77 years ago, Americans in Hawaii awoke to the sounds of mass destruction, and the sights of flames and smoke billowing from the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
It was a moment that forever changed the trajectory of the United States and the world, while forging a generation that can best be described as patriotic and strong.
Without warning or a declaration of war, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service bombed the harbor and killed 2,403 American service personnel and civilians in one Sunday morning.
The attack injured 1,178 others, sank four Navy battleships, damaged three cruisers and three destroyers and destroyed 188 U.S. aircraft.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt correctly called Dec. 7 "a date which will live in infamy."
Our amazing ally to the north, Canada, declared war on Japan within hours. The United States declared war Dec. 8, which had an immediate and direct effect on every man, woman and child in the country.
Nearly 11 percent of America's 140 million residents in the 1940s fought in the war. As men deployed overseas, women went to work in factories to build war machines and other goods needed to sustain the country and win the war.
Every American suddenly had a common interest: defending and preserving American sovereignty for the sake of liberty.
If not for the brave generation that fought World War II, we would not recognize this country today.
Americans fought long enough and hard enough to prevent the Japanese from dominating Asia, the Pacific and beyond. They held back the enemy long enough for the U.S. government to develop nuclear weapons with the assistance of the United Kingdom and Canada.
After dropping leaflets warning Japanese residents to flee their cities, and after President Harry S. Truman warned of a "rain of ruin from the air, the likes of which has never been seen on this Earth," the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9 of 1945.
The bombings, combined with the Soviet Union joining the war against Japan on Aug. 8, led Japan to surrender Aug. 15.
Just over 500,000 of roughly 16 million Americans who served in World War II remain alive today.
Americans of all generations should give special thanks each Dec. 7 for the World War II generation, which fought to save this country and make it a superpower feared and envied by the rest of the world.
Before long, communities will have no World War II veterans to thank. Be sure to thank them, and tell them we will never forget what they did for the future of this great country.
REPRINTED FROM THE COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE