Pearl Harbor Visit Brings Back Memories

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Pearl Harbor Visit Brings Back Memories
By Ray Hanania
Southwest News-Herald Friday, November 30, 2012
It was 71 years ago that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and pushed America, and my father and uncle, into World War II.
More than 2,000 people, mostly American soldiers and their families stationed at the Naval Base at Ford Island, were killed. Fortunately for the United States, the aircraft carriers were not at the Honolulu base when the attack took place that Sunday morning before 8 a.m.

But the attack was devastating. We’ve all read the stories, seen the movies and discussed it in school and among family. The U.S. didn’t believe the Japanese would attack by air. All of the battleships were docked next to each other, like sitting ducks.

The most devastating blow was the direct hit on the U.S.S. Arizona, which sank immediately taking with it 1,177 sailors. A white memorial has been erected over the ship, which remains below on the bay floor.

There is a good lesson to learn from Pearl Harbor, even 71 years later. Much animosity was created by the attack between Americans and the Japanese — we eventually fought the Empire of Japan and freed dozens of Islands and ended the war when we dropped nuclear bombs on Japan’s cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

But 71 years later, nearly all of that animosity is gone. Time does heal all wounds.

In addition to the Arizona memorial, there are other historic sites including the submarine the U.S.S. Bowfin, the U.S.S. Missouri and the Aviation Museum where Japanese bullets remain embedded in the hangar walls.

The largest number of tourists to Pearl Harbor are not Americans but Japanese. In fact, so many Japanese visit Pearl Harbor and the tourist sites that signs in English are also matched in Japanese, too.

Everyone was very respectful as we all waited at the Memorial entrance to board a boat that shuttles groups every 45 minutes across the bay to the Arizona Memorial adjacent to Ford Island. A video featuring a female Park Ranger explains that people must be quiet and reserved because the site is not just a memorial but a cemetery. After the attack, the military was unable to recover all of the bodies and it was decided that the dead would remain with the ship under water.

Since then, several dozen sailors who did survive the attack but who died years later have asked and were interred along with their shipmates.

The memorial has the names of each person who died engraved on a white marble wall. I recognized only one name, that of J.P. Steffan, who was originally from the Chicago area living in Cicero.

A separate commemoration wall was created to include the names of survivors who died and were buried with their shipmates years later.

Three Pearl Harbor survivors were at the gift shop where they autographed a book detailing that historic date and the war that ensued. I bought the book for my son and he had it autographed by each of the now retired sailors, who are all in their late 90s.

My son asked me if 70 years from now, people would be visiting Ground Zero in New York in much the same way. Would Arabs and Americans be standing shoulder to shoulder at the site to pay homage to our more modern-day tragedy when more than 3,000 Americans died.

I told him I thought so, but I wasn’t sure. Time does heal most wounds. What’s most important, though, is that we remember.  — City & Suburban News-Herald

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at, and at, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania