Caleb S. Cage: Appreciating Pearl Harbor Day
December 7, 2012
On Dec. 7, 1941, the United States experienced one of the most aggressive attacks it had ever endured since its founding. When Japanese bombers attacked the American base at Pearl Harbor, over 2,400 Americans were killed and over 1,200 were wounded, enormous damage to the American Navy fleet was sustained and countless lives were changed forever. It is not an overstatement to say that the attacks on Pearl Harbor changed the course of history. Today, 71 years later, we honor and remember Pearl Harbor, those we lost, those who survived and those who were affected by it. Nevada, as a part of a nation at war, was always a part of the larger war effort, but that fateful day definitively and literally connected our state to the national sacrifice of World War Two forever. Several Nevadans were at Pearl Harbor and endured the attacks along with their fellow service members. Countless other Nevadans answered their nation’s call to service because of the attacks. All of their families prayed for their safety and mourned their sacrifice. We were more metaphorically involved as well. Nevada’s namesake ship, the USS Nevada, was attacked that morning and sustained numerous attacks throughout the day. The crew managed to stay afloat, however, and went on to participate in the defense, shooting down at least seven attacking aircraft that day. It was the only battleship to get underway that morning, and after the pounding assault it took that day, it was salvaged and went on to support amphibious landings at Normandy, Iwo Jima and other battle zones. We are right to celebrate this ship named after our state, and to continue to appreciate the honor of being associated with it. As Nevadans, we are right to proudly honor and remember the anniversary of Pearl Harbor in numerous ways as well. Families and comrades have remembered the day publicly and privately for years following the attack, and in 1995, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day was created in the Nevada Revised Statutes as a day worthy of a state holiday. Dec. 7, the statute reads, is “to commemorate all the brave and heroic persons who served in the Armed Forces of the United States and defended their country against the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor…” In recognizing the day, the statute states that a governor’s proclamation shall be issued in order to encourage buildings and residences in the state to display flags at half-mast “in honor of the persons who sacrificed their lives in defending their country on Dec. 7, 1941.” In recent years, we have also added to the statutory honor conveyed on the veterans of Pearl Harbor and their families. In addition to the usual events for the state holiday, last year we unveiled a new veteran honor as well. The passage of AB277 during the 76th Legislative Session, which was championed by Assemblyman and Marine Corps veteran Elliot Anderson, gave us the opportunity to do so by creating a license plate honoring Nevada’s 24,000 women veterans. The process started when Gov. Sandoval announced the design of the plate on Veterans Day 2011, and on the 70th anniversary of the attack the plate was unveiled and made available to the public. We know that others have shared in this honor as the Department of Motor Vehicles reports that there are 241 Women Veterans license plates on vehicles in our state. Today, however, the more important number is the number of Pearl Harbor Survivor plates in our state. The DMV reports that there are 14 such plates in circulation, and you can see them on our roads and highways from time to time if you are paying close enough attention. There may be more survivors in Nevada, and there are certainly more in our state who were impacted by the attacks, and all of them should receive our full appreciation for their service and sacrifice. It has been 71 years since the attacks at Pearl Harbor, and I hope that you have taken some time this week to honor Nevada’s Pearl Harbor survivors and their families as well. It is a great way to show our ongoing commitment to all who have served and the sacrifices they have made for our nation. • Caleb S. Cage is the executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, appointed by Governor Brian Sandoval. You can read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.