The year 2016 marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United States’ entry into the Second World War. Most Americans accept that the December 7, 1941, attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor propelled the nation to war, and rightfully so: More than 2,400 Americans died and another 1,200 were wounded from that Japanese onslaught, while more than 300 planes and eighteen ships were either destroyed, sunk, or damaged.
Yet this incident was only one component of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “date which will live in infamy” speech delivered the following day. Alongside Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt referenced nearly simultaneous Japanese attacks across the Pacific stretching from Hong Kong to Guam to Wake Island that often attract little attention. Also overlooked are Japanese attacks on the Philippine Islands, where the 19th Bombardment Group – predecessor to today’s 19th Airlift Wing – sustained devastating losses only ten hours after the raid on Pearl Harbor. It is worth recalling the harrowing trials of the 19th Bombardment Group (BG) that culminated in the United States’ formal declaration of war against Japan.