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Pearl Harbor and Sept. 11: Different circumstances, but both 'shocking and sad'

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Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2001 10:00 pm

Today is the 60th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a catastrophe that has new meaning in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Shortly before 8 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, United States servicemen stationed at the military installations on the island of Oahu in the Territory of Hawaii were jolted from their beds by a full-scale Japanese aerial assault, drawing a nation at peace into the largest military endeavor in its history, World War II.

The memory lingers in the minds of many Lodians who lived through or even fought on that pivotal Sunday morning.

Pearl Harbor Commemoration Service

The Lodi Veterans of Foreign Wars are hosting a Pearl Harbor Commemoration Service at Lodi Library at 1p.m. Saturday.

The service will be held at Lodi Library, 201 W. Locust St., in the Bud Sullivan Community Room.

Services include:

Bing Taylor, master of ceremonies

National Anthem

Pledge of Allegiance

Recognition of James Nisson

Recognition of Commander Wally Mac

Recognition of Battleship Arizona survivor Claire Hetrick

Recognition of ex-POWs, Delta Chapter

Recognition of military nurses

Keynote address by Merral Wernor

Placing of the wreaths

America, rudely awakened on that "day of infamy," was compelled to participate in a full-scale war overseas, which ended in the destruction of Mussolini's Fascist Italy, Hitler's Nazi Germany and the militaristic Japanese Empire.

Japan's attack resulted in the deaths of over 2,300 military personnel stationed at the Navy, Army and Army Air Force installations in and around Pearl Harbor.

Nearly 60 years later, on Sept. 11, the only attacks on the continental United States since the Civil War struck America. Two hijacked commercial jets intentionally crashed into Manhattan's World Trade Center, and a commandeered plane kamikazeed into the Pentagon. Passengers in a fourth airliner overpowered yet another group of hijackers before the plane crashed near Pittsburgh.

The Twin Towers collapsed one after another that Tuesday morning, killing more than 5,000 civilians and emergency workers. It was the start of what President George W. Bush called a new kind of war - a long-term fight against terrorism that will include intelligence, financial and diplomatic tactics. Nearly 60 years after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. was again compelled to act by a shocking tragedy.

However, for those who have lived through both attacks, there are as many differences as there are similarities between Pearl Harbor and Sept. 11.

"It is very difficult to compare the two," said Bing Taylor, a veteran of the Pearl Harbor attacks who has lived in Lodi since his youth. "Pearl Harbor wasn't really a part of America. Most Americans didn't know where it was. But everyone knows New York City."

Bing Taylor
Bing Taylor

Gwin Paden, of Lodi, folded Red Cross bandages for soldiers once a week during the war. She agreed with Taylor that the two catastrophes were not of the same type.

"Sept. 11 was different because it was civilian," Paden said. "The Japanese attack was strictly military. In a military war, you expect things."

Gwin Paden
Gwin Paden

Paden's husband, Jack, said the circumstances leading up to the attack on Pear Harbor were different.

"There was a lot of buildup to Pearl Harbor. We were totally unprepared for Sept. 11."

Taylor accounted for the differences between the two tragic days in terms of the enemy's motive. All of the specific discrepancies can be attributed to vastly diverse enemy motivations for attacking, he said.

Jack Paden
Jack Paden

"Never in the history of the world has there been a nation that didn't want a war to end. But that's what these terrorists are - they want us to bleed ourselves white, and that is the root of the difference between Pearl Harbor and Sept. 11," Taylor said.

In other words, Sept. 11 saw war change from a politically motivated action into something driven by vengeance and hatred, Taylor said.

But looking back on Pearl Harbor in these post-Sept. 11 days, one overwhelming similarity remains:

"They were both very shocking and sad days," Gwin Paden said.

Comments about this story? Send mail to the News-Sentinel newsroom.


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