New York Yankees: Baseball went to war, December 7, 1941

For the New York Yankees and every other American, today marks the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, when over 2,400 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 am when 100’s of Japanese planes descended onto Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor is a U.S. naval base just west of downtown Honolulu, Hawaii. Although relations with Japan had been deteriorating, the attack was a complete surprise.

The Japanese managed to destroy almost 20 American vessels and more than 300 planes. The attack killed military as well as civilians. It caused then-President Franklin Roosevelt to call the attack “a date which will live in infamy.” 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 1,800-pound bomb smashed through the deck of the battleship USS Arizona and landed in her forward ammunition magazine. The ship exploded and sank with more than 1,000 men trapped inside. To date, only The Arizona and The Utah have been repaired. The Arizona serves as a monument to those that died in the Pearl Harbor attack.

Luckily for the United States battleships were no longer the go-to vessel in fighting wars, the aircraft carrier was, and none of the aircraft carriers were there on that disastrous morning. Those carriers and the fighting men and women of the U.S. military, as we all know were eventually victorious over the Japanese.

The war affected every bit of American life, including the lives of baseball players, that took up the call and served in the forces, many in the prime 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 totaled over 500 MLB players 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.’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam

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