Two dates jump off the calendar for me: June 6th and December 7th. They are commonly known as D-Day and Pearl Harbor Day. Today is the 79th anniversary of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and in reality so much more. Let’s explore.
I’m a Baby Boomer. If you ask people of my generation where they were when they learned of JFK’s assassination or 9/11 they will tell you a very complete story. Our parents’ generation – in my opinion appropriately dubbed The Greatest Generation – would relay similar details about Pearl Harbor Day unfortunately few of them are still with us.
Pearl Harbor Day changed their lives and healed an American political rift. In the run up to the attack World War II was already raging and the United States was divided largely along political lines with the Republicans being isolationists not wanting to intervene in the conflict and the Democrats being an early version of globalists who felt that American involvement was both inevitable and a moral obligation.
One of the best accountings of the instant attitude change is depicted in David McCullough’s biography of Harry Truman simply entitled Truman. In it he depicts members of Congress conversing on trains back to DC suddenly becoming united in the need for America to enter the war. Today, instead of the pandemic becoming a uniter it seems to have further divided us.
The attack united and mobilized the people. I’ll use the story of my late father. He dropped out of high school, math would tell me he probably lied about his age and joined the Navy. An interesting fact about his choice of branches of service is that he could not swim. Part of training was the requirement that sailors swim a certain distance in a pool before they went to sea. As I’m told the story the instructor called my father’s name, and then turned around with his back to the pool. After a certain period of time the instructor turned back around and seeing my father on the other end, simply assumed he got there by swimming, and passed him. Morally both my father and the instructor did the right thing. They were typical of Americans of the 1940s.
Historians agree that 2,403 people died in the attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor including 68 civilians. That figure was such an outrage that it shocked the nation, the world and prompted America to enter World War II. Of late we are losing more American to the pandemic on a daily basis and a sizeable minority is in denial and refuse to simply wear a mask in public. Are both common sense and patriotism dead in America?
I’m too young to remember Pearl Harbor. If it weren’t for the patriotism and courage of those who came before me I wouldn’t be here. Are we collectively doing as good a job of being ancestors?
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