Watch CBSN Live

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Tuesday marks the 58th anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Despite the passage of time, interest in the tragic events of December 7th, 1941 - which took the lives of 2,343 Americans - increases with the years. The devastating horror spurred America's involvement in World War II, which, according to Steven Spielberg was the single most important thing that happened in our century.

"It was the defining moment of the 20th century," Spielberg said when he introduced his film Saving Private Ryan last year, because it brought about the opportunity of a lasting peace and prosperity for the whole world.

William McGuire, who wrote After The Liberators: A Father's Last Mission, A Son's Lifelong Journey, thinks he knows why there's been a resurgence of interest in World War II.

He notes the movie The Thin Red Line, Tom Brokaw's recent book The Greatest Generation Speaks, and even the revival of swing music. A big-budget movie reenactment of Pearl Harbor is also in the works (to be made by Armageddon producer Jerry Bruckheimer).

"But underneath the nostalgia is the recognition of how important the war effort was, and how important the real sacrifice of our dead was," McGuire told

"I know a lot of people whose fathers were killed in the Second World War, says McGuire, who's a member of The American War II Orphans Network.

"Our legacy, the legacy of freedom that we share, as a result of the sacrifices of our fathers, is a legacy that all Americans share," says McGuire. "And it's not something purely sad or something to be swept under the carpet, but something we should celebrate and be proud of."

Patricia Gaffney-Ansell's father joined the Air Force three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"Pearl Harbor was important in my fathers' life, and many like him, because it really determined their future. After Pearl Harbor, everyone knew that they would have to serve," she said. Gaffney-Ansell's father was killed while flying cover for a bombing mission of a Japanese stronghold in New Guinea.

McGuire thinks the primary reason for the resurgent interest "is that we realize that the remaining veterans are of an age when they're dying. It's a last opportunity to get to know these people and listen, and to show our gratitude and respect.

Here are some books about World War II:

After The Liberation by William McGuire

I'll Be Home For Christmas:The Library of Congress Revisits the Spirit of Christmas During World War II

The Greatest Generation Speaks by Tom Brokaw

D-Day June 6, 1944 by Stephen Ambrose

The War Journal of Major Damon "Rocky" Gause by Damon Gause