‘A Day That Will Live In Infamy’: Pearl Harbor Remembered In Silence 79 Years Later

(Photo: Kyodo/via REUTERS)

Virginia Kruta Associate Editor
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What I did in 2019 to mark the 78th anniversary of Pearl Harbor would be absolutely unthinkable today in 2020.

I joined a group of veterans — several of whom were veterans of the Pacific Theater in World War II — along with a few of their family members and my own fifteen-year-old daughter. We attended a special screening of the film “Midway.”

I watched these men, who were in their mid-nineties, stand tall and salute the “Missing Man” table that was set up at the front of the theater.

I watched as the stories these very men had lived appeared before them on the screen, beginning with the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. (RELATED: Only Five USS Arizona Survivors Are Still Living — But None Can Attend Memorial Services This Year)

I watched their faces light up as everyday Americans — just as they had been — became heroes because the situation demanded it of them.

I watched them cheer, with tears in their eyes, as an American soldier faced down his Japanese captors and certain death, defiant to the end.

And, as the film ended, one of the men who had organized the event stood up at the front of the theater and asked everyone to stand. He took out a ship’s bell and proceeded to strike it with a wooden mallet. Twenty-four bells for the 2,403 men who were lost that day.

One year later, as the nation — and the world — reels from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, such an event is not possible. Even if a movie theater were open and willing to hold a screening, any World War II veterans yet living would be put at grave risk simply to attend.

Memorials this year will be subdued, and crowds nonexistent.

“A day that will live in infamy,” according to then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, will pass its 79th anniversary in relative silence.