Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Date that Lives in Infamy

I’m taking a day to remember December 7, 1941, a date required to be committed to memory. My purpose is simply to honor and remind; my knowledge isn’t specialized enough to add much after 70 years.
Photo from Japanese plane,
early in the attack;
the explosion is the USS Oklahoma;
available on Wikipedia, "Attack on Pearl Harbor"
It was a Sunday morning. My dad, a WWII veteran, was not yet in the military. He had spent 2 ½ years overseas as a missionary, being sent home from neutral Sweden because of the surrounding dangers. During his shipboard trip home, he came very close to a major battle, leading the ship to remain well lit the remainder of the journey to avoid accidental attack. But by December he had gotten a job and was getting on with life. He took that weekend to drive from San Bernardino to Los Angeles, for a conference of young adults sponsored by the church. He had spent a day or two dancing and socializing. Then, that Sunday morning, he was driving to the church for a worship service and had the radio on. The announcement came that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by the Japanese.
The church meeting was subdued and emotional. People from the congregation got up to take turns voicing their trust in God and commitment to Him, no matter what was required. Before the meeting was over, an announcement came that all military were required to return immediately to their bases. The group gave them a tearful farewell.
My dad tried to enlist right away, but it took a year before he was accepted; I don’t know why, possibly because he was very thin for his height. A year later he was accepted into the Army. By then, he said, they were willing to take anybody breathing.
The purpose of the Pearl Harbor attack wasn’t to get America into the World War; it was to keep it out. There was an assumption, because the US had tried to remain isolated, feeling safe because of the two oceans separating it from ongoing conflicts, that the US was weak and unwilling to fight, and that the loss of a major portion of its fleet would leave us cowering. The Japanese admiral, Yamamoto, who worked up the tactical plan, was concerned that the attack would instead wake “a sleeping giant,” which turned out to be true.
Nine US ships were sunk, 21 damaged, 3 beyond repair. Some 2,403 were killed, including 68 civilians. An additional 1,178 were injured. (Japan lost 29 out of 350 attacking aircraft, plus their midget sub.) Until 9/11/2001 there was never as large an attack on the United States. The following day, President Roosevelt gave the speech including the phrase, “a date that will live in infamy.” The US declared war on Japan. Four days later Hitler declared war against the US, and from that point on isolationism was out of the question. Instead, the goal was to completely thwart the tyrannists trying to put the world under their control, and to offer freedom as widely as possible. No other outcome was acceptable, and the United States was the special part of the world given the mission.
Following the war, the US did not subsume the losing parties; we helped them recover and live up to their promises to avoid future aggression. Japan and Germany could not have suffered loss to a greater victor. After the war, US generosity helped rebuild the war ravaged areas.
It takes a lot of individual goodness to produce the national virtue the US portrayed in WWII. It is my hope that we still have enough of that goodness to win the day against today’s would-be world-dominating tyrants. If we live the laws of civilization, freedom, and free enterprise, I trust that God will help us come out on top again—to the benefit of the entire world.
You can read a couple of nice summaries on the attack on Pearl Harbor here and here.

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