One day after the Japanese bombed the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress and announced a declaration of war against the Empire of Japan.
The surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941, was a “date which will live in infamy,” said Roosevelt in one of the most remembered speeches in the nation’s history.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the attack, which cost the lives of more than 2,400 people, including 68 civilians. Half of those killed were crewmembers of the battleship USS Arizona.
“It’s kind of like a 9/11,” said Lutz resident Davis Gandees.
It is an anniversary that is important to remember and honor for the sacrifices of the military and civilians, said Gandees. “Americans need to be respectful of what they went through.”
Through Dec. 10, visitors to the Lutz Branch Library, 101 W. Lutz Lake Fern Road, can step back into history through a display put together by Gandees.
He is an avid historian and a long-time builder of model airplanes flown during World War II.
In a glass showcase, there are three replicas each of Japanese and American fighter planes, and bombers, flown on Dec. 7, 1941.
Gandees also provides brief histories of the pilots who flew those planes, and photos, maps and a brief history of Pearl Harbor.
The library also added a display of suggested books to read, such as “Voices of Pearl Harbor” and “The Road to Victory.”
Gandees’ fascination with planes dates to his childhood in South Florida when he lived near a naval base.
“They tell me my first word was ‘airplane’,” Gandees said.
The retiree is a third generation Floridian who worked as a teacher, solar panel contractor and a Florida higher education manager. He also is a master modeler, a member of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library Board, and published author of magazine articles on modeling and aviation.
Gandees is a detail man. He spent as many as 50 hours on each plane model.
To get the facts about the planes and their construction just right, he researches archives, maps and history books.
He said he can complete about one plane per month.
“I did a lot of modifications, especially the color of the planes. The Japanese history of camouflage was very interesting,” he said.
The research gives him as much, if not more, satisfaction than building the models.
Individual stories of the men and women who heroically fought back against the Japanese attack are highlighted in the display.
Lt. Phillip Rasmussen of the 46th Pursuit Squadron was among the first pilots to engage the invaders in one of the few P-36A Mohawks not disabled by Japanese bombs.
Still in his pajamas, Rasmussen strapped a pistol to his waist.
“I’m not sure what he had in mind with that,” Gandees said.
But, Rasmussen shot down a Japanese fighter plane before his plane was damaged, and he flew under attack back to the airbase.
Gandees said one Japanese fighter plane got shot out of the sky, but on its descent hit a palm tree and killed eight American servicemen on the ground.
Nearly 30 Japanese planes were shot down, and about 60 of their crewmembers were killed.
On a memorable trip to Hawaii in 2006, Gandees visited the USS Arizona Memorial, which rests above the sunken battleship, and the final resting place of 1,102 sailors and Marines who died there on Dec. 7, 1941.
Japanese and Americans who fought there often attend Pearl Harbor anniversaries and form friendships despite the history of conflict, he said.
“It was quite an interesting experience,” Gandees added.
Though Gandees has done other World War II and Pearl Harbor displays, this is his first at the Lutz library.
“I didn’t want it to be forgotten,” he said.
For more information on the exhibit’s hours, call the library at (813) 273-3652.
Published November 30, 2016