A Day that Continues to Live in Infamy
December 8, 2021 | View PDF
When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, World War II was already raging in Europe. It had begun more than two years earlier, after Hitler invaded Poland in 1939. And just months before Pearl Harbor, Nazi Germany had turned on its former ally, the Soviet Union.
We offered the allies aid in response, but we didn’t enter the war. Most Americans simply didn’t want to: In May of 1940, after Hitler invaded France, only seven percent of Americans said we should declare war on Germany.
That all changed after Pearl Harbor. In the days after the attack, just seven percent of Americans said we shouldn’t join the fight.
It isn’t hard to see why. More than 2,400 Americans lost their lives at Pearl Harbor, including 22 Nebraskans. Among them was a Nebraska City native, Navy Fireman 1st Class Denis Hiskett.
Fireman 1st Class Hiskett was on board the USS Oklahoma at the time of the raid. He was serving as part of the Engine Room Force, and after his death, he received several military decorations, including a Purple Heart, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Navy Good Conduct Medal.
The USS Oklahoma suffered multiple torpedo hits, causing it to capsize while it was moored at Ford Island. Fireman 1st Class Hiskett was among the 429 crewmen who went down with the ship. The Navy recovered the remains of the deceased crew soon after the attack, but they were only able to identify 35 men at the time.
Of course, technology has made huge strides forward since then. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, or DPAA, which was created in 2015 to identify the remains of fallen service members, recently used cutting-edge technologies to identify Hiskett’s remains. He was accounted for on February 17, 2021, and he will finally be laid to rest on December 11, four days after the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
Since 2015, DPAA forensic anthropologists working out of Offutt Air Force Base have identified the remains of over 300 service members who perished aboard the USS Oklahoma. I have been proud to support the DPAA’s work in Congress, including a bipartisan amendment I authored in 2018 that appropriated funds for their important mission.
Eight decades after the tragic attack at Pearl Harbor, I hope you will take a moment to reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice that fateful day, and the sacrifices so many Nebraskans have made for our nation since then.
Fireman 1st Class Hiskett gave his life for the freedoms we are so fortunate to enjoy. He is an outstanding Nebraskan who represents the best our nation has to offer. 80 years after Pearl Harbor, December 7 is a day that continues to live in infamy. On Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day this year, please join me in honoring all of the American patriots who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our nation.