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WH recommends vets 'set aside' bitterness over Pearl Harbor attack

News that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is attending the ceremony remembering the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack has drawn some interest.


Unfortunately, it also seems to have drawn some advice from White House Spokesman Josh Earnest directed toward veterans of the surprise bombardment.

During a recent press briefing, Earnest said that World War II veterans should "set aside their own personal bitterness" over the unprovoked attack on Dec. 7, 1941, that left 2,403 Americans dead and over a thousand wounded.

Japan has refused to apologize for the attack, which sank or damaged 19 American vessels, including eight battleships and destroyed or damaged over 300 aircraft.

A rescue operation underway from the burning USS West Virginia after the Japanese attacks. (U.S. Navy, December 7, 1941)

"If I were a World War II veteran who was drafted by the United States military to go and fight for our country overseas in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, I might feel quite embittered. And I think it would be a perfectly natural and understandable human reaction to not be particularly satisfied with the words of the Japanese Prime Minister," Earnest said during the Dec. 5 briefing.

"There may be some who feel personally embittered," he added. "But I'm confident that many will set aside their own personal bitterness, not because they're personally satisfied by the words of the Prime Minister, but because they recognize how important this moment is for the United States."

USS Arizona (US Navy photo)

Abe is the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit Pearl Harbor, declaring his intent to "mourn the souls of the victims" of the attack. American forces shot down 29 Japanese planes, and sank five midget submarines and one submarine.

Fifteen Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during the attack, while 51 received the Navy Cross, four received the Distinguished Service Cross, and 53 received the Silver Star.

It is estimated that 161,000 American military personnel were killed in action while fighting in the Pacific Theater. The war lasted for three years and nine months, with the end taking place when Japan signed surrender documents on board the USS Missouri (BB 63) on Sept. 2, 1945.