Americans in Wartime Experience
December 7, 2021
“Tora! Tora! Tora!” At 7:49 am on December 7th, 1941, forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy receive the command to begin the attack. At 7:55 am, the first of 353 Japanese aircraft reach their targets at Pearl Harbor. 8:10 am, the USS Arizona explodes and begins to sink killing over 1,100. By 10:00 am, the assault was over with the Japanese claiming victory and the lives of over 2,400 US military and civilians lost. The United States had now entered the war.

The war in Europe would continue until May 7th, 1945 when Germany would accept defeat and surrender unconditionally. The Japanese, however, would continue to fight. Fearing massive causalities as a result of a Japanese invasion of the American homeland, President Truman orders the first of two atomic bombs deployed. On August 6th, 1945, the first was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The second was dropped three days later on Nagasaki.

On September 2, 1945, aboard the USS Missouri, Japan formally surrenders bringing an end to the war. Over 16.5 million men and women would serve in the United States armed forces during World War II. Over 400,000 would be killed and almost 700,000 wounded. Hundreds of thousands more would serve their country as civilians on the home front.

Over the last 11 years, the Voices of Freedom has had the honor to interview hundreds of World War II veterans and civilians. Some of the highlights include our interview with William Bonelli who was a mechanic on a B17 stationed at Hicham Air Field where he witnessed the Japanese attack and prepared for what they believed would be a Japanese invasion of Hawaii. He would later become a pilot and fly B17’s over Italy.
Doris Baker, whose husband was a radio operator on a B29, became a “Rosie the Riveter.” Young Sigmond Alman joined the Navy in 1943 after graduating high school and served in the Pacific. Sacrificially, Elizabeth Lewis was an army nurse and served aboard hospital ships in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of operation. Additionally, Jack Cassidy served in the navy and was aboard the USS Missouri to witness the Japanese surrender.

Each World War II interview we have conducted showcases the individual story from the perspective of the person who was there. Those individuals who lived during a time that most of us only read about in history books or experience through the lens of a camera. The theme that runs through each and every story we have heard is that of a need to serve. Each WWII veteran and civilian we speak with felt it was their duty to serve a cause greater than themselves. They all displayed the spirit of patriotism and sacrifice. They look back on their service with pride and say they have no regrets.

Many of the World War II veterans we have met volunteered to serve. A significant number had siblings and other family members who also served; and a courageous multitude signed up immediately after graduating high school. One even altered his birth certificate and enlisted at the age of 14. As we recognize the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, we remember and honor those who have been rightly identified as the “Greatest Generation.”

“Democracy alone, of all forms of government, enlists the full force of men’s enlightened will...It is the most humane, the most advanced, and, in the end, the most unconquerable of all forms of human society. The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phrase of human history...We would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.” - President Franklin D. Roosevelt
The Americans in Wartime Experience explores the impact of war and conflict on America since WWI. It honors those who served in the military and on the home front and highlights the values they demonstrated in serving – duty, honor, and courage. It examines how periods of conflict have profoundly shaped American society. It educates visitors about the costs of war, both on a personal and social level. It challenges visitors to remember the service and sacrifices made by their fellow citizens to preserve and defend our freedoms. LEARN MORE

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