Arts & Culture · Poetry

Poetry Sunday: Pearl Harbor Day

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Just before 8 a.m. on December 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. At 8:10, a 1,800-pound bomb hit its target—the battleship USS Arizona, smashing through the deck and landing in an ammunition magazine. The ship exploded. More than 1,000 men were trapped inside when it sank. In just two hours of bombing, more than 2,000 Americans soldiers and sailors died and another 1,000 were wounded. The next day, Congress approved President Franklin Roosevelt’s declaration of war.

World War II happened at a time when people turned to poetry for wisdom, for comfort, and for guidance. Eleanor Roosevelt, the nation’s first lady on Pearl Harbor Day, carried a poem with her throughout the war.

Visitors to Pearl Harbor today are stirred by the USS Arizona Memorial, the hull of the sunken ship from which our nation’s flag flies. On the path to the memorial, one can see the poem Mrs. Roosevelt carried with her during those long years of horror and suffering.


Dear Lord,
Lest I continue
My complacent way,
Help me to remember
Somehow out there
A man died for me today.
As long as there be war,
I then must
Ask and answer
Am I worth dying for?


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