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Column: World-altering consequences: A thought on Pearl Harbor Day

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By Athena Redmond

What might have been. These words often haunt us as we look back at decisions we’ve made. A single decision can sometimes save thousands of lives or cost millions.
Seventy-five years ago, the Japanese Navy sent warplanes from its carriers to destroy American forces stationed at Pearl Harbor. Our country was not at war with Japan. In fact, we were negotiating for peace.
Japan’s forces came in two waves. The first wave came literally out of the blue, and our sailors and soldiers could do little more than scramble to meet it.
The second wave brought heavier losses to the Japanese forces. By this time, American troops had manned their guns and were prepared to meet an attack.
We lost more than 2,000 men and women in the battle and 1,000 more were injured. We lost battleships, cruisers and aircraft.
Japan lost far fewer men and aircraft, but the losses were high enough to make Japanese Naval Commander Chuichi Nagumo reconsider plans for a third wave. His troops were tired and it would take time to prepare another wave. Fuel supplies might not last for the return home. And losses of aircraft and pilots could be even higher.
The Japanese headed home, leaving Pearl Harbor’s fuel and torpedo storage intact along with maintenance and dry-dock facilities.
The loss of these key components would have crippled American forces in the Pacific and prolonged the war for another two years, according to U.S. Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz, who commanded the Pacific Fleet during the war that followed this attack.
Japanese Commander-In-Chief Isoroku Yamamoto later called the decision not to make a third strike a great mistake.
Had Nagumo decided differently, the ultimate victors of World War II may not have been America and our allies. This single decision may have made the world a different place than what we know.
As we look back today and honor the sacrifices our country made 75 years ago, it is my hope that our newly-elected leaders remember the lessons of Pearl Harbor – the costs of conflict, the importance of preparation and the power of a single decision to change the world.
These lessons are applicable for all of us. If we learn them well, we can make our world a better place.

Athena Redmond is a Buford resident and a page designer for The Lancaster News.