Today Delaware commemorates two significant dates in our history, one unique to Delaware and one unique to America: the ratification of the U.S. Constitution which made Delaware the “First State” in 1787, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Honolulu in 1941. A look at each one:
From John Sweeney, News Journal (his article in parentheses):
“Delaware was not supposed to be first 225 years ago.
Coming out of the Constitutional Convention in September 1787, supporters of the new document expected Pennsylvania to be the first state to ratify it. After all, Philadelphia hosted the convention. Enthusiasm ran high. The city’s residents, and those in surrounding counties, marched in the streets and rallied for the Constitution when it became public.
The pro-Constitution forces were confident. However, they overplayed their hand. First, they delayed sending copies to the western counties. As weeks went along supporters of the document routinely threatened critics with tarring and feathering. All of this only confirmed western suspicions that the Constitution was a bad deal. The westerners determined to fight it.
Delaware was different, which surprised the other states. Delaware’s elections were often fierce, many times violent. The battling factions – the Whigs and the Tories – rarely agreed and outside observers expected a long, drawn-out affair.
Yet Delawareans as a whole saw the advantage of radically revising the Articles of Confederation. The Articles, which gave each state a single vote in its Congress, was faltering. The states were like small, independent nations, often battling each other as if neighboring states were foreign enemies. Bigger states with ports, like Pennsylvania, added tariffs to goods shipped to smaller states, like Delaware, running up the cost of goods.
The new Constitution would end that.”
Delawareans, although very much split ( Delaware was one of the only states where Tory sentiment during the Revolutionary War was strong), were eager to have an increase in power under the new Constitution, which did away with one provision of the Articles of Confederation not popular: the fact that larger states benefited from having more representation. Little known was that this was one of the biggest holdups to ratifying and signing the Constitution-the larger states did not want to share more power with smaller states, and smaller states liked having the same number of Senators as larger states. This is why each state gets two senators, regardless of size.
Now, Pearl Harbor, from the Delco Times (Delaware County, PA in parentheses):
“Collective memories of Dec. 7, 1941 — that “date that will live in infamy,” as President Franklin Roosevelt put it in an address to Congress the next day — are fading as decades pass, but that sunny Sunday morning remains vivid for those who witnessed the attack. Akaka was a senior at Kamehameha School for Boys, its sprawling campus in the hills above Honolulu on the island of Oahu.
“Out of my dormitory window I watched all this smoke and was able to see the planes diving in at Pearl Harbor,” Akaka said. “I was able to see — and I didn’t know what it was until later of course — that they were torpedoing the battleships in a row, and how some of them kind of keeled over.
It wasn’t until another cluster of planes flew overhead, en route to bomb the Marine Corps base at Kaneohe Bay, that Akaka and his classmates figured out what was going on.
“When the squadron passed over us, we saw those red balls on the wings,” Akaka said. “That’s when we knew it was the Japanese attacking.”
Gen. Walter Short declared martial law, taking over the government and mobilizing reserve troops, including the boys at Kamehameha.
“We got orders to put a unit together and guard the hills in back of school because they were expecting paratroopers to land,” Akaka said. “They wanted to have a unit up in the mountains to protect the water. We took our own rifles and we moved up into the hills.””
The Japanese sent out a cable announcing their attack, but did so deliberately slowly so that no American could send out an SOS cable in time. The attack came in twowaves; The first was at 7:48 A.M. Hawaiian Time, the Second wave started around 8:55 A.M. The US lost all 8 battleships, 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers, and 4 auxillary ships, along with about 3,000 dead Americans. Japan lost fewer than 200 people and 29 planes. The entire attack too 110 minutes.