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Editorial: Strength grew out of 'infamy'

Japan attacked Pearl Harbor 75 years ago today, propelling a previously reluctant United States into the thick of World War II.

The surprise attack at the U.S. naval base in Hawaii (which was not a state at the time) killed more than 2,400 people, injured another 1,280, and had young men and women across the nation lining up to answer the call in whatever capacity they could. In the end, some 16.1 million U.S. citizens served and America became a world leader.

As of six weeks ago, five crew members of the USS Arizona who survived the attack were still alive. Only a few survivors of the other battleships sunk, destroyed or damaged that day are around to share their stories. The last of Goodhue County's Pearl Harbor veterans died a couple years ago.

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 465 World War II veterans die each day. That does not mean the wounds of Pearl Harbor hurt any less or that the lessons of resilience, faith, anger, hope and determination mean less today than they did then.

Dec. 7, 1941, became "a date which will live in infamy," as President Franklin D. Roosevelt put it. We would be better off, however, to remember his concluding sentiments in asking Congress to declare war and reflect on what those words can mean for our nation today:

"As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us."

"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory."

"I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress, and of the people, when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us."

"Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger."

"With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God."