Few Paysonites will likely make it to Hawaii on Dec. 7 to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor — but they’ll be well represented.
Last week, the Payson Town Council made the Payson High School Marching Band official representative for the town, honoring the band’s prestigious invitation to play at the official ceremonies.
The band has already raised $50,000 of the $65,000 to finance the trip for about 53 chaperones and members of the marching band, said Director Daria Mason.
“These young people represent the future of our nation — and are the official representative of Payson,” said Payson Mayor Kenny Evans.
Mason took the podium to brag on her band, which has already won several statewide competitions and awards.
“The young people I work with every day are unparalleled,” said Mason, “all 50 of them that go out there on that field. It’s the largest class at the high school and they totally work as a team. I want to thank them — and thank the parents and grandparents who have made this possible.”
Band members have been staging fund-raisers for months to come up with the necessary $1,500 per band member to finance the trip.
The band has also been working on the music selected by the sponsors of the memorial services, including patriotic tunes, “Amazing Grace” and a collection of songs based on traditional Hawaiian music.
The band will team up with about 800 musicians from all over the country on Dec. 7, to participate in ceremonies that will last all week.
Mason said people can still help the band raise the final $10,000 it needs through the tax credit Credit for Kids or direct donations.
The participation of the Payson High School Band has special resonance since the 16-inch shell that set off the ammunition magazine of the battleship Arizona caused a titanic explosion that shattered the ship and killed 1,177 crew members, which accounted for half of the American deaths on that terrible day.
All told, the surprise attack destroyed or badly damaged eight battleships, three cruisers and seven other ships and killed more than 2,200 Americans.
The attack achieved complete surprise on a Sunday morning after confused reports from radar operators were ignored and a cable from Washington warning of a possible attack somewhere in the Pacific was delayed through a series of mistakes.
The attack achieved its short-term purpose, crippling the U.S. Pacific fleet long enough to allow the Japanese to seize almost every naval base held by the U.S. and Great Britain in the Pacific.
However, despite the tragic losses, the Americans enjoyed one stroke of fortune — its four aircraft carriers were on maneuvers and so escaped unscathed. The admirals of the day didn’t realize it at the start of the war, but the battleships that had dominated naval warfare for 50 years had been rendered all but obsolete by the development of aircraft carriers.
The carriers determined the outcome of almost every major naval engagement in World War II, with battleships useful mostly for shelling beaches to prepare for amphibious operations.
As a result, the strike at Pearl Harbor didn’t substantially hinder the United State’s rapid build-up of sea power.
However, the attack that President Franklin Roosevelt decried as a “day of infamy” instantly unified the nation and prompted the immediately entry of the country into World War II, which reshaped the world and prompted the economic and military dominance of the U.S. for the rest of the 20th century.