Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan....I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.
- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
My great Aunt, who raised me, used to describe exactly where she was when she learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor: teaching a Sunday School class in East St. Louis, Illinois. As associate Pastor interrupted the class and said, “The Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor.”
I’ve spent time in East St. Louis. It isn’t the edge of the world, but it’s a long way from Pearl Harbor. I can only imagine the cascading fear of the unknown that gripped many people when the radio broadcasts began to spell the truth of what happened in Honolulu.
For some odd and inexplicable reason, I retain an odd fascination with what happened at Pearl Harbor. I’ve read Gordon W. Prange’s tome, “At Dawn We Slept” from cover to cover three times. I have followed, with great interest, the life of the “Zero” pilot Fuchida who converted to Christianity later in life. And, Dorie Miller, the first black person to win the Navy Cross, should be hailed from coast-to-coast as real American Hero. I wish that as much ink would be written today about Dorie Miller as is being wasted on Barry Bonds (with the state of this world, why should anyone have more than a cursory interest in whether this guy passes Hank Aaron or not.)
I think that today I will begin to lobby the NAACP to offer Dorie Miller an posthumous Image Award. He, truly, deserves this recognition...and, when you look at some of the people who've been given the award...
For twelve straight years-- except the year that I had cancer-- I have made a pilgrimage to the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. To stand at the berth where Arizona was moored, and watch the bubbles of fuel oil escape from her decks to the water’s slippery surface is a akin to a sacrament.
How sad it makes me to reflect on the death of these brave men.
On my last visit to the Arizona Memorial, a group of Japanese kids from a middle school in Hiroshima laid a wreath down in front of the names of the soldiers who died that day.
One of the little Japanese Schoolgirls softly cried as she read the names. I wondered how many American kids could even discuss with sensibilty what happened on that day in December.
I was struck by the odd cosmic juxtaposition of this event. A schoolgirl, from Hiroshima, mourning the loss of a soldier at Pearl Harbor.
Oh, the futility and evilness of war! Mankind: will we ever learn from the past? Will we become more humane, or will the business, greed, and staggering profits associated with war sensitize us to the loss of our humanity with each droplet of spilled blood.
Newer, faster, and more efficient ways to kill...what a legacy of the human race on planet Earth--a panoply of destructive capability reduced to simple images and soundbites...unless, of course you happen to be present...then, its real.
Remember, Pearl Harbor. Not just this day, but every day. It was real.