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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Don't Forget Pearl Harbor

Hard to believe it’s been seventy-one years since Pearl Harbor. Not too many of us around who remember it, at least in real time. Last figure I saw was that about 13 or 14 percent of the population is over seventy. That means around 85 percent of our country came along after December 7, 1941. (you see, I’m not too bad in math)
I tried a little experiment the other day, and in doing so probably reaffirmed what a lot of folks probably think about me, that I’m halfway nutty.
At random I asked various individuals (as in strangers) what they knew about Pearl Harbor. I followed that with inquiries about Fort Donelson. Gallipoli, and Luzon
I was not surprised at most responses, or lack of.
Time is a devious foe and/or collaborator. Time soon erases the memories of battles the carnage of which at the time shocked the world. None with whom I spoke remembered Fort Donelson where, according to, over 30,000 casualties were suffered in February, 1862. In all fairness, that was 150 years ago. Only a Civil War scholar would recognize the name.
Nor did any remember the Battle of Gallipoli in WWI where 400,000 casualties took place. Some thought it was Italian pizza.
Now, some recognized the WWII Battle of Luzon in August 1945, but naturally everyone knew Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some, the younger, had never heard of Pearl Harbor.
I can still remember when we heard the islands had been attacked.
In our little town, there was one picture show (theater, movie), The Rogue, and it had Sunday afternoon matinees, one showing, preceded by a newsreel and a cartoon.
“Wizard of Oz’ was the matinee feature. Halfway through the film, the lights came on. The owner, Mister Guthrie, hurried up on the stage and gave us the terrible news.
I didn’t know what was wrong. All I knew they weren’t going to show the rest of the film. It wasn’t until I got back home where a lot of the family had gathered, that I realized whatever had happened at Pearl Harbor, wherever that was, was bad.
For all I knew, Pearl Harbor could have been over in the next county by Pampa or Borger.
All the men in the family talked about ‘joining up’. Dad too, but Mom was pregnant with my younger brother, Sam.
Dad was thirty, and they didn’t take him right away. He kept trying to volunteer, and finally got the Navy where he wanted to be. He trained on the East Coast, then was shipped to Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Kansas, and then South America.
Our little town of farmers and small business people were furious over the sneak attack. People all around the country were, and while there was some dissent, by far the majority pitched in with work, sacrifice, and hard-headed stubbornness that screamed victory at the top of its lungs.
We followed Dad to Los Angeles. Mom worked at a service station. She left my brother with our neighbor in the duplex in which we lived. Days I wasn’t in school, she took me to work with her.
It hurts me to say I don’t really believe our country will ever again see such strength, such cooperation, such support from ninety plus percent of its population.
Those at home gave the men and women overseas all the weapons and ammunition and supplies they needed. Aircraft and tanks rolled off the lines. Great battleships were launched one after another.
Talk about working together!
For four years, Americans did without so our fighting women and men could have what they needed.
We had paper drives, metal drives. We rationed gasoline, tires, sugar, and just about everything else except sweat and determination.
I couldn’t help noticing there wasn’t too much said a few days back on the anniversary of President Kennedy’s death. I hope we don’t forget about Pearl Harbor like we did him.
I’ve been urged to ‘get with the changing times’, but there are some times that we need to remember.

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