Posted by: SJS | December 7, 2020

December 7, 1941

American ships engulfed in flames and smoke at Pearl Harbor

It was 79 years ago today that the forces of Imperial Japan launched a surprise attack on the US Navy base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack launched the United States into World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously described the event as “a day that will live in infamy.”

Headlines from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin

As was true for so many of his friends and high school classmates, the events of December 7th quickly became a galvanizing force in Red Stahley’s decision to enter the US military as soon as he was eligible. At the time of Pearl Harbor, Red was midway through his junior year at Northeast Catholic High School in Philadelphia. By the time the new year of 1942 arrived, his mind was made up and he knew he was destined for the Navy.

Massive explosions overwhelm Pearl Harbor in the aftermath of the attack.

The impact of the Pearl Harbor attack on Red’s life is one topic that I wish I had explored more deeply with him before his death in 1999. On that December Sunday 79 years ago, life in America was transformed in a way that is almost too enormous to measure. For one sixteen year-old boy in Philadelphia (he would turn 17 on December 20th), it was most certainly a game-changer.

For my father and his generation, things got very serious very fast. A challenge was set out before them and they embraced it without hesitation. It was a challenge that would carry them into harm’s way in remote places across the expanse of the globe. May their example continue to shine as a light for our path and a summons to do everything we can–and must do– to protect and strengthen our democratic institutions. Institutions such as free and fair elections for which their generation was willing to give their very lives.

Our challenge is to live up to their example of honor, courage, and hard work.


  1. Lovely! You’ve captured your father’s—and a whole generations—patriotism and bravery so well Steve! We have much to be grateful for—men and women like your dad!

    • Thanks, Jay. My exploration of my father’s service in WWII has motivated me to stay continuously involved in the work of preserving and promoting this continued experiment–and a very fragile experiment– in democracy that we call the United States of America. I was proud to haul my latest batch of get-out-the-vote letters to the post office addressed to folks in Georgia earlier today in advance of the senate run-off election. I’ll keep finding ways to stay involved–especially since the coalition of White Supremacists/Know nothings/Neo-nazis/Trumpers won’t be slowing down any time soon. I really appreciate your support and encouragement, my brother!

  2. Americans were divided about their involment in the war that was raging on in Europe before Pearl Harbor. America First Commitee had 800,000 members. The committee was dissolved on December 10, 1941, three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the war.

    America is at war again, but the enemy is microscopic.

  3. Here, here!

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