Archive for December, 2018

258 December 7, 2018 “A terrible resolve…”

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

By Hetty Gray

# 258

December 7, 2018

“A terrible resolve…”

I know that most of my readers expected my annual columns on Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving. In lieu of those, I held back to write this piece.

Today is the 77th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. More than a date in history books (which, sadly, is omitted from modern edited texts in our schools — more about this later), it signaled a nation to respond to threat. Yes, the threat was afoot thousands of miles from our West Coast, but it was a threat that prompted President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to declare that, since that unprovoked and deliberate attack, “…a state of war has existed between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan.”

Fences are nonexistent between our two nations today, but those of us who are children of the “greatest generation” remember all too well. The stories didn’t come from the veterans who returned after a bitter and costly conflict. No, those stories came from soft, hushed conservations at kitchen tables across the nation, conversations overheard by those of us tucked into our beds.

Almost to a man, those who fought and watched their comrades die, stayed silent. Accolades are overdue to veterans’ groups who sponsored videos from men and women well into their eighth decade. Among those is a treasured member of my family. His unit landed on the beaches of France on D-Day. He survived. Countless others died.

Even today, oil seeps up from the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. Those of us who view the Arizona Memorial come away with a profound sense of respect and awe. My experience was perhaps a bit different from those of others. As I stood on the area that extends over the ship, I noticed an elderly couple. Side by side, they each held a wreath. Centered in each was a black and white portrait of a young man. After gently dropping his wreath into the water, he turned to take the second wreath from his wife. Clearly they lost two sons on December 7th. Losses were not ours alone.

Even though the attack exacted a terrible toll on the American Pacific Fleet, the consequences were all too clear in Japan. Instead of glory and victory, one of the Emperor’s most trusted military leaders had a sinking dread, one he only expressed in his personal writings.

Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor would reportedly write in his diary, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

Wars exact a terrible price on a population, no matter whether aggressor or attacked. It is a sad commentary that people as a species have not learned the price of war. Those who wage war claim all manner of reasoning, but at the heart of it, greed tops needs. Power and privilege top everything else.

After World War I, “The war to end all wars,” no lesson was learned. As a people, Americans defended our friends and sacrificed mightily in that pursuit. Still today we attempt to spread liberty and freedom around the world; and, even as we see successes here and there, far too many leaders see nothing wrong with holding sway over their suffering, impoverished people. They strut about in uniforms, dispatch enforcers to ensure their “peace.”

We see a lot of this and it is not likely to end. The lure of power is inexhaustible. The push for control is a horrible master. The devil tempts and sways as he has for millennia.

Pearl Harbor underlines the importance of vigilance. Oceans do not protect us. We learned that all too well on 9/11. America does not ensure the spread of freedom by example. For all our good intentions, we need to remember how critical it is to remain on alert.

The armed services no long employ a draft. America’s military is made up of volunteers. They are due our respect. Today as we stop for a moment to remember those who fought and died in World War II, both in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) and in the Pacific, it should be abundantly clear that we breathe free because others — most of whom were total strangers — sacrificed life and limb for us.

May God bless those who fought and died, their surviving family members, and the untold numbers of American men and women who toiled in the war plants, who volunteered at the USO sites, who cared for the injured, and who buried the dead whose families were fortunate enough to have their bodies returned to American soil.

We are who we are today because of the men and women who fought and won World War II. These people are not dubbed “The Greatest Generation” for nothing. They earned the moniker. They bequeathed our nation’s freedom and liberty to us. Do more than think about it. Thank every man and woman in uniform in person as you encounter him or her.

Remember Pearl Harbor.