Remembering the Day of Infamy: Diego Garcia Takes Pause on the Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor Attack

December 09, 2019

U.S. and British service members, civilians and contractors on board U.S. Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia gathered in front of the headquarters building, Dec. 6, to honor those fallen during the Pearl Harbor attack.

This year marks the 78th anniversary of the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor that took an estimated lives of 2,403 United States personnel, injured 1,178, and drew the United States into World War II.

Lt. Cmdr. Diane Hampton, command chaplain, offered the invocation as attendees bowed their heads in prayer.

“We ask your presence with us as we remember the Pearl Harbor tragedy, we pray for your blessings and guidance. Enable us to reflect clearly and consciously upon the legacy of those who have gone before us.” Lt. Cmdr. Diane Hampton, command chaplain

“As we stand here on this island in the Indian Ocean, we are reminded of the day that will live in infamy: the attack on Pearl Harbor tested our resolve and shook the foundations of our nation. Today we remember those lost, those unsuspecting souls who died giving the full measure of their devotion to god, country and loved ones. We also remember the Americans filled with an uncommon sense of patriotism that arose from the ashes of this tragedy and unhesitatingly volunteered to don the cloth of our nation and willingly go into harm’s way.”

Capt. Blake Tornga, commanding officer NSF Diego Garcia, followed the invocation with a telling of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech to Congress shortly after the Japanese attacks.

“Early on Sunday morning in 1941, the President had intended to spend some down-time at his home with his stamp collection,” said Tornga. “Instead, he got word of the attacks across the Pacific and specifically at Pearl Harbor, and thus started the busiest day of his life. Yet three hours later, he found time to pen one of the world’s most influential speeches in world history.”

“The next day, President Roosevelt, without the use of his legs as he was paralyzed from the waist down from polio, fought through the pain inflicted by leg braces he wore, took his son’s arm in one and hand, and using a cane, walked to the podium to address Congress and the American people.”

Tonga continued with a reading of a direct quote from President Roosevelt’s speech to Congress and the American people.

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941,” then-President Roosevelt began, “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.”

“The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu. Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.”

“I believe that I interpret the will of Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger yes. Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.”

“With confidence in our armed forces, with unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.” President Theodore Roosevelt

The ceremony proceeded with the sounding of a ship’s bell. The sounding of a ship’s bell is a reminder of the Navy’s long-held traditions. As the ceremony concluded, nine bells were rung by Religious Programs Specialist First Class Sheri Russell, followed by the playing of taps. The bells meanings is as follows:

The first for the USS Arizona and USS Utah who sit at the bottom of the ocean with many of our comrades entombed within.

The second is for all of the Sailors on the USS Oklahoma, USS California, USS West Virginia, USS Maryland, USS Pennsylvania, USS Tennessee, and USS Nevada who died or were wounded during the attack.

The third bell is for all the Sailors, Airmen, nurses, doctors, government employees, and civilians who lost their lives or were wounded on Dec. 7, 1941.

The fourth bell recognizes everyone who survived and bravely, without question, took up the torch in the hopes of bringing justice to our fallen comrades.

The fifth bell is for the allies who stepped up, fought and died alongside us in the ultimate hope of victory.

The sixth bell is for our nation who rallied together, sacrificed, maintained hope and support, and set aside difference to focus on defeating our enemies.

The seventh bell is for all who fought on the sea, on land, in the airs, as all who willing to sacrifice for the ideals established within our constitution.

The eighth bell is a reminder to all that have died, all that were affected by this horrific event, all who would never forget – it is a call – a reminder – that their watch has ended.

The ninth bell is a sign for us here this morning and for all those who have gone before us, that they can be confident that we, now, have the watch.

As NSF Diego Garcia, ahead of the International Date Line, paused today to remember the events of Pearl Harbor, the base also paused in solemnity for families and loved-ones affected by the shootings at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Dec. 4, 2019.