ST. CHARLES – As the 80th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor approaches, retired U.S. Army Col. Angelo Di Liberti is advocating that the day have special recognition as a national holiday.
Di Liberti, 94, commander of the St. Charles Amvets Post 503 has made Pearl Harbor recognition – beyond a mention on calendars – his personal cause.
“We have holidays for everything else,” Di Liberti said recently while visiting at the St. Charles Veterans Center. “Pearl Harbor made the United States the greatest country in the world.”
During the Great Depression, everyone in the world was suffering, Di Liberti said.
The U.S. was just coming out of the Great Depression when Japan attacked.
As a historian of that era, Di Liberti said the attack was not entirely unprovoked.
“[President Franklin D.] Roosevelt cut the Japanese off of their war material – like rubber and steel and things like that,” Di Liberti said. “We cut the stuff off in June or July of 1941 and the Japanese were looking for ways to bring their economy back up and get the raw material.”
Japan needed the raw materials because they were still at war with China, which they had been for 10 years, he said.
“They thought maybe they would weaken us enough that we would go back to the table and start selling the stuff they wanted,” Di Liberti said.
But the U.S. emerged from the attack as a super power, Di Liberti said.
According to the National World War II Museum, the U.S. suffered 2,403 casualties at Pearl Harbor, including 68 civilians.
The Japanese used 353 planes, including torpedo planes, level bombers, dive bombers and fighters, which destroyed or damaged 19 U.S. Navy ships, according to the website.
Di Liberti was 14 and in high school when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened.
“I graduated and then went to join the service,” Di Liberti said. “I enlisted in 1944.”
He was out of the Army from 1947 to 1950, but reenlisted to escape a civilian job selling insurance.
“It used to drive me crazy answering the telephone all day,” Di Liberti said. “I was walking down the street. … I walked by the recruitment office and enlisted again.”
Di Liberti said he served stateside for more than 30 years in the Army Airborne Special Forces as a commissioned officer, an enlisted army infantry officer, a company commander and president of the Midwest chapter of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.
He also said he is vice commander of the Canadian Veterans Coalition.
Di Liberti said he didn’t think schools were teaching enough about Pearl Harbor and wants the day to be a holiday like Veterans Day.
“Freedom is not free,” Di Liberti said. “That is our history.”