It was 7:55 am on a quiet Sunday morning in December when a Japanese dive bomber was first spotted in the sunny skies over Oahu, Hawaii. That plane was the first of an estimated 360 Japanese warplanes that quickly descended on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. The next day, in a short speech to a joint session of Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt stated that Dec. 7, 1941 would forever be known as “a date that will live in infamy,” and called for a declaration of war between the United States and Japan.
Next week America will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the surprise attack that brought the nation into World War II, and local residents have an opportunity to learn more about that fateful day and the years that followed.
The Miracle of America Museum in Polson features an exhibit of World War II memorabilia that includes more than 50 official photos taken by the U.S. Department of the Navy depicting the damage to the fleet. The exhibit also contains many more personal items such as letters bearing the postmark of the USS Arizona mailed to family members in Polson before the ship was sunk that fateful day. Visitors can also view a telegram verifying the Dec. 7 death of a Polson High School graduate David Smart, along with magazines, newspapers and posters that tell the story of a world at war.
Smart’s remains still lie entombed in the hold of the USS Arizona. The exhibit features letters and original Western Union telegrams of the grim news sent to the family. The family’s Gold Star Flag, mother’s Gold Star Pin and the posthumously awarded Purple Heart signify the price Smart paid and the toll taken on the family back home.
“The reason for the display isn’t to glorify war, but to tell the story and help us remember the sacrifices made to preserve our freedoms,” museum founder and CEO Gil Mangels said.
The museum is located at 36094 Memory Lane in Polson and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for children ages 2-12 and $10 for adults. Children younger than 2 are admitted free.
Group lecture tours may be arranged for an evening by calling 406-883-6804.