History is filled with dates schoolteachers want their students to remember. But there is one that no one can forget — Dec. 7, 1941.
That’s when Japanese forces conducted a surprise air raid on American military installations at Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor. At the time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said the date would live in infamy, and 73 years later, it’s still being remembered, including Dec. 7 at the Zephyrhills Museum of Military History.
Part of an annual event at the museum, 39444 South Ave., a few of the remaining Pearl Harbor survivors make the trek to share their stories, and give visitors a chance to directly touch history.
“It gets harder and harder for them to get going in the morning, so we keep pushing back the time,” said Ted Johnson, a volunteer and vice president of the board that runs the military museum. “But that doesn’t stop them. They look forward to this every year, and are right here, even though they are pushing their 90s.”
This year’s event will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and is free to the public, although donations also will be accepted. It will make it a full weekend for the museum, which normally is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Age is now taking a lot of the veterans from that great war, yet interest remains strong in the world’s battle against Nazism and fascism. A good portion of the military museum — itself in barracks that were used by U.S. Army pilots during World War II — is dedicated to that.
Yet, it’s tough to beat talking to actual eyewitnesses of a major historical event like Pearl Harbor.
“These guys love to tell their stories about what happened that day,” Johnson said. “It never gets old to them, and it never gets old to me to see it.”
This is one of a series of events the military museum has throughout the year, including special observances of D-Day and other historical milestones. It not only brings people together with history, but also introduces others to the museum that has been at the barracks for more than a decade.
“People still come up to us and tell us they didn’t even know the museum was here,” Johnson said. “That surprises me, but I’m glad that we’re finding ways to let everyone know what we stand for.”
The museum is free to the public on Saturdays, and will open for special visits from schools and other groups during the week, and keep expanded hours during Lakeland’s Sun n’ Fun weekends in April.
So much has happened since that day where the United States was drawn into a world war — the assassination of John F. Kennedy and 9/11 just to name a couple — yet, Johnson said the Pearl Harbor attack is something that must be remembered.
“History does have a way of repeating itself, and it happens regardless of whether we learn the lessons before or not,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of scary to say that, but unfortunately, it’s going to happen again. But if you don’t remember the story, you’re most certainly doomed to repeat it again.”
If you go
WHAT: Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
WHEN: Dec. 7 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
WHERE: Zephyrhills Museum of Military History, 39444 South Ave., Zephyrhills
INFO: Call Cliff Moffett, (352) 206-1819
See this story in print: Click Here