Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, marking the 49th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, referred Friday to the Persian Gulf crisis and warned that it is unwise to “tempt tyrants with messages of weakness.”
Inouye did not mention Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by name in his speech. But the chairman of the Senate Democratic Steering Committee predicted that “this tyrant in the desert” will be turned back by American resolve.
Inouye said the United States entered World War II and the Korean War unprepared because of public demands to dismantle the military.
“Today we once again find ourselves with a tyrant ready to test the will and resolve of the American people,” Inouye said.
“But, this time, this tyrant knows that our barricades have not been torn down and that our swords and spears have not been permitted to rust, and that the people of America, if circumstances force them to do so, are willing to send their sons and daughters to stop this tyrant,” he said.
“Many of us who solemnly gather this morning have felt the hot sting of shrapnel and seen our bodies torn by bullets,” said Inouye, who lost his right arm during World War II combat. “Though we sing the many songs of glory, we know that war is ugly, dirty, painful and deadly.”
But to make certain that American men and women need not go into combat, “we should always listen to the wise words of the ancient ones who counsel our people not to tempt tyrants with messages of weakness,” he said. “We should always remember this moment of infamy.”
The ceremony aboard the Arizona Memorial included wreath presentations by veterans, patriotic and civic organizations, a 21-gun salute and taps.
One minute of silence was observed throughout the Pearl Harbor Naval Base at 7:55 a.m., the time the attack began on Dec. 7, 1941. The moment of silence ended with a “missing man” flyover by Hawaii Air National Guard jets.
The gleaming, white memorial spans the sunken battleship, which still contains the remains of 1,102 crewmen who died in the attack.
Author Ted Mason, a survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack, was the keynote speaker at a concurrent ceremony held at the Arizona Memorial Visitor Center.
Ceremonies also were held at several other Oahu military bases during the day.
Honolulu city officials used the occasion to dedicate a gift from the city of Nagasaki, Japan, which provided a reproduction of a cathedral bell that survived the atomic bomb blast Aug. 9, 1945.
In Indianapolis, a bell from the World War II battleship Indiana was rung 2,403 times--once for each American killed in the attack.
Six battleships and several smaller vessels were sunk and many others seriously damaged in the Pearl Harbor attack.
In Chicago, a former Marine continued his crusade to make Dec. 7 a national holiday.
“I’ll bet you less than 25% of the people know about it (the anniversary of the attack), and that number is getting less all the time,” Richard Foltynewicz, 65, told the Chicago Tribune.
Foltynewicz created the Foundation for a National Pearl Harbor Day and has been seeking support from businesses and the public. He also began a fund-raising drive, Pennies for Pearl, for a commemorative 50th-anniversary plaque to be placed at the Arizona Memorial.