I remember thinking last year that no one really talks about this anymore. I find it sad that an event that shook our great nation 65 years ago today is as if it has been almost erased entirely from our memory. Granted, the majority of those who lived and experienced the event first hand are no longer with us, and those who are left will soon be gone:
In the decades since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, countless survivors have made the long journey back to Hawaii every five years to remember comrades who were lost and to catch up with those who lived but later went their separate ways. They drink Scotch and tell war stories; they brag and weep. They often just sit together and say nothing at all.
But this year’s reunion holds an urgency that hasn’t been part of gatherings past: Most Pearl Harbor survivors, nearing their 90s or even older, say it will be their final trip back to this place that changed the course of their lives and their nation forever. Event organizers–many of them children of survivors who are ailing or already have died–pragmatically are calling this the “final reunion.” And survivors’ extended families, including children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, are coming along to the reunion in unprecedented numbers to glimpse history firsthand through their loved one’s eyes before the opportunity is gone.
“This is their last swan song,” said Sue Marks, an event volunteer whose father, a Pearl Harbor survivor, died a decade ago. “They know that a lot of them either won’t be around in five years or won’t be able to make the long trip.”
My personal WWII hero has already passed, but I will never forget the stories he told or the values instilled in me. It is up to the rest of us to keep the remembrances alive and never, ever forget what happened.
In the span of two hours on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941: 350 Japanese aircraft sank or badly damaged 21 ships moored at Pearl Harbor, including eight battleships. Almost 200 American planes were destroyed, and another 150 damaged. 2,400 Americans died and Oahu’s hospitals were overrun with 1,200 more burned and maimed victims.
Yamamoto best summed it up: “I fear we will awaken a sleeping giant.” On December 8, America was never more awake, and never more vengeful.
But yet once again, we slumber. 9-11 was only 5 years ago and it seems to me now that most people just want it erased from memory.
Where are you now, America? Where is your demand for vengeance? Your cries of anger and pain?
Those who died at Pearl Harbor would be appalled to discover that today ‘patriotism’ is a dirty word among some ethnic political activists. To paraphrase former President Abraham Lincoln: Those who willfully damage morale and undermine the military during wartime are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.
I vote for all three.