through it, because of this book.


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