‘A day which will live in infamy’

Even 75 years later, the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Dec. 7, 1941, continues to rivet the attention of Americans because it is “such a powerful event,” a priest-historian told Catholic News Service in an interview in advance of tomorrow’s anniversary of the attack.

“Before that, we were debating whether to get involved with World War II or not. We were basically a neutral country, trying not to get engaged in it. It (the attack) changed the tenor, and the president’s resolve,” Father Daniel Mode said in a telephone interview from the Pentagon, where he where he works for the chief of chaplains. “It brought our country together to fight a common threat.”

A ship is seen sinking during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. (CNS photo/Pearl Harbor Museum)

A ship is seen sinking during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. (CNS photo/Pearl Harbor Museum)

In a video interview with CNS, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services reflects on the “incredible heroism” that day by members of the military that day, including Father Aloysius Schmitt, a chaplain aboard the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor.

The priest pushed a dozen men out a narrow porthole to safety during the attack at the cost of his own life as the ship was sinking. He was the first U.S. chaplain to die in World War II. It was only recently that his remains had been positively identified and returned to his home Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, for burial.

The Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Honolulu, in its Dec. 1 issue recalled some of the paper’s coverage of the time. ” The Herald’s 1941 war edition, published four days after the bombing, expressed the faith and patriotism of island Catholics.

These reflections on the Pearl Harbor attack and the more than 2,000 American lives lost prompted us at CNS to look back into our own news archives:


(Special Correspondence, N.C.W.C. News Service)

Honolulu, Dec. 29 — With war come to Hawaii; with Catholics carrying on in the way that has marked their loyalty in every national emergency; with priests, religious and members of the laity giving edifying examples of their courage, a notable revival of the faith has also come to these islands.

Confessions have been heard in record number and the Communion rails have welcomed many a strange face. Catholic churches were packed more than ever the Sunday following the air raid at Pearl Harbor.

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