The Nation observes Pearl Harbor Day

By Tim Wohlers

In observance of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the Ho-Chunk Nation held a ceremony at its tribal office building in Black River Falls on the 76th anniversary of the attack. 
The event included a presentation by several former service members, as well as a performance of all four service songs by the Ho-Chunk Nation Executive Building Singers. 
United States Marine Corps veteran Pierre Decorah provided the opening remarks, and offered a short word of prayer.
“We’re here to remember this day and what took place with our veterans,” Decorah said.  “I ask that you could be with these people, dear Heavenly Father.” 
He then handed the floor over to Executive Director of Administration and United States Navy veteran John Steindorf, who called for a moment of silence to remember those who were lost in the attack. 
Steindorf directed the audience’s attention to a projection screen, where a video played over the unforgettable speech given by then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt the day after the attack – when he declared Dec. 7, 1941 as “a date which will live in infamy.” 
“The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces,” Roosevelt said.  “And I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost.” 
After the video, Steindorf discussed the history of Pearl Harbor and the things that led up to the devastating attack. 
“Pearl Harbor is a natural deep-water naval port on the Hawaiian island of Oahu,” Steindorf said, “located just west of Honolulu.  At the time of the attack, Hawaii was an American territory and the military base at Pearl Harbor was home to the US Navy’s pacific fleet.” 
He described the relationship between the United States and Japan, which had been wearing thin due to the latter’s aggressive military expansion.  He said America’s response ultimately pushed Japan over the edge. 
“By the end of 1941 the US had cut off most trade with Japan to protest the nation’s belligerence and diplomatic relations between the two nations were tense,” Steindorf said.  “And he Japanese military had begun laying plans to attack Pearl Harbor.” 
The Navy veteran then broke down exactly what happened that fateful day. 
“Japan’s military planners specifically chose to attack on a Sunday because they believed the Americans would be more relaxed and less alert on a weekend,” Steindorf said.  “In the hours before the attack, the Japanese attack force stationed itself approximately 230 miles north of Oahu.  The Japanese strike came at 7:55 a.m.” 
He talked about how Japanese pilots initially planned to attack American aircraft carriers, but had to settle for battleships as their target instead.  
“The Japanese had two major objectives,” Steindorf said, “sink America’s aircraft carriers and destroy its fleet of fighter planes.  By chance, all three US aircraft carriers were out to sea.  Instead the Japanese focused on the Navy’s eight battleships at Pearl Harbor.” 
He gave a graphic description of the Japanese attack, and recounted the number of lives that were lost as a result.  
“In a little under two hours, 2335 US servicemen were killed and 1143 were wounded,” Steindorf said.  “Sixty-eight civilians were also killed.  Thirty-five were wounded.” 
The executive director of administration then introduced Jessika Greendeer, a United States Army veteran who was stationed at Pearl Harbor during her time in the service.  She recounted the various visits she made to the memorial with her family, before sharing some closing remarks. 
At the end of the ceremony, the Ho-Chunk Executive Building Singers performed each of the four service songs as tribal members circled the drum.  Members of the Andrew Blackhawk Legion Post 129 retired the colors.