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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Never Forget

December 7, 1941....A Day that will live in infamy. That is how Franklin Roosevelt described the day the Japanese Imperial Navy launched an aerial attach on the American Naval and Army Air Force Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It brought the United States into the World War II.

For the longest time afterward, this Day December 7,"Pearl Harbor Day" was held in very high regard. It was significant because it was the day our country got involved in the largest, most costly war in human history.

When I was a kid growing up in the 1960's, I vividly remember the Headlines in the paper, the War movies playing on TV (a big deal in that pre-video era when you had to catch John Wayne's D-Day Movie "The Longest Day" or the Pearl Harbor film "Tora, Tora, Tora" when the networks showed them). It was a day of honor, most adults and teachers at school talked about it a great deal. If you knew a WWII Vet. (and they were all around since 10 million men/women served in the military during the war)they were regarded with great esteem.

My generation now has a similar event in US History, 9/11. The attack on the World Trade Center Twin Towers and The Pentagon. The casualties for 9/11 were actually greater then at Pearl Harbor and the event seriously shocked US Citizens. The mood of the country at that time was very grim and uncertain, not unlike 1941 I imagine. One major difference though is we watched the 9/11 attacks in real time on television and the Internet. The country at the time of Pearl harbor mainly relied on Newspapers and Radio to get their news. But both events captured the attention of the world and both days are solemnly remembered every year on their anniversary.

That is pretty much where the similarities end, World War II has always been a war that was considered necassary to eliminate Nazi tyranny. There was no doubt that Hitler was hell bent on world domination and actually had a pretty good head start until he decided to Invade the Soviet Union, basically dooming his Third Reich to fight a hopeless, two front war. After the US entered the War, the end of the Reich was only a matter of time....tragedy, violence, destruction and blood.

The War On Terror has always been somewhat controversial, mainly because it wasn't as easy to define as the World Wars were and are. There are still many questions about what we should have and have not done after 9/11. No such debate occurred in December of 1941, we went to War and basically the whole country was behind the effort, for the duration, no matter the cost.

And the cost was very high (418,500 by most accounts). Though the numbers of American War dead were actually small compared to the USSR (almost 24 million dead) Germany (7 Million) Jews (6 Million) in the Holocaust, Japan (1.4 Million) it was still the most costly war in US History regardless. And the American people , especially those who lived through that time will never forget the horror and sacrifices of that War.

Still I'm afraid as time slips by, and the last of the WWII veterans fade away, that we as a country might begin to forget what happened back then. Forget the sacrifice of so many, for the cause of World Freedom. I hope this is not the case. Once forgotten, I'm afraid we might repeat the mistakes of the past and do it all over again. We simply cannot tolerate or allow another World War. I don't believe in my heart, that humanity would survive it....

Remember Pearl Harbor!


  1. I usually don't like war movies and such, but I watched The Pacific on HBO and was completely drawn in. The thing that got me about it was watching the horror of war that these men went through, and seeing how each of them coped with it (or in some cases could not cope)...and were forever changed by it. Having gone through a completely different type of trauma, I could nonetheless relate in a way to the difficulty of surviving something that requires a person to undergo a full mental transition for the sake of survival, and then going back to the real word - having to undo that survival mindset then kept them one going during the traumatic event. At the end of the series, it told about what each of the main characters went on to do in their lives after the war. It struck me how difficult a transition would be, from combat - to the politics, spouses, and kids, etc. And those were simpler times, it seems. The rules seemed to be more clearly defined. Nowadays, I don't know how vets do it. And I agree, that another war on the scale of WWII, could be devastating.

  2. Sunny: The HBO mini-series Band Of Brothers predates the Pacific but is every bit as good. I went to college as a History/Education Major and have studied history all my life. I have found a very interesting thing out about how I relate to Life Trauma's like War, violence, grief, dealing with painful emotional stuff in general. One of the things I discovered years ago when I sought therapy for sexual assault as a pre-teenager was I was suffering from PTSD just like a lot of combat veterans. Now I would never, ever put myself in that category yet I could really relate on that level when I was reading War memoirs and such.
    Two of the men featured in the story line of The Pacific mini-series, Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie wrote incredible War Memoirs about their experience. Leckie was actually a writer when he went off to war and Sledge just had a natural ability to capture his thoughts, feelings, etc. I often recommend those two books (With The Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa-Sledge and A Helmet For My Pillow-Leckie) to people who aren't typically readers of war related books. Historian William Manchester (a Veteran of Okinawa)wrote an excellent memoir as well: Goodbye Darkness. All of these stories really capture what you were writing about, that human side of coping, dealing then eventually surviving the war with their humanity still intact. Horrifying yet compelling stories, I've learned a great deal about living with my own horrible memories from reading those works.

  3. I just signed up for a book review site...maybe one of those memoirs is on the list of choices. If they are, I'll read them for sure. That kind of thing is also right up my alley...In addition to pictures of elephants pooping..

  4. All 3 of those memoirs are worthwhile, each for different reasons. Sledge, captures the horror, combat and the emotions well. Leckie the emotions, very creative, smart. Not as vivid from the combat point of view. Manchester, this one is very polished. he was JFK's official biographer and this book is his story told while he takes a trip to all of the significant pacific battlefields not just Okinawa where he fought. It's very funny, twisted sarcastic humor. I like each one very much for those different reasons...