Hollywood, MD – Even though 75 years have passed since the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the images remain in America’s mind forever. If you visit the History.com web-site you’ll see a brief film, in color, depicting some of the destruction. For the 20th century’s first generation, December 7, 1941, was a game-changing moment. Although there was a sense that America would eventually be drawn into the conflicts in Asia and Europe, it was the Japanese bombing of the key naval base that made it official. The lives of those who were called or answered the call voluntarily felt the impact.
The attack on Pearl Harbor began Sunday morning, Dec. 7 at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time. The crews of over 350 Japanese planes dropped bombs and torpedoes and fired bullets during the onslaught. Over 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,178 were wounded. Twenty naval vessels were destroyed.
The attack culminated five years of pre-war acrimony between the United States and Japan. The Southern Maryland area perhaps felt the impact of the strained relations. In 1937, the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics Testing selected land known as Cedar Point in St. Mary’s County as a future site for aeronautics testing. The land was acquired through eminent domain. Fifteen days after the attack on Pearl Harbor Bureau of Aeronautics Chief Rear Admiral Henry Towers requested approval and authorization to begin construction of what became Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox granted approval of Towers’ request one month to the day of the attack.
History.com highlighted eight stories of valor by Americans during the sneak attack. One of the more touching stories is that of an immigrant, Chief Water Tender Peter Tomich (pictured, left), an Austro-Hungarian immigrant and World War I veteran who was serving aboard the training and target ship USS Utah. The vessel was hit by two torpedoes fired by Japanese aircraft. According to History.com’s account, “the aging vessel soon began to list to one side as water flooded into its hull. Inside the boiler room, Tomich ordered his crew to abandon ship. After ensuring that his men had escaped their engineering spaces, he returned to his post and singlehandedly secured the boilers, preventing a potential explosion that would have claimed many lives. USS Utah rolled over and sank just minutes later. Fifty-eight men—Tomich among them—went down with the ship. Tomich was 48. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. It took the Navy 65 years to locate a family member to accept the plaudit. Finally, in 2006, Navy officials presented the medal to a relative during a ceremony in Croatia.
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