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Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 12.5.16
By Congressman Morgan Griffith
Washington, DC (December 5, 2016) - A Date Which Will Live in Infamy?

Seventy-five years ago, on the morning of December 7, 1941, the United States of America was "suddenly and deliberately attacked."

At the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes destroyed eight massive battleships and more than 300 airplanes and killed 2,000 Americans.

One ship, the USS Oklahoma, was hit with torpedoes and capsized with 400 men trapped inside.  In a horrifying scenario, the men trapped under the water slowly ran out of air. Rescuers heard taps from inside the ship but could only save a handful of men, and after a few days the tapping stopped.

The day after the attack, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered a moving speech to a joint session of Congress in which he declared that December 7, 1941 was "a date which will live in infamy." In the speech, he also asked Congress to declare war on Japan, stating, "No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion... I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again."

As families were receiving word of lost loved ones, Americans were reeling with the news of this horrific attack on our soil, and men on the USS Oklahoma were still trapped gasping for air, one member of Congress voted against declaring war on Japan.

Jeannette Rankin was the only member of Congress to vote against declaring war on Japan and entering World War II. She had been one of a handful of members who earlier in her life had voted against entering World War I as well.  While some may present an argument for the vote against WWI, there is no justifying voting against defending ourselves from the Japanese. 

This attack occurred seventy-five years ago this week. So imagine my surprise when, this April, the House voted to name a federal science and technology program after Congresswoman Rankin (H.R.4570).  I voted against this bill but was only joined by five of my colleagues.

I will note the bill was on suspension and perhaps some of my colleagues did not pay attention to who they were voting to honor.  Perhaps some of my colleagues wouldn’t vote against honoring Rankin because it wouldn’t be politically correct to vote against the first female elected to Congress. But political correctness does not excuse Rankin’s vote against self-defense. When voting no, Rankin said, "As a woman I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else." However, women had been among the forty-nine civilian casualties on Oahu, and thousands of women across the nation had husbands, fathers, and brothers among the dead and wounded. During the war, nearly 350,000 brave women enlisted in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), and the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots. Rankin’s sex did not justify voting against the declaration of war then, and it does not justify honoring her now.

It is my opinion that despite other achievements of Congresswoman Rankin, it is more important to remember Pearl Harbor and honor the lives lost than to honor someone who voted against defending the United States while our ships were still on fire, while our troops in the Philippines were under attack, and while men inside the Oklahoma were tapping desperately hoping someone would come to their rescue.

When I talk to my children about WWII, they react as though it was ancient history, but I am teaching them that December 7, 1941, is "a date which will live in infamy." Although the world is much changed since those times, it was not so long ago.  In my life, I have been honored to know brave soldiers, sailors, and airmen who fought for our nation in that gruesome war.  For the WWII veterans that are alive today, and all those who served, we must remember and honor their sacrifices.

On this year's seventy-fifth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, it is particularly important to remember the lives lost in the devastating attack and in the war that followed. In this seventy-fifth anniversary year, voting to honor Jeannette Rankin showed that many in Congress no longer regard December 7 as "a date which will live in infamy."

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671.  To reach my office via email, please visit my website at  HYPERLINK "http://www.morgangriffith.house.gov/" www.morgangriffith.house.gov.  Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.

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