US Veteran: Pearl Harbor Became 'Day of Infamy,' But I Never Doubted in Our Win in WWII

CC BY 2.0 / Flickr / Cmdr. Corey Barker / The crew of the Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) man the rails aboard WWII museum ship USS Bowfin (SS 287) to shoot a spirit spot for Fox Sports to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The crew of the Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) man the rails aboard WWII museum ship USS Bowfin (SS 287) to shoot a spirit spot for Fox Sports to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.12.2021
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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese military decimated a US naval base, became "a day of infamy," but Americans never doubted victory in the war they entered days later, US WWII veteran Frank Cohn told Sputnik.
"Although we started out being surprised and having setbacks in the Pacific as well as in Europe, I never had a doubt that we would come out on top," Cohn said. "All the people I talked to seemed to share my optimism. We were the United States, we had to prevail! I guess that might be called patriotism."
On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service carried out a surprise military strike against the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. More than 2,000 Americans were killed and over 1,000 were wounded. The Japanese were able to damage or fully destroy almost 20 battleships and more than 300 aircraft. The attack, which became the most tragic event in American territory until September 11, 2001, prompted the US to enter World War II.
Cohn, now 96, called the Pearl Harbor attack "a day of infamy." He noted that civilians were not aware of the level of devastation at the time.
"While President [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt declared war on Japan the next day, he waited another couple of days to see what Germany was going to do," the veteran noted. "When the Germans joined the Japanese and declared war on us, he declared war on Germany."
Americans were confused at the time, and as Cohn added, "We just knew we were at war and had been attacked."
Cohn was born in Germany to a Jewish family, but had to flee to the US in 1938. He got word of the attack at his home on the West Side of New York City.
"It was a Sunday, a lovely, relative warm day and I was outside of my apartment, with a number of boys my age, in the front of the building when someone came running up the street yelling 'The Japs just bombed Pearl Harbor!'" he said. "We all looked at each other and asked 'Where is Pearl Harbor?' No one knew. It took a while until somebody came up with the solution that we were talking about Hawaii."
Cohn, now a retired Colonel, joined the US army in 1943, a year later landing in France. In April 1945, he took part in the historic meeting of American and Soviet troops at the Elbe river, an event recognized as the symbolic pinnacle of both nations’ alliance to defeat Nazis and liberate Europe.
The veteran expressed frustration that American youth today do not know much about World War II, and many are not even sure who were America's allies and who the enemy.
"They have some vague ideas about Hitler - they know the name, they do associate him with Nazis, they know he was the enemy and they know that we won - but not much else. I am not sure if they know about Pearl Harbor and who started the war," he said.
Soviet and American soldiers meet on Elbe  - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.11.2021
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The root cause of that situation is bad historical education in schools, the veteran believes.
Another US veteran, Wallace Leroy Orsund, who participated in Arctic convoys that provided humanitarian and military aid to the Soviet Union, expressed confidence that America was more or less prepared before the war by famous aviator and military officer Charles Lindbergh, who spent several years in Germany.
"Lindbergh told Roosevelt to prepare for war, and when Pearl Harbor happened, we had five brand new battle ships, and USS Alabama was commissioned shortly afterwards," Orsund said.
Orsund, now 97, served aboard the USS Alabama and visited the Soviet Union with one of the convoys in 1943.
"Actually, when the Japanese attacked us, we were in the same position as Russia was when the Germans invaded it without early warning," he opined.
The 80th National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day on December 7 will include a number of in-person and virtual commemorative events at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial Park in Hawaii. The main ceremony will take place Tuesday, December 7 and begin at 7:45 a.m. on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, according to the event advisory.
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