Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, delivered the following remarks at the Pearl Harbor 75th Anniversary Commemoration at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.:
“It’s a privilege to be here to join you in commemorating the events of December 7, 1941, to pay our respects to the sacrifice and heroism displayed that day, and to remember the day America entered the Second World War, and began our leadership of the free world, which has continued now for three-quarters of a century.
“December 7, 1941 was one of the dates on which history swung on its great hinge and the world was forever changed. But for some of us, it’s a personal memory, as it is for my mother, Roberta, and for me.
“It is one of my earliest memories. I was five years old, playing in the front yard of our family’s home in New London, Connecticut. A black sedan pulled up in front of the house, a Navy officer in uniform rolled down the window and shouted at my father that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. My father left immediately for the submarine base where he was stationed, and I rarely saw him again for the next four years. He commanded submarines in both theaters of the war, surviving depth charges and other terrifying undersea encounters with the enemy.
“My grandfather held commands in the Pacific, first, of all land based aircraft during the Guadalcanal campaign. In the last year of the war, he commanded a fast carrier task force for his friend, Admiral Halsey. He stood on the deck of the USS Missouri as the Japanese formally surrendered. He came home from the war exhausted from the burdens he had borne and died the same day.
“During the war and whenever my father was at sea, the job of raising my sister, brother and me fell to my mother alone. She gave us her strength, her love of life and her deep interest in the world. I wouldn’t be here today but for her character and example.
“Many American families were changed on that day, many endured the pain of separation from loved ones, and many suffered the pain that time never completely heals, the loss of children and parents and siblings.
“America, too, was changed forever. For the events of that infamous day, the day that summoned the might and courage and compassion of the American people to a world war, and the beginning of our country’s rise to its preeminence among the nations of the world, a preeminence we maintain to this day to our benefit and the benefit of humanity
“It began when officers and sailors of the Pacific Fleet were awakened shortly before 8:00 on the morning of December 7, 1941 by the alarm to General Quarters. A little after 8, the first torpedo bomb struck a gun turret on the USS Arizona, and glanced off the deck without seriously damaging the ship. A minute or two later, another bomb struck the ship, and detonated its ammunition magazine, starting a holocaust that would burn for two days and send the Arizona, and the 1,177 men, over half of the casualties suffered that day, entombed on her to the bottom of Pearl Harbor Bay, where she remains to this day as a military cemetery.
“The Arizona was the flagship of Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd, a friend of my grandparents and parents, who raced to her bridge at the first warning. The Arizona’s last skipper, Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh joined him there. Both men fought valiantly, and perished in the fire.
“Countless acts of valor and self-sacrifice were witnessed that day on the Arizona and other ships of the fleet, on Hickam Field and Wheeler Field and Bellows Field, in the cockpits of outgunned Hawks and Warhawks and Dauntless dive bombers.
“That we were defeated by our enemy for a moment does not diminish the nobility of the sacrifices made by Americans that day for the sake of duty, honor and country. Neither does it obscure the magnitude of their real achievement: they fought the first battle and set the first example in the long campaign of America’s enlightened leadership of the free world.
“Many battles followed and many challenges were offered and met. With our allies we defeated our enemies in the Pacific and Europe. We defeated our Cold War adversary. And we will prevail over the challenges we face today.
“But it began with the courage and faith of those Americans who answered their summons to duty at Pearl Harbor, who gave all that duty asked of them.
“It’s important that we keep the memory of their patriotism alive. It’s important that we guard against the complacency that is always a threat to our security.
“For decades, they say, hot oil from the hold of the Arizona bubbled to the surface. It was not only a living testament to the destruction wrought on December 7, 1941. It was a warning that freedom is never cheap and those who lead this great and bravely defended nation must do our duty always to be watchful and to provide for the common defense with the resources at our disposal, so that the best men and women in America will not be forced to provide for it with their lives.
“Thank you all for remembering, and for inviting me to join you.”