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70th Anniversary Attack on Oahu

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Today marks the 70th anniversary of the December 7, 1941, attacks on Oahu. It is important that we take a moment to reflect and remember this seminal event in our nation's history. December 7th is the day that lives in infamy. It is the day we got caught with our guard down. And it was tragic, to be sure.

On that fateful Sunday morning more than 350 Japanese fighters and bombers took off from their aircraft carriers 200 miles north of Oahu. The Japanese set out to attack not just Pearl Harbor, for which this day is often remembered, but also the Airmen and aircraft of the Hawaiian Air Forces, along with USMC forces at Kaneohe Bay. They set out to destroy our ability to wage war in the Pacific. They also aimed to destroy our morale, and with it our will to fight back. They underestimated us as individuals and America as a nation.

There were many acts of heroism by Airmen that day. Just as battle stations were manned on the battleships in Pearl Harbor, our Airmen at Hickam Field ran to ammunition storage houses, desperate to fight back. Some risked their lives to move supplies and aircraft out of the line of fire. Some jumped directly in those aircraft and took off to challenge the enemy in the sky. And while the day seemed to be a crippling defeat, the enemy ultimately failed in their objectives. For nestled within the American spirit is strength and resolve. And in short time we recovered, regrouped, and rebuilt. And in due time we won.

Today, all those who work in and visit the Pacific Air Forces headquarters building can see the scars remaining from those attacks. Those scars remind our Airmen, families and all visitors of the ultimate sacrifice paid that day by 238 of our fellow warriors. But they also remind me of how across our country, our service members and our community pulled together, in response to meet the challenges of WWII combat operations.

Fast forward 70 years...today the U.S. and Japan are strong partners who work tirelessly together to promote peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Pacific Air Forces, along with all components of U.S. Pacific Command, regularly exercise with Japanese forces to ensure interoperability - which we saw so effectively demonstrated by the U.S. response in Operation TOMODACHI earlier this year, when more than 6,000 of our PACAF Airmen supported Japanese relief operations after their earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant issues.

Many of the remaining veterans of the December 7th attacks will make their way back to these sites on Oahu this 70th Anniversary. We honor their courage, their service, their sacrifices and their legacy. We are grateful for the example they gave us of perseverance and the American spirit.

We owe it to ourselves to deliberately pause and reflect on moments like this in our history. We owe our veterans nothing less. We honor their memory and continue their proud tradition of service. They showed us how to Aim High and fly, fight, and win!