By VIRGINIA GIORGIS
These are the words my father took to his deathbed. He remembered where he was and what he was doing on “a day that will live in infamy” even though he died many years later.
He was one of FDR’s “selected men” from the “I’ll be home in a year little darling” era, but the one year term turned into four following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Dad had been dancing at Johnny Johnson’s Nightclub in California. Took the MPs three days to find his unit so he could return to the unit.
He had just returned to California after being on leave to return to Bridger Valley to attend the funeral of his younger brother.
My uncle’s brother, Ralph Calvert, of Kemmerer was at Pearl Harbor working with the CC’s and remembered trying to find a place of safety when the low-flying planes dropping bombs came in. No protection, but a large piece of iron to climb under—and pray—no bomb hits me.
Today, Dec. 7 is the 71st anniversary of the sneak attack on Pearly Harbor. Dan Manka of Fairmont, West Virginia, wrote in a column:
Amazingly, one can still find men who were there to witness that attack. A few months ago, I interviewed a former soldier, name Francis, who had just arrived at Scoffield Barracks some miles away from Pearl. He and his comrades could not only see the Japanese planes flying over Scoffield Airfield, but they could look off in the distance and see the planes that were attacking our battleship row in Pearl Harbor. Francis told me that there were about 200 soldiers standing in line with him for breakfast when the planes came in to bomb and strafe their airfield. He said, "We just stood there and gaped."
They did not have sense enough to run for cover. You know how it is when there is a line-up - nobody is willing to lose their place in line. They all wanted to get their pancakes! Even though they could see the markings on the planes, Francis and his buddies did not realize at first that the planes really were Japanese. How foolish it seems now to think that they did not know they were being attacked. How odd that all they could think about was getting to the door before some of the other men so they would get their chow first.”
Many know where they were and what they were doing. But the memories are dying if not passed on to friends and relatives. Once 26 million strong, more than 1,000 WWII veterans are dying each day.
The Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was one of the most defining moments in history. A single, carefully-planned and well-executed strike removed the United States Navy’s battleship force as a possible threat to the Japanese Empire’s southward expansion. America, unprepared and considerably weaker, was abruptly brought into the Second World War as a full combatant.
And as Japanese Naval General Isoroku Yamamoto, who lead the raid on Pearl Harbor, feared, Japan had only “awakened a sleeping giant” (never proved Yamamoto said this phrase, but it was his phrase in the movie “Tora, Tora, Tora” which told the story of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The film’s producer, Elmo Williams, had found the line written in Yamamoto's diary. Williams, in turn, has stated that Larry Forrester, the screenwriter, found a 1943 letter from Yamamoto to the Admiralty in Tokyo containing the quotation.).
Tom Brokaw call the WWII vets “the greatest generation” for their self-less contributions to making America great.
As one who has visited Pearl Harbor and stood on the floor of the memorial that straddles the hull of the battleship of the USS Arizona Memorial and seen the names of the men who died, it is truly sobering. The USS Arizona houses 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors who manned the ship. Other sailors from the USS Arizona have also had their remains entombed in the Arizona following their deaths in later years.
The memorial is a 184-foot-long structure with two peaks at each end connected by a sag in the center of the structure. It represents the height of American pride before the war, the sudden depression of a nation after the attack and the rise of American power to new heights after the war.
The national memorial designed by Honolulu architect Alfred Preis is described by Preis as, "Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory ...”
Hats off to all remaining WWII vets and to all the veterans and the current military, who have contributed so much to keeping this country safe and free.
For the complete article see the 12-07-2012 issue.
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