Oil On The Water

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Reflections on Pearl Harbor

A visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii some years ago was, for me, a moving experience.  The impact of the horrific attack catapulted the United States into World War II and directly affected the lives of millions of Americans, including my family.  You see, my father, caught up in the national indignation and patriotic fervor that swept the nation, enlisted in the United States Navy three days after the attack.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his address to Congress, immortalized the event with the words, “December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy.” These words, spoken by a very popular president, along with the shock of our nation being attacked, galvanized the country into action in a way that has not been seen before or since.

Other members of my family subsequently enlisted in the various branches of the armed services, leaving wives and children at home as they went off to war to defend their homeland. Those that returned home were changed forever by their experiences in war. One of my uncles did not return. Having given his life in combat, he left behind a young widow and an infant son.

It was with this personal perspective that I made the trip to Pearl Harbor. The boat ride to the monument, which is constructed over the sunken battle ship, brought me to a stark reminder of the consequences of war. The monument itself is a beautiful white structure which contains the names of all 1,177 sailors, Marines and officers that lost their lives on the USS Arizona that day. This represented the greatest loss of life aboard any ship in American naval history, and yet it was only part of the 2,388 killed and 1,178 wounded at Pearl Harbor that day.

As I viewed the calm waters of the bay on the day of my visit, I noticed a colorful pattern on the surface caused by fuel oil on the water. I asked the National Park Ranger the source of the oil slick. He replied that the fuel tanks of the Arizona were not emptied, and a little of the fuel oil leaks out continually, causing the colorful film on the water around the monument. He explained that it was part of the design and served as a reminder that a real ship was below, and that it has not been so long ago that it went down.

When my fellow Americans and I reflect on that “day of infamy”—75 years ago, now—we should not forget the sacrifice of those who died in defense of their country, nor the ongoing sacrifice it meant for their families and descendants and the impact it had on their lives. But there is a larger lesson for all mankind. The Bible puts it into perspective for us in Isaiah 59:8, where the prophet wrote, “The way of peace they have not known…”

The United States is struggling today with a cruel and relentless enemy. Families are experiencing the same gut-wrenching separations and devastating losses that my generation experienced after Pearl Harbor. There will be attempts to achieve a state of peace, but will they succeed? The Bible says, “They have also healed the hurt of my people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

When will we have peace in the world? When the Prince of Peace returns in power and glory to set up His Kingdom. Isaiah reported this in advance: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:6–7).

Until then, there will be more oil on the waters of this earth from the many battles that still lie ahead.

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