The U.S. had not yet entered World War II, but it seemed inevitable that these soldiers would soon be fighting Japanese forces who were rapidly gaining strength in the Pacific. It happened much sooner than any of them realized.
George Allen was on KP duty peeling potatoes behind the mess hall when he saw what looked like a large flock of geese in the distance. It was the first attack wave of Japanese bombers intent upon destroying the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor. A total of 361 Japanese aircraft were launched from six carriers … the most powerful carrier task force ever assembled up to that point.
When the two-hour raid was over, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was badly crippled. Almost 2,400 American lives were lost, including 68 civilians, and 1,178 were wounded. Twelve U.S. warships were damaged or destroyed along with 323 military aircraft. The Japanese had lost just 29 planes, a small price to pay in a battle that allowed them to move almost unopposed across the Pacific and gobble up strategic places like the Philippines, Guam, Guadalcanal, Hong Kong and Thailand.
The day after the attack President Franklin Roosevelt told Congress that Dec. 7, 1941, was “... a day which will live in infamy.” America had been drawn into World War II.
Some 60,000 U.S. military personnel were on the island of Oahu when the attack occurred. Seven decades later there are only an estimated 2,700 survivors still physically able to participate in annual Pearl Harbor observances scattered across the country. My friend, 90-year-old George Allen, is a survivor. Like all Pearl Harbor survivors, he is a little older, grayer and a little slower, but the spirit of patriotism still burns in his heart. I thank him for his service to our country. I invite you to help keep alive the memory of the brave soldiers and sailors who gave their lives for their country on that fateful day.
The year 1941 was a pivotal point in American history and a critical time in the shaping of this nation. We owe a great debt to the Pearl Harbor veterans, living and dead, as well as the veterans of all military branches who fought to preserve the freedom we enjoy today. Sir Winston Churchill once said, “A nation that forgets its heroes will someday surely perish.” Please take a moment on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Dec. 7, to reflect upon their sacrifice and honor the courageous men and women who risked their lives for the American people.
On a lighter note, our community has always celebrated Christmas in various and unique ways, and this year is no exception. One of my favorite events is the annual downtown Christmas tree lighting on Broad Street in front of the Courthouse Annex. There is a real sense of community as families gather on Broad Street, share Christmas greetings and await the arrival of the jolly old elf … Saint Nick himself. This year the tree lighting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, followed by “Carols in the City.” The First Baptist Church Sanctuary will kick off the evening of music with a performance on the Annex steps.
Following the ceremony at the Courthouse Annex, the “Carols in the City” festivities will move through historic downtown Cleveland. Audience members are invited to walk together to enjoy Christmas Carols from the various downtown church choirs and return to the Courthouse Plaza with a finale by the CSCC Vocal Rhapsody. Santa and Mrs. Claus will sit in the bandstand on the Courthouse Plaza to greet children and pose for photos. Free carriage rides will also be available in the downtown area until 8 p.m. It is always a truly magical evening and one you and your family should not miss.
Christmas festivities will continue the next day with the annual Christmas parade scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday. The parade has been a part of our annual Christmas celebration for more than 50 years. Thanks to the efforts of MainStreet Cleveland, it has become one of the largest Christmas parades in Tennessee with more than 200 entries expected this year.
This is one of the busiest seasons in Bradley County. There is shopping to do, baking, addressing Christmas cards, church activities, parties and much more. Please remember that in the midst of the hustle and bustle, the real reason we celebrate is summed up in the opening line of a favorite Christmas carol, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”
On behalf of Bradley County government, I wish every citizen a safe, healthy and happy Christmas. It is an honor to serve Bradley County and I am thankful this Christmas for the trust you place in me.
From my family to you and your family, Merry Christmas!