07 December 2012

December 7, 1941: Remembering

A couple of years ago, we toured Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial, and the Punchbowl National Cemetery. I promised myself I wouldn't cry.

I was wrong.

They have a regular table set up, outside the bookstore on the shore, where survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack sign bio sheets, or if you prefer, autograph any souvenir books and photos you've purchased. I was fortunate enough to meet two of those brave gentlemen that day, both crew members of the USS Arizona who were ashore when the attack happened, and therefore survived. I have to admit my hand was shaking a little when I shook theirs.

USS Missouri (left) and the USS Arizona Memorial

Those gentlemen were a joy, and they were there to autograph anything purchased at the store. I found myself fascinated during our fairly brief encounter. They were humble and unassuming - as has been every WWII vet I've ever met, including a couple of guys still on active duty when I was in the Navy - and yet the sense of destiny about them was tangible.

One of the things mentioned by tour guides at the center was that the survivors (there were only 94 remaining as of November 2010) have made a pact: as they die, they are cremated and their ashes placed in canisters which Navy divers take down to the Arizona and place inside. That way, these brave men can be buried with their shipmates. It's all they've ever wanted. 

Looking at the Arizona Memorial, where the war began - with the USS Missouri anchored nearby, on which the war with Japan formally ended - was nearly overwhelming. Seeing all that just brought back all my Navy memories, and stories I heard from the old hands at the time, plus all the pictures and films playing there at the base ... it was just too much. 

There was an autographed picture of General Douglas MacArthur accepting the Japanese surrender on the Missouri, hanging on the bulkhead in the officers' wardroom on my destroyer. The keel of that destroyer was laid in November 1944, and it was launched in February 1945 - and did its shakedown cruise in the west Pacific, during the final battles of WWII. Visiting Pearl Harbor brought all that full circle, and it got to me.

It still gets me. The current generation of know-nothing occupiers, demanding
free stuff from the government teat, disgusts me. But I have a feeling they're going to learn soon that the world neither cares about nor remembers them - and far too many in government suffer from that same mindset. History teaches that appeasement never works, and you can't make yourself "likeable" to someone who dreams only of your death.

Our enemies neither slumber nor sleep, and will be delivering yet another wake-up call ... IF we don't stop them first. But I fear the current generation has learned nothing.

REMEMBER, and please learn what history has to teach, or it will happen again. And sooner, rather than later.


Old NFO said...

They haven't and WON'T until it's too late... sigh

Cathy said...

What a lovely essay.

Your quiet tribute of tears to the memory - the courage - the sacrifice of - of those men who died and the old veterans that you encountered . . is so fitting - so right.

My husband and I just finished a History Channel piece on Pear Harbor. As we watched it my reaction was similar to yours . .

My anger grew as I reflected on the American response to evil - then . . . compared to the 'we- had-it-coming' response that people I know - actually had to the 9/11 attacks.

And like you . . I fear that there may be hard lessons ahead.

Rev. Paul said...

Old NFO, you're right. Then they'll be confused & dumbstruck, but will continue to deny the truth of what's happened because it doesn't agree with the worldview they were spoonfed in public school.

Thank you, Cathy.

TinCan Assassin said...

I think I would've saluted.

Rev. Paul said...

TCA, I very nearly did.