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Survival Lessons from Pearl Harbor

November 30, 2022 0 Comments

On December 7, 2022, we recognize the 81st anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

After 81 years, there are very few survivors still alive. According to reports, “As we prepare to enter 2022, the total number of Pearl Harbor survivors is estimated to be less than 1,500 — the youngest of whom would be 97.”

In light of the anniversary, we believe it is an appropriate time to honor those still living who performed heroic duties and those who sacrificed their lives on that day of infamy.

And what better way to honor them than to reflect on survival lessons from Pearl Harbor.

A Look Back in Time

On the morning of December 7, 1941, 353 Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor.

The attack on our U.S. Naval Base lasted an hour and fifteen minutes. However, in that short amount of time, more than 2,400 Americans died (including civilians), and more than 1,000 were wounded. The attack destroyed 188 U.S. aircraft and sank or damaged 19 Navy ships.

The following day, President D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan during a speech that included:

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

And America entered World War II.

Prepare for the Unexpected

The biggest lesson we can learn from the attack on Pearl Harbor is to prepare for the unexpected.

Those living in Pearl Harbor did not anticipate having to fight for their lives or rescue the wounded that day… but that’s what they did.

The U.S. military knew it was possible that Japan would attack, but they didn’t know what day or where.

According to Mike Clark, “The Japanese saw a devastating attack at Pearl Harbor as the best way to gain dominance in the Pacific. […] The Japanese believed the U.S. was not prepared.”

As such, the Japanese were able to perform a surprise attack.

The preparation, or lack thereof, was debated long after the attack.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt appointed a commission headed by Owen J. Roberts.

According to Britannica, “The majority report of a congressional committee, [the Roberts Commission] rendered in 1946, while not avoiding criticism of the chief of naval operations and the U.S. Army chief of staff, stressed the lack of preparation in Hawaii.”

Since Pearl Harbor, the next closest national crisis was 9/11, which also took America by surprise.

Ron Spector, a professor at George Washington University and a specialist on 20th-century warfare and U.S. relations with Asia, was quoted by U.S. News saying, “It's impossible to prevent surprises. The secret is how well you're equipped to survive a surprise, and then rebound from it.”

How well you’re equipped to survive comes down to preparedness. Boost your survival skills. Learn preparedness strategies. Invest in emergency gear.

Don’t Underestimate Anything

Most commentaries on the Pearl Harbor Attack believe part of the reason why the surprise attack happened and was so destructive is because America did not anticipate it.

Britannica explains, “The success of the attack on Pearl Harbor was primarily due to the Americans’ false estimate of the enemy’s capabilities and intentions.”

Our government knew Japan was a threat; however, they greatly underestimated this threat.

We cannot underestimate the ability of our enemies. In other words, don’t get cocky. Recognize that while we live in the greatest nation in the world, there are plenty of others who will go to great lengths to see our country crumble.

Don’t think, “It’ll never happen here.”

Instead, live in a way that suggests that while you hope “it never happens here,” you are prepared if it does.

This is a good survival rule, in general. Too many of us live as if they are indestructible. Some people look at the news in shock at stories of hikers stranded in the wilderness, mass shootings, and severe flooding…but think it’ll never happen to them.

Being prepared means understanding the very real possibility that you may one day find yourself in a survival situation.

[Related Read: The Next Black Swan Event: Preparing for Fail-Safes to Fail]

Stay Aware

As much as you probably want to put your head in the sand, you cannot without compromising your preparedness.

It is essential to stay aware – and part of this requires doing your own research.

Mike Clark explains, “Another lesson from Pearl Harbor that had to be relearned was the tendency of intelligence agencies to be caught in silos and not share information. So intelligence on the Pearl Harbor attack was either not shared or believed; the same happened with 9/11.”

Find news sources you trust and follow them.

Subscribe to YouTube channels and podcasts that discuss what is happening around the world in an unbiased way.

Train in First Aid

In the immediate aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, rescue was paramount. The attack was the first large-scale medical emergency in several decades.

The Naval History and Heritage Command wrote, “From their first realization of an enemy attack, the doctors, dentists, nurses, and corpsmen were unexcelled in personal bravery, in determination, in resourcefulness, and in their capacity to put into practice previously formulated plans.”

There are multiple stories of these heroes saving the lives of burned and wounded soldiers.

We never know when we will find ourselves in a situation where someone we love or a stranger needs first aid.

If you have never taken a first aid course or CPR training, now is the time.

Listen to Those You Trust

It can be hard to trust authority figures or our government leaders. But, sometimes, listening to those in authority can be lifesaving.

Pearl Harbor survivor, who was 17 at the time, Clarendon Hetrick, said it was the best decision he made.

He told AZ Central, “When somebody says get out of here and you're on a hundred tons of ammunition, well, you don't question it. If somebody in authority said do something back then, you didn't question it. I think that's what kept me living to this day."

If you are in a public setting and receive an alert, take heed!

Help One Another

There are numerous stories of the Pearl Harbor Attack that involve men surviving because they stuck together.

Survivor Lou Conter and the rest of his 10-man crew found themselves in the Pacific Ocean after their patrol bomber was shot down. (Note – This occurred in 1943 after he survived Pearl Harbor.)

Conter told the panicked men, “Knock it off. Just stay together, hold hands and kick slowly 'cause there'll be sharks around. If a shark comes too close, hit it in the nose with your fist as hard as you can.”

According to AZ Central, “The men helped one another, holding up anyone who weakened. Not long after, a second plane dropped a life raft and all 10 of the crew made it to shore and, the next night, back to the base.”

It wasn’t just soldiers who supported one another.

Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, thousands of Americans volunteered to help using any skills they had. Civilian volunteers worked as volunteer firefighters in case of bombs and volunteer radio and phone operators. Others distributed flyers that helped teach citizens about bombs and how to shelter.

May we have that same generous spirit when the time comes.

Stay aware and prepare, friends.

In liberty,

Elizabeth Anderson

Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply


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