The bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan is one of those events in which people recollect where they were when it occurred. Otis Banks, who will be 92 Thursday (Dec. 8), remembers it vividly.
“It was December 7, 1941,” Banks said. “I was 16 years old and we were gathered together, a group of teenagers, and we heard it on a Sunday, the day that it actually happened. We thought, we’re at war as sure as the world.”
He remembers hearing the president describe the devastation at Pearl Harbor.
“Yes, Franklin Roosevelt, he said – ‘we are in war,’” Banks said. “And one thing he did say, ‘we’re going to go for complete surrender. No negotiations.’”
The Infamy Speech was a speech delivered by Roosevelt to a Joint Session of Congress on December 8, 1941, one day after the Empire of Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and the Japanese declaration of war on the United States and the British Empire. The name derives from the first line of the speech: Roosevelt describing the previous day as “a date which will live in infamy.” The speech is also commonly referred to as the “Pearl Harbor Speech.”
Banks, who lived in Clarksville, Georgia at the time, had the same inclinations as millions of other boys, and began to mark the days until he was 18 and old enough to serve in the military.
“I said, well, by the time I’m 18, the war will be over,” Banks said. “But at that time it had just started.”
Banks did eventually turn 18, and he served in World War II. In fact, he was involved in what is considered by some to be the turning point in that war, the invasion of Normandy.
“I was there at D-Day, the day it started,” Banks “I went to the European (Theatre), England and Germany.”
What was Normandy like?
“We had it covered good,” Banks said. “I was in the glider corps. I got it together and fixed it up so we could get them (gliders) up off the ground.”
The glider infantry was a type of airborne infantry in which soldiers and their equipment were inserted into enemy-controlled territory via military glider rather than parachute.
Banks served for a little over three years. He came to Ohio around 50 years ago.
Banks said he goes up to the Lake Erie shores of Conneaut, Ohio, where they stage the largest D-Day living history reenactment in the country. Featuring over 1,500 re-enactors from across the U.S. and Canada, spectators witness men, women, and their machines perform a living tribute to the veterans of WWII through dress, mock battles, and living history displays.
“They put that on just as close as you could ever put on D-Day,” Banks said.
When you look back on the experience, would you have served your country again?
“Yes,” Banks said. “I was willing to go. I could have gotten out to help my dad with what he was doing. My older brother was not in good health, and I said, ‘I’m going.’”
Like many others in “The Greatest Generation,” he went.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.