Pearl Harbor Memorial ExpresswayThe Pearl Harbor Memorial Expressway consists of the portion of US Highway 169 from Memorial Drive to the Tulsa County line.  The memorial was created through the efforts of the Last Man Club of Pearl Harbor Survivors in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  This group petitioned the Oklahoma legislature to designate the highway as a memorial.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution designating the Pearl Harbor Memorial Expressway on March 8, 2001.  House Concurrent Resolution 1007 includes the following statement of the intent of the House of Representatives to recognize the significance and impact of the Pearl Harbor Attack.

Whereas, the surprise attack of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941, forever changed the history of the world; and

Highway sign on Highway near 169/Creek Turnpike interchange

Whereas, the attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in the death of 2,403 servicemen and civilians, the wounding of 1,178 servicemen and civilians, damaged or destroyed eight battleships, destroyed 188 airplanes, and forever affected the lives of every American family; and

Whereas the U.S.S. Oklahoma was one of the ships to perish on that infamous day; and

Whereas, the attack on Pearl Harbor will forever be indelible on the minds and hearts of all Americans.

Four Tulsans who were survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack were present in the House chamber when the resolution was adopted, representing all service members who were present at Pearl Harbor during the attack.  They were Navy survivors R.J. Norman, Arles Cole and Jay Jernigan; and Army survivor Robert Wheeler.    These men were all members of the Last Man Club, a group of Pearl Harbor Survivors in Tulsa.  The highway is one of the busiest in Tulsa, and the memorial signs on the highway remind the thousands of motorists who drive past these signs each day of the Pearl Harbor attack.  

There are many lessons to learn from the Pearl Harbor memorial.  Google a phrase like “lessons of Pearl Harbor” and you will get hundreds of hits.  Here are two worth contemplating the next time you notice that sign on the Pearl Harbor Memorial Expressway.

For those who survived the attack, and the families of those who did not, the attack was at least partly the result of America’s failure to be vigilant and prepared for threats to our freedom.  The bravery and sacrifice of the service members who fought, died or were wounded that day were due to our failure to recognize and prepare for the threat Japan posed to the United States at that time.  Pearl Harbor survivors remind us of this lesson: freedom is not free.  Pearl Harbor is a powerful enduring reminder that we must be aware of threats and prepare to meet them if we are to remain a free country.

Another lesson is reconciliation can occur after conflict.  Consider the wording of the House Resolution.  Japan is not mentioned in the resolution because it is the attack and its effects that are memorialized as an enduring message.  Japan was defeated after almost four years of total war, culminating in the devastating nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The enduring lesson is that even after such a brutal conflict, enemies can become allies through cooperation and understanding.

There are many excellent web sites about Pearl Harbor.  Visit these two for a good start on the subject:

National Parks Service Pearl Harbor site

The USS Oklahoma Memorial