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December 7th is Pearl Harbor Day

December 7th is Pearl Harbor Day

Today – we remember the Day That Will Live In Infamy, Pearl Harbor Day.  The WWII veterans are getting older, and their numbers are shrinking by the day.  One of the veterans is my own father, who was a young man when he went to war after Pearl Harbor.

I spent a December 7 on the Mall a couple of years ago, wandering around the World War II Memorial, and listened to the stories.  I’ve heard stories about the USCG  Spencer, my father’s ship (and a pretty famous one) all my life, but only the “funny” stories, the ones about his buddies doing something dumb, or the time he was allowed ashore after he found out his Army Captain’s big brother was somewhere there near the port in the Philippines; ostensibly to “get the mail”…  for a couple of days!

Listening to the stories on the Mall that day, watching the faces of the young men and women in uniform who were standing at parade rest while they listened to the white-haired man speak matter of factly about Guadalcanal and the hell he lived through; the old man sitting and reminiscing about Bataan and the men who died on that march; the woman softly remembering her nursing career on board a Mercy ship, reminded those of us there on the Mall that WWII is not an Audie Murphy movie!  I’ve been privileged to be along with a group of veterans during an Honor Flight and heard their voices catch in their throats, after all these decades, when they remember the friends they left behind.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd.

December 7th changed the world as the United States knew it permanently.  The “it’s not our war” attitude changed and a huge wave of patriotism engulfed the country.  According to WWII veterans, flags appeared on every house, the lines went around the block from the recruiting offices, everyone contributed, everyone sacrificed.  During WWII, every family had a man (and some a woman) in uniform, or knew the kid down the street who had been wounded, knew the family who had lost a son or a brother.  Blue Star flags hung on the front doors on every block and everyone mourned when the blue star was replaced with a Gold Star. The families who had lost their service-member were comforted by their neighbors.   There were paper drives, pot and pan drives, women gave up their stockings, there were meatless Mondays, wheatless Wednesdays. The public sacrificed.

Shall we contrast that attitude and reality with our country after 9/11?   Less than 1% of the country has sacrificed anything for two wars that began 10 years ago.  Less than 1% of families in this country have someone in uniform. Many people I talk to don’t know anyone in the military and have no idea what this past 10 years has been like.

They get their information from reunion shows or even from the Lifetime TV show Army Wives.  They stick a magnet on the back of the car and consider that their support, or they ask a military spouse political questions while she is half sick with worry at the latest reports of casualties in Afghanistan.

I wouldn’t categorize EITHER as support, would you?   We were told to go shopping, taxes were cut , and any suggestion of sacrificing was greeted with laughter or calls of “too much government,  this is MINE, MINE, MINE”…    Lots of flag waving, photo ops with anyone in a uniform, but actual support has been lacking or unfocused.

Today – if you have a WWII vet in the family, sit down with a recording device – ask him or her about what it was like. Their stories are being lost — listen to the stories of those who stayed at home.  And realize what sacrifice really means.

Related Stories:

Does This Machine Gun Belong in a Museum?

Veterans Day — From A Veteran

A Lifetime of Consequences for Serving Your Country

 

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Photo: courtesy of Steven Francis Photography and the author.

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18 comments

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12:32AM PST on Dec 28, 2011

War is a racket and only serves to make a few people rich while young men and women die and are disfigured and disabled. I think people are finally waking up to this reality.

8:59PM PST on Dec 8, 2011

We owe so much to all those who gave so much in WW11. They saved lives, democracy and the world. There are so few of those brave people left, we love you. Our schools need to teach more history, it is so important. The history of our founding fathers, and the miracle of how we became a free people. And the history of WW11, everyone needs to know about these two most important events. History is so fascinating and interesting, there is nothing boring about history.

8:33PM PST on Dec 8, 2011

Cue up Firesign Theatre 'We're All Bozos on This Bus!'

6:51PM PST on Dec 8, 2011

Discussed it at school today with my high school students who are reading Farewell to Manzanar a book about Japanese internment after the attack! Some of them didn't know why the day would live in infamy! Hopefully now they do!

2:05PM PST on Dec 8, 2011

Thanks. 12/7/41 was the single most important date in modern history for the US. If you don't know why, you should.

11:52AM PST on Dec 8, 2011

Thank you to all who have served and those who continue to do so!

10:17AM PST on Dec 8, 2011

Karen Francis is correct. She is honestly advising you to do the right thing.

The NPCA has also been recording and documenting people’s firsthand experiences of the WWII ERA. NPCA has acquired some historical real estate, such as, administrative intelligence facilities, interrogation facilities and what not, but they do not have the true human experiences or truths without the stories of our surviving WWII veterans, as well as non-veterans’ stories!!!

Follow her advice!!!

9:48AM PST on Dec 8, 2011

The US Marines stationed with the American Embassy in China were taken prisoner on Dec. 7th. Many of them eventually wound up at Unit 731, an experimental facility designed to develop biological weapons for the Japanese Army. Weaponized diseases were tested on these POW's as well as hundreds of thousands of Chinese prisoners. Later, biological weapons were used against Nanjing and Shanghai. The Japanese have never admitted guilt, much less responsibility, nor have they paid reparations to the survivors and/or their descendants. A high percentage of the descendants suffer from unusual autoimmune disorders and other diseases. Few know of their crimes against humanity, much less the extent to which they rival the horrors of Mengele, but they must be brought to justice soon while at least some of the witnesses are still alive to testify. Japan must acknowledge its guilt and pay reparations.

8:23AM PST on Dec 8, 2011

Lest we forget. Thanks.

7:36AM PST on Dec 8, 2011

A powerful commentary, and an important reminder that in our current wars, a tiny minority of brave individuals and their struggling families have born nearly all the burden. Shame on the rest of us for allowing these wars to begin and to continue, and for not demanding better support for military families and returning veterans. They have shown their patriotism. Let's show ours.

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