Monday, December 07, 2009

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 Survivor's 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 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."


  1. Saddens me too Buck. More than I can say.

    They had Pearl Harbor; my generation has 9/11/01. I wonder how history will treat the latter? Will it show the same respect over time? Or will it be cast in the light of politics, forever marred by the opinions of a few.

    We forget these events at our peril.

  2. Back in 1971, I had a neighbor down the block by the name of Mr Willy. I asked him if he had been in the service and he said he was a proud Navy Man. And that he survived Pearl. When pressed, he used to tell me about having been blown off the deck of one of the ships that were destroyed in Pearl Harbor that day.

    Come to think of it, he was probably about 48-49, at that time. Which is about my age today.

    Brings it home a little bit more.

  3. I have lots of thoughts running through my head on wars and attacks on Americans that shape the way we live and think. People who say "we don't want another WWII, we don't want another Vietnam..." but they don't have the courage and fortitude of past generations. They have forgotten the sacrifice of the past that put us where we are today. No one ever says, "we don't want another Civil War," but sometimes I think we are that divided anyway. Just thoughts - ramblin'. It is sad that The Greatest Generation is dying off.

  4. The Monday after Pearl Harbor, there were long, long lines of men trying to enlist in any of the services that would have them. If you were refused by the army, you made the rounds of the other military groups hoping you could pass one of their exams. Grown men openly wept when they were refused, for whatever reason, as warriors. These were men who knew what their country was about, men who were prepared to die to keep it as it was.
    I don't remember any pics of lines after 9/11.
    Just sayin'.

  5. Thank you all for your thoughts. There's a lot to chew on here.


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