Illinois Ancestors | Remembering Pearl Harbor

Illinois Ancestors | Remembering Pearl Harbor

It's been 77 years since that "date which will live in infamy" — Dec. 7, 1941 — the date that the Japanese bombed U.S. ships that were stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Few World War II veterans are alive today that remember that event; but none will forget. Also, all Americans should participate in remembering — or at least learning about that terrible date.

A good place to start is to read the US Navy's "Overview of The Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941," which has been posted online at The site includes links to several related resources, including lesson plans for teachers. A search for "Pearl Harbor Casualties" also provides links to historical data, such as information about the battleship, Oklahoma, and personal reports by survivors of the USS Arizona.

The US GenWeb Archives has posted a list of all of the 59 civilians and hundreds of military personnel killed in that Pearl Harbor attack. It would be appropriate to read the list of names, at These individuals should be remembered, even if they are not in your family. Why not ask any family member who remembers that day, how they reacted to the news. My own kin say they "were glued to the radio" for many hours, waiting for continuing news of the attack. It's hard to think of not having TV or internet.

The USS Arizona Memorial is indefinitely closed (read details in Hawaii Magazine at, but the "Pearl Harbor Visitor Center remains open [and] guests can still watch a documentary film, then take a harbor tour of Battleship Row." Also, Richard Seaman has posted a poignant article, "Inside the USS Arizona Memorial" at, which reminds us, "The main focus of the memorial is ... the 'shrine room' [wall] with the names of all 1,177 men who died on the Arizona."

The National Archives & Records Administration's (NARA) Winter 2016 issue of Prologue Magazine (Vol. 48, No. 4) features an article, "The Day of Infamy: Japan's Surprise Attack in Hawaii Brings America into World War II,") which can be read/downloaded at Also the Winter 2011 issue of Prologue Magazine (Vol. 43, No. 4) has an article, "Remembering Pearl Harbor ... 70 Years later," available at Both articles should be required reading for students of American history.

There are many videos online pertaining to the Pearl Harbor attack. For example, do a Google search ( for "Pearl Harbor attack 1941 YouTube" (quotation marks not necessary).

Dorinda Makanaonalani Nicholson was a young Hawaiian schoolgirl who "lived in Pearl Harbor on the day the bombs fell," and published her first book, "Pearl Harbor Child: A Child's View of Pearl Harbor — from Attack to Peace." Today (at age 83) she visits schools in Hawaii and elsewhere telling her eyewitness stories. Her website, at, includes links to videos and her DVD and books. One of her books, "Teacher Resource Guide to Pearl Harbor Child," includes "activities and programs to help teachers stimulate student interest in one of the most significant events in the entire 20th century."

(On a personal note, I am honored to have met this special lady on Dec. 7, 1991, and have an autographed copy of her first book. Reading it again is my private way of remembering Pearl Harbor.)

Queries, genealogical questions from researchers and genealogical materials readers would like to share will be printed in this column free. Joan Griffis may be reached via email at or by sending a letter to Illinois Ancestors, c/o The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

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