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Pearl Harbor's Influence on Military History

Anthony Hage (right) receives an award at Hickam Air Force Base circa 1983.

By: Angela Hage

Eighty-two years ago, my grandmother waved to Japanese pilots as they flew above her neighborhood in Oahu, Hawaii, having no idea what was going to happen just minutes later. Then 40 years later, my dad was stationed at Pearl Harbor while in the United States Airforce. Our current home on Oahu sits on a mountainside overlooking Pearl Harbor, with a clear line of sight to the USS Arizona memorial. My favorite hiking trail on the island leads to decommissioned bunkers used throughout multiple wars to watch for and defend against enemies.

It is impossible to talk about my personal identity without recognizing Hawaii’s influence. So much of my family’s legacy started on the island generations ago. In the same way, it is impossible to look at the United States military and not recognize the influence Hawaii has had on it over many generations of leaders, presidents, and world events. The most historically recognizable event obviously being the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, 19 years before Hawaii even became an official U.S. state.

Today, Hawaii is known for its sandy beaches, lush rainforests, and tasty tropical fruit. And while these are certainly things well worth enjoying, we cannot forget the influence the Hawaiian islands have had on military culture past and present. According to, over 300,000 United States military personnel and their families are currently stationed on or around the 11 bases located throughout the islands of Hawaii. Military is the second largest industry in Hawaii (after tourism) and generates close to $15 billion every year for the local economy.

82 years later, “Pearl Harbor” is not in the daily vocabulary of most Americans. Only a small percentage of Americans will ever get to visit the wonderful state of Hawaii, and even fewer will ever set foot on the shores of Pearl Harbor. But for the tens of millions of veterans who have served between 1941 and today, Pearl Harbor is a piece of who they are, whether they recognize it or not. The attacks on Pearl Harbor, however horrific they were, are a key part of the United States military’s identity, culture, and legacy.

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