North recognizes the significance of Pearl Harbor Day

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Lyle Pirnie speaks on the history behind the attack on Pearl Harbor during a ceremony for Pearl Harbor Day, held at Town Hall on Dec. 7. Staff Photo/Max Bowen

By Max Bowen-Max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

Known as “A day that will live in infamy,” Pearl Harbor Day honors those lost when Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States naval base on Honolulu, Hawaii.

What happened afterward is chronicled in books and movies, and those details were shared during a ceremony held on Dec. 7 —Pearl Harbor Day—in North Attleborough. State Rep. Adam Scanlon (D-North Attleborough) said what unites this country is a shared love and willingness to get involved. He said that the community has followed in the footsteps of the country’s forefathers.

“So thank you for always following in their footsteps to move our town toward progress,” he said.

Lyle Pirnie, the town’s Economic Development Director, is also a West Point graduate and served in the Vietnam War. He stood in for Veterans Agent Rebecca Jennings, who couldn’t attend the ceremony. Pirnie spoke on the history of Pearl Harbor, how the Japanese Navy attacked in two waves, and that a third would have crippled the naval forces.

“The U.S. wouldn’t have been able to recover from that for at least a year,” he said.

Back in North Attleborough, Pirnie said it was a day like any other. People were listening to the Giants (the local team at the time) on the radio or were in the movie theater. When news of the attack on Pearl Harbor  was made public, he said that everything came to a halt.

“Everybody was told to go home and wait,” he said

Later that evening, President Roosevelt made his address to the nation, keeping some details to himself for fear of causing a panic. The next day, he addressed Congress, declaring war on Japan. The response, said Pirnie, was that recruiting offices were overwhelmed and in World War II, an estimated 16 million Americans served with another 3.5 million as civil service employees. Pirnie said that the impact helped boost the country’s economy, which at the time was still in a depressed state.

“17 million new jobs were created and the industrial productivity increased by 96 percent,” he said.

Pirnie said that Japan’s attack was meant to immobilize the United States, but just the opposite occurred. Some of those carriers sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor were re-surfaced and repaired, participating in the Battle Of Midway, which stopped the Japanese offensive. Pirnie said the battle “was the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.” Because of what happened at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese would shortly become a non-factor in the war from a strategic standpoint

Pearl Harbor is considered by many to be a defeat, but in the words of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, it served to “awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

“With the unbelievable resolve and the mobilization of the United States,” said Pirnie. “Within six months the Americans had seized the initiative and went on less than four years later to totally destroy the Japanese Empire.”