SMYRNA — True to President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous words, “A date that will live in infamy,” Dec. 7, 1941, remains a profound reminder of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii, that sparked the United States’ entry into World War II.
The 80th anniversary of the raid on the Pearl Harbor U.S. Naval Base by Japanese forces will be observed at Smyrna’s Lake Como Pearl Harbor Memorial on Tuesday at noon.
The outdoor event is open to the public, which is asked to comply with social distancing relating to the pandemic.
More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack on Pearl Harbor, including civilians, and another 1,000 people were wounded. Of those who perished, 1,177 were from the USS Arizona.
President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan the day after the assault.
Paul Davis, Delaware State Council President of the Vietnam Veterans of America will serve as keynote speaker, according to Vietnam veteran Terry Baker, who is the event’s coordinator.
Mr. Davis noted that the U.S. is losing the majority of veterans who fought in World War II and were known at the “greatest generation.”
“The generations don’t live forever, obviously, and we always remember those who have served our country in the past and note the importance of what they’ve done for our country and the sacrifices they made,” Mr. Davis said. “We know that there’s people who are gone, but we will never forget those, particularly their families, and some of these families are still alive and we’re always there to help them for the sacrifice of their loved one in the war.
“There aren’t too many Korean War veterans left in the world today. There’s a few WWII veterans left.”
According to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 240,329 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are still alive in 2021.
It is estimated that 234 veterans are dying every day, and that they will nearly all be gone by 2032.
Mr. Davis is still not certain what his message will be on Tuesday, but one can bet that history will be a large part of it.
“I’m still researching it, but my plans are to give a brief history on who actually started the service in Smyrna on Lake Como and then I’m going to get into the issue of who picked it up, which was the Vietnam Vets Legacy Motorcycle group,” he said.
“To me, history is very important. I think that young people should know what the memorial represents, and I think it’s equally important to talk about how the memorial became established. When was it done and perhaps why was it done?”
The memorial was rebuilt and rededicated in 2018 through the efforts the New Castle-based Vietnam Vets Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club and Kent County Chapter 850, Vietnam Veterans of America.
Both chapters coordinated with builders and supporters to honor the founders of the original memorial, who were survivors of Pearl Harbor who have since passed away.
The memorial is a 6,000-pound anchor from a 1942 U.S. Navy destroyer with a stone marker depicting an image of the attack on ‘battleship row.’
Above the image President Roosevelt’s famous words, “A date that will live in infamy,” are inscribed.
The Vietnam Veterans of America’s national slogan, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another,” is inscribed below the image. The American flag and the POW/MIA flag fly behind it at the edge of Lake Como.
Retired Navy Command Master Chief Charles Baldwin arranged for the donation of the anchor and unveiled the monument on Dec. 7, 2018. Its construction was spearheaded by Terry Baker, a life member of the Vietnam Vets Legacy Motorcycle Club.
“It is a great honor that my brothers had that faith in me to allow us to do this,” he said, during the unveiling on the memorial.
Joshua Matticks, executive director Delaware Office of Veterans Services, said the deeds of those who rose to the challenges and threats in World War II should never be forgotten.
“That’s our greatest generation, so it’s individuals who bravely stood up and did what many would not,” Mr. Matticks said. “It’s extremely important to remember them. We should never forget.
“The bravery that it took to do what they did, it’s exactly what we should all strive to be as we go through any nation’s turmoil we step up. And that was the time and that was the generation where individuals stood tall, and we should be extremely proud, and we should never forget them.”
Mr. Davis enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1961 and later served two tours in Vietnam. After his discharge he served 34 four years in law enforcement, including 26 years as a drug enforcement agent for the Delaware Office of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
He later served as a Kent County Levy Court Commissioner-at-Large and currently serves as vice chairman of the Kent County Planning Commission.
Beginning in 2007, as part of Kent County Chapter 850, Vietnam Veterans of America, Mr. Davis played a key role in the planning, fundraising and construction of the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park in Dover, and served as a contributor and coordinator for the rebuilt Smyrna Memorial.
It is important to Mr. Davis to remember those who protected and served their country.
“I just personally take the position that no matter what war it may be that we as citizens have an obligation, particularly a moral obligation, to let the families know — and their grandchildren — that we never forgot the sacrifice that someone in their family made. That’s why it’s very important to me.”