Thursday, December 07, 2006

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 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.


  1. You bring tears to my eyes, Buck. Thanks for the elegant words. I don't want them to go. :(

  2. At my J-O-B, we have a survivor, as a customer. He's still spry and moving smooth. Doesn't talk about Pearl, too much. I will definitely remember to ask if he made the "Meeting". Hope he is there.

    Tonight, my foreign Houseguests & I will dine on prime rib, drink draft Sierra Nevada's, and remember the folks who fought and died for us on this day.

    30 years ago, I was a 15 year old Sea Cadet. We cadets were acting foolish, wearing our white hats in a joking manner. We got a good dressing down for skylarking in uniform. We were told of how better people than us died on December 7th, wearing the same "cracker jacks" that we were disrespecting. Men who gave us the opportunity to act like idiots.

    I will never forget that dressing down, and I have passed it on.

    Raise a cool one for those great heroes!

  3. Very well put Buck. We do owe so much to the ones that have gone before us. I had an uncle that had PCS'ed from Pearl Harbor and his plane left the island just a short period before the attack on 12-7-41.
    He never wanted to talk much about it so I realy don't even know the ship that he came off of. He was a Fire Control Tech on board a Destroyer is all I know. I did have an opportunity to meet a survivor when I was a young pup. He didn't want to talk about it much either, I just remember him saying it was horrible and I remember he and my uncle tearing up as they reflected there time together in Hawaii. One thing about the Greatest Generation, they never asked for praise and they just look at their service as their responsibility to their country. The WWII veterans I talk to are very humble and some of them feel like they don't deserve the healthcare they receive from the VA. An awesome group of very deserving men and women.

    Thanks Buck for the tribute!

  4. Thanks once again, Bec, for your kind comments.

    DC: I raised the last glass of single malt this evening. Now I gotta go to the Class VI store. Great story, btw! Thanks!

    Dale: My father was the same as those WW II vets you work with. I never heard one single "war story" from him until the month before he died. Those guys are like that -- to their way of thinking they were just doing what was right, and what everyone else in their world did. No big deal in their eyes. But a Big Deal indeed, to me.

  5. My Father-in-Law was an Army Ranger in Hawaii. On the morning of December 7th, 1941 his platoon was manning a coastal observation point when the Zeros passed on their way to Pearl Harbor. He rarely speaks of it, but he and other WW2 vets give an interview to the local newspaper some time ago for a series that was produced. If you’re interested I’ll get a reprint. My Dad and Uncles were Vets. All served in the Pacific. Again it was rarely discussed in our house especially in front of us kids. Occasionally Dad and my uncles would be in the kitchen speaking low, sometimes angrily, and Mom and the aunts would make sure we kids stayed away. It was rare that it happened but it did. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I found out what it was about. When my Dad died, he was still carrying the shrapnel he got in Guadalcanal. Men’s men for sure.

  6. When I was teaching in NM, my class received "Weekly Readers" that no one else seemed to want. That year was the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and WR did a report. I had my class read the article. We barely made it through the article with a dry eye. The kids were furious that the Japanese had bombed us. They were horrified that men were trapped in the hulls of the overturned ships and that so many men died. It was history that some how we had all missed in American History class. It was moving to the whole class, and that is saying a lot when talking about tough jr. high kids. Bo was one of my student that year, and he says that reading about Pearl Harbor was something he will always remember.

    Toby's dad caught the tail-end of WWII and was on a ship somewhere in the South Pacific, but we do not know much about his war experiences. My great-uncles fought in Europe and one was a hero in Italy. Truly a great generation. Thanks for the reminder, Buck.


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