December 7, 1941- A Date of Infamy

On December 7, 1941, MM2C, J. Howard Kirby was on board the USS Tracy, stationed at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. (Remember, Hawaii was a territory, not a state in 1941.)

He was 23 years old.

Around 7:50 AM that Sunday morning, while others were still asleep, or on shore leave, my dad was on duty.

That’s when the first wave of Japanese aircraft arrived, and Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida sent the coded message, “Tora. Tora. Tora.”  The Japanese attack began, and complete surprise was achieved.

My father was a sitting duck on board the Tracy, as it sat docked in the Naval Shipyard, across the channel from Battleship Row at Pearl.

In less than 2 hours, out of the 130 vessels berthed within Pearl Harbor, 21 were sunk, or

damaged. All but 3 of those ships – the Arizona, Oklahoma, and Utah – returned to service before the end of WWII.

328 of the US force’s 394 planes were destroyed or damaged.

2,335 service personnel were killed. 1,143 were wounded.

My dad died in April 1980. He never talked much about his experiences during the Second World War. I wish he had. I wish I had known when he was still alive, to ask him the questions I would like to ask him now.  I miss him bunches.

From Dad’s service record, I find my father was commended at Captain’s Meritorious Mast for “participating in action on board the USS Cummings on 7 December 1941 as a member of a gun crew, in the repulsion of Japanese planes attacking the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, T.H. and demonstrated steady nerves and coolness under fire.”

I have been able to visit Pearl Harbor twice. Both times I went there for my dad. His unfulfilled wish, was to return to Pearl some day.

In the USS Arizona Memorial Visitors Center, there is a photograph on the wall, of the opening moments of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Torpedo tracks and explosion wakes rock the ships of Battleship Row. Two of the ships in the photograph are the Tracy, and the Cummings. Ships my father fought on that day.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 “a date that will live in infamy.” You can listen to his speech here.

George Santayana is quoted as saying, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”

He is also quoted as saying, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

Here is Bing Crosby singing another song I remember hearing when I was a child. White Christmas. (Not to be confused with one of Sissy’s favorites, Blue Christmas.)

Just for fun, which song do you like better, White Christmas, or Blue Christmas?

No. I will not link to Blue Christmas. 😉

I wish you well,



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6 thoughts on “December 7, 1941- A Date of Infamy

  1. Wonderful, well-written tribute especially to Dad, but also to the veterans who served. May we always remember the sacrifice they made.


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