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Baseball went to war, December 7, 1941
Baseball went to war, December 7, 1941

Baseball went to war, December 7, 1941

For New York Yankees and every other American, today marks the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, when over 2400 Americans lost their lives in an unprovoked attack by the Japanese, which marked the beginning of World War II.

It was a quiet Sunday morning at 8 a.m. when hundreds of Japanese planes crashed into Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor is a U.S. naval base just west of downtown Honolulu, Hawaii. Although relations with Japan had deteriorated, the attack was a complete surprise.

The Japanese managed to destroy almost 20 American vessels and more than 300 aircraft. The attack killed both the military and civilians. That prompted then-President Franklin Roosevelt to call the attack “a date that will live in disgrace.” President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan, which it did, and the rest is history.

One of the battleships to be destroyed was the USS Arizona. At 8:10 a.m., a 1,800-pound bomb exploded through the deck of the battleship USS Arizona and landed in her front ammunition magazine. The ship exploded and sank with more than 1000 men trapped inside. To date, only The Arizona and The Utah have been repaired. Arizona serves as a monument to those who died in the Pearl Harbor attack.

Fortunately for the United States, battleships were no longer the best vessel in combat wars, the aircraft carrier was, and none of the aircraft carriers were there that disastrous morning. These carriers and the fighting men and women in the US military, as we all know, eventually won over the Japanese.

The war affected every bit of American life, including the lives of baseball players, who recorded the conversation and served in the forces, many at the peak of their careers. New York Yankees Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Ralph Houk, Buddy Hassett, Hank Bauer, Yogi Berra and Jerry Coleman all served our country. All accounted for over 500 MLB players who served in World War II. Most resumed their careers after the war, with DiMaggio, Berra and Rizutto making it all the way to the Baseball Hall of Fame. columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam

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