Seventy-eight years ago tomorrow, 7 December 1941 the Japanese pulled a sneak dawn attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and killed thousands of Americans. Some of those sailors are still entombed in the battleship Arizona. If you have been to Hawaii you probably visited the memorial of the Arizona which is built over the sunken hull of that great ship. After all these years there are still oil bubbles rising to the surface of the harbor.
I was almost ten years old when that occurred. We didn’t even know where (or what) Pearl Harbor was, but we soon learned. It brought the U.S. into World War II. It is a shame that Americans of today don’t have the sense of patriotism that prevailed in those days long ago. EVERYONE in this nation was involved in the war effort in some way. There was a sense of unity that I have never known since that era. Whole high school graduating classes joined the military. My brother, who had completed his second year in college, enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He was killed in that war at age 20 and a Gold Star banner went up in our front window.
My sister, who was a schoolteacher, quit her job and went to work in a factory manufacturing bombs for the Army and Navy air forces. When I reached thirteen, I joined the Civil Air Patrol which, at that time, was a paramilitary organization. We drilled every Thursday afternoon and then went to ground school and learned navigation on the E6-B wind-drift “calculator.”. On the weekends we flew in Stearman “Yellow Peril” biplanes which were piloted by veterans who returned to the states. In the summer we went to a two-week encampment at an airbase, much like the Reservists do today. Nobody knew how long the war would last. We were being trained to be the next crop of cadets for the Air Corps.
At home we had no coffee, no sugar, very little meat. No tires, and only a few gallons of gas for my dad’s ’37 Ford. American boys were fighting on two fronts-in Europe and in Asia. Housewives went to work in factories building airplanes, guns, tanks. Everything and everybody was devoted to fighting and winning, that war. If anyone dared to complain about the shortages they would be assaulted with a chorus of, “Don’t you now there’s a war on!”
And then the war was over in 1945. The boys who had survived came home. There were so many of them, some didn’t get home for a year. Thousands didn’t make it. They remained in cemeteries all over the globe. Those who returned had changed. Their youthful innocence had been taken from them. They wouldn’t talk about the war and the horrors they had witnessed. They took jobs, got married, raised children and went their quiet way as the “Greatest Generation,” and we owe our freedom to them.
There are not many of them left now, but those who do deserve our greatest respect. So when you see an old timer, sort of bent over and who is hard of hearing and doesn’t see so well anymore, give him a salute and thank him for his service. We owe those fellows a debt that we can never repay.
December 7, 1941. Franklin Roosevelt, our President at the time called it, “A day that will live in infamy.” It certainly is a day that those of us who lived through it will never forget. It was the 9/11 of my generation. I’m sure today’s crop of “snowflakes” who must have a “safe place” when their feelings are hurt couldn’t possible handle it. What a shame and a disgrace.