Friday, December 07, 2012

Seventy-One Years Ago

My Pearl Harbor Day post, parts of which I've published every year since 2006.

Pearl Harbor Day

Sixty-eight years ago today... "a date which will live in infamy"... the nation was shocked out of its complacency and determination to stay out of the conflict engulfing the rest of the civilized world by the horrific Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.  Here's an excerpt from President Roosevelt's speech to congress on the following day:

The men who fought back at Pearl Harbor formed the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association about ten years after the war and they used to hold a reunion in Hawaii every five years... until 2006, when they held their last reunion there.  I published this post to mark that occasion (note that the link to the news article is dead now):

Pearl Harbor Day



The USS Arizona - Then and Now (U.S. Navy photographs)

It’s said — quite often and by many, many people — that 9/11/2001 “changed everything.” And it is indeed true for the current generations of Americans. But I’ll submit that 12/07/1941 “changed everything” to a degree it is impossible for us who were not alive and going about our business on that Sunday in December, 1941 to realize. Those of us whose parents were members of The Greatest Generation understand my point. A smaller subset, those of us whose parents fought in World War II, understand the point a little bit better, perhaps. We have the benefit of hearing the first-person narratives of that day in December 1941, and stories from the long, long days that followed…from the dark and despair of the war’s first year to the signing of the Japanese surrender on the decks of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay not quite four years later. And a lot in between.
They are leaving us. The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association is holding their last meeting (dead link) today.
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - With their number quickly dwindling, survivors of Pearl Harbor will gather Thursday one last time to honor those killed by the Japanese 65 years ago, and to mark a day that lives in infamy.
This will be their last visit to this watery grave to share stories, exchange smiles, find peace and salute their fallen friends. This, they say, will be their final farewell.
"This will be one to remember," said Mal Middlesworth, president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. "It's going to be something that we'll cherish forever."
The survivors have met here every five years for four decades, but they're now in their 80s or 90s and are not counting on a 70th reunion. They have made every effort to report for one final roll call.
Their last meeting. I know All Things Must Pass, but it saddens me so. We owe them so much, and our thank-yous seem inadequate compared to the sacrifices they made.
But: We shall continue, we shall honor their sacrifices, we will remember, and we shall rededicate ourselves to the task that faces this generation…the one that began on 9/11/2001. The Greatest Generation expects it from us.
The 2006 news article may not be available any longer, but the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association is still alive and kicking.  They are few now, but thank God some of those heroes are still around.  It won't be too much longer until they're all gone and as I said above: "It saddens me so."

14 comments:

  1. They may be gone but they will NEVER be forgotten. And sad it is.

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  2. For me, the Battle of Midway, just six months after Pearl Harbor, is one of the great stories from the war. That, only six months later, the Pacific Fleet could already fight back, is nothing short of astonishing. . . Utter indomitability. . .

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    My mom's older sister was celebrating her 10th birthday on Pearl Harbor Day. Her only daughter, my cousin, was born on November 22, 1963. We used to make jokes about the eerie coincidences of their respective birthdays. But it gets weirder - my grandma, mother of the same aunt, was born September 11, 1902. . . Should I be glad that my cousin doesn't have any children?

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    1. Midway was the turning point of the war in the Pacific... but ya knew that.

      As for your cousin having children... I'd say "probably." Eerie coincidences, indeed.

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    2. Exactly - Pearl Harbor was a pretty devastating hit, and to 'turn the tide' just six months later. . .

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  3. I happened upon your blog and I'm glad. Just lost my 95 yr old mom, she and dad typified the Greatest Generation. Dad enlisted within a week of Pearl Harbor, radio man on a PT boat in both the Pacific and European conflicts.

    I am lucky we learned from them as did my daughter, through stories and pictures. The values, morals and love of country. They knew not to take anything for granted.

    My fear is the younger generation and those to follow will not know what our parents went through, what they sacrificed for country and for us. Especially the fact that they would do it again, in a heartbeat if asked.

    On 9/11/2001, my mother indeed told me it brought back many memories of the day 12/7/41.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Bear, and my condolences on the loss of your mother. I lost my mother nearly 50 years ago, and my father left this vale o' tears almost 30 years ago. Nary a day goes by that I don't think of them... in gratitude for the lessons they passed on to me and mine.

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    2. Just wanted to pass along my condolences as well Bear Walker. Your Mom's generation is truly a national treasure. As more and more of them pass into the sweet by-and-by we lose not only their presence but their memories as well.

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  4. Toby's dad served in the Pacific. He joined the Navy at 17. Of course he's gone now, but not forgotten.

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    1. There were a LOT of guys like your father-in-law, Lou. LOTS.

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  5. Don't spit in the wind07 December, 2012 20:04

    When asked, most people couldn't give a reason why Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. They think they did it just to be assholes. The reason was, because we had a crippling economic sanctions against them, for their invasion of Manchuria. This had been going on for 10 years.

    People should know, that sanctions are an act of war. Maybe war without guns, but in many cases moves to guns later. For example, the USA gave Iraq their Pearl Harbor when sanctions no longer were enough to force a change. Iran and Syria are in the same boat. Both can readily attack the USA to fight sanctions.

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    1. Both Syria and Iran might could attack the US. But that wouldn't be too very smart.

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  6. Looking at that photo of the Arizona, every time I see those tall, ungainly gunnery "spotting towers" on that pre-radar generation of ships I STILL don't understand why those support towers didn't buckle under the force of rolling, heaving, heavy seas with all that weight up top. Yikes! Calling all naval architects!

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    1. Or why those things didn't capsize in the same heavy seas you mention.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask.