Friday, December 07, 2007

Pearl Harbor Day ~ December Seventh

December Seventh, 1941

Sixty-six years ago, December 7, 1941, the United States was rocked by the radio announcements that told of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. Many historical and remembrance pieces will be written today: stories of history, stories of personal experience - though those will be fewer each year, stories of the reaction in the United States, Japan, the world, even a conspiracy theory or two. I am re-posting my rememberances.

Pearl Harbor Day. A Day That Will Live in Infamy.

What I always will remember is growing up in the shadow of Pearl Harbor - the ever present reminder of how ugly war was. There was nothing noble or gleeful about the awful day. I grew up with the stories of those who were there, stories of people I knew, stories of people who lived through it. As I get older, I can 'see' and 'hear' the stories come alive.

Each Sunday before Pearl Harbor Day, Puna would take us to the Arizona Memorial. It used to be rather low-key to visit there, and once you got there, quite unusual to have anyone else at the Memorial. There wasn't a Visitor's Center yet. There was no evidence of the Park Service then. Just a guy at the dock that grabbed the little shuttle boat, tied it up and helped you off.

We would walk through the Memorial - our steps echoing in the cavern of the Memorial. Halfway through, we would stop and look at the ship resting beneath us, still leaking oil into the lapping sea, and carrying it ever away, like the spirit was still escaping the doomed craft. Eventually, we would end at the Memorial wall, carved with all of the names of the men who died on the Arizona, most of whom were still entombed within.

Puna, this large mountain of a man, would clasp his hands behind him, dip his head in prayer, then focus on the wall and in a hauntingly beautiful, tenor voice would chant the names of the fallen. His voice would echo in the chamber. A more beautiful prayer I have never heard. Once, I looked at his face and saw the tears streaming down, but his voice never wavered. His eyes seemed to be closed, yet he never missed a name.

When the chanting was finished, we would walk back to the overlook on the ship and Puna would tell us about that Sunday morning. He spoke of the noise and the fear and the chaos. He spoke of curfews and rationing. He spoke of the increased military presence on the island. He spoke of the sorrow. And, he spoke of the fear of another attack. Then, he would talk about the uniting and the supporting and the belief in America.

Always, he finished with a warning. America will never be safe from people wanting to take away what we have. They will always want to destroy us, to conquer us, to marginalize us. If you don't believe me, come here and look - open your eyes and look - at what can happen, and will again.

I believe I only saw Puna serious twice a year - Pearl Harbor Day and Memorial Day. On those days, he spoke of bravery and heroism and patriotism. The rest of the year you could depend upon those laughing eyes and the aroma of his pipe. The parents are gone now, but the stories and the emotions remain. I am so grateful for what they shared and what they taught.

I'd like to say that I absorbed it all then, but I didn't. When we used to hike into the mountains and came across some of the crashed Japanese planes, mostly pirated shells, I still didn't get it. When December Seventh was marked at school by people telling their personal experiences, I didn't get it. Oh, I heard it all. I believed it all. I just didn't get it.

It wasn't until I was older and watched the world and global politics that I saw it, that I truly understood the lesson he was trying to teach all those years ago. On September Eleventh, one of the first thoughts I had was of standing in the Arizona Memorial with Puna and hearing his words.

I hope Americans have the resolve to fight for our country as we did in 1941, but I fear for us, now, more than ever.


Sarge Charlie said...

This post explains what my blog is all about, Americans did forget what happened on December 7th and September 11th. Puna was a hero in my eyes, he tried to share his knowledge and experience with people like you, thank you for remembering.

I will never forget. I am going to link this, I hope everyone reads it.

Donald Douglas said...

Many Americans don't get it today, Flag Gazer.

I always did. When I was a small boy I used to read my father's Time-Life books, with the pictures of U.S. soldiers' bodies in the sand of the beach of WWII battles.

I always asked myself how could such tyranny in the world grow, but I always knew that there'd be the U.S. to make things right again.

That's what I thought when I was a small boy. I liked shows like "Combat" with Vic Morrow, and I loved WWII movies on televsion. I saw Tora, Tora, Tora at the movies, and I never forgot the ending, when the Japanese leadership feared that they had awakened a sleeping giant.

That they did. I think the U.S. today is an even bigger sleeping giant, often tied down like Gulliver by the ropes of apathy and leftist anti-Americanism.

We will prevail over such sentiment, I've no doubt.

In any case, I ramble. Thank you for your patriotism. Be well on this day.

Flag Gazer said...

Sarge - Thank you. Everyone should see Sarge's post, too.

Donald - Thank you for your memories - they do that - ramble - but that is part of what makes them special.

I will never understand how people can hate this magnificent country.

Ron Simpson said...

I always got it too. From my youngest days, I knew. I teach my kids about it every day.
Honor, courage, commitment, integrity, patriotism and respect. My grandpa Simpson died from cancer that was caused by the chemicals he was around in WW2. My grandpa Averyt made every combat jump whit the 101st in Europe. My grandpa Ashley fought on the Lexington in the Pacific. If you watch the live action scenes in the movie Midway, you will see him. He was an anti-aircraft gunmount commander. They made it through the whole war and were never injured. But they had friends and relatives that did not make it.
I have huge respect for the soldiers, sailors and Marines that fought for our country.

Flag Gazer said...

Thank you, Ron. You have a great family history!

Buck Pennington said...

Brilliant, Cynthia. Thank you. I believe highly personal reminisces or recollections are the BEST means of transmitting history to the younger generation(s). And yours certainly qualifies.

Just in case you haven't read it...Lex wrote a VERY moving post last year on Pearl Harbor Day and like some of us (heh), he links to last year's post, today. One of the better remembrances I've read.

Flag Gazer said...

Thank you, Buck...
And, thank you for the link to Lex's piece - a MUST READ...

Jungle Mom said...

It is sad to think so many of the younger generation are being taught useless material and have no knowledge of our history. Thank you for this post I enjoyed it very much.

Flag Gazer said...

It is sad Jungle Mom and thank you.

You've been in my thoughts and you were the first I thought of when Hugo did not win!!!

Douglas V. Gibbs said...

great pics, fantastic post - folks forget that we were in the midst of peace talks when the attack happened - and people seem to be quick to forget the lessons of history.

American Interests said...

I knew you would have posted on this, that's why I visited albeit a little late.

great work here as always. Your patriotism is to be admired...