Sixty-five years ago today:
[I]n those days, peace and reconstruction followed rather than preceded victory. In tough-minded fashion, we offered ample aid to, and imposed democracy on, war-torn nations only after the enemy was utterly defeated and humiliated. Today, to avoid such carnage, we try to help and reform countries before our enemies have been vanquished —putting the cart of aid before the horse of victory.
Our efforts today are further complicated by conflicting Internet fatwas, terrorist militias and shifting tribal alliances; in short, we are not always sure who the enemy cadre really is — or will be.
So paradoxes follow:
A stronger, far more affluent United States believes it can use less of its power against the terrorists than a much poorer America did against the formidable Japanese and Germans.
World War II, which saw more than 400,000 Americans killed, was not nearly as controversial or frustrating as one that has so far taken less than one-hundredth of that terrible toll.
And after Pearl Harbor, Americans believed they had no margin of error in an elemental war for survival. Today, we are apparently convinced that we can lose ground, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, and still not lose either the war or our civilization.
Of course, by 1945, Americans no longer feared another Pearl Harbor. Yet, we, in a far stronger and larger United States, are still not sure we won’t see another Sept. 11.
Dan Riehl: We Have No Claim To Pearl Harbor Day
In the decades since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, countless survivors have made the long journey back to Hawaii every five years to remember comrades who were lost and to catch up with those who lived but later went their separate ways. They drink Scotch and tell war stories; they brag and weep. They often just sit together and say nothing at all.
But this year’s reunion holds an urgency that hasn’t been part of gatherings past: Most Pearl Harbor survivors, nearing their 90s or even older, say it will be their final trip back to this place that changed the course of their lives and their nation forever. Event organizers–many of them children of survivors who are ailing or already have died–pragmatically are calling this the “final reunion.” And survivors’ extended families, including children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, are coming along to the reunion in unprecedented numbers to glimpse history firsthand through their loved one’s eyes before the opportunity is gone.
“This is their last swan song,” said Sue Marks, an event volunteer whose father, a Pearl Harbor survivor, died a decade ago. “They know that a lot of them either won’t be around in five years or won’t be able to make the long trip.”
Rick Moran revisits the familiar-sounding debate over Pearl Harbor intelligence and pays tribute to the dwindling number of survivors:
Every year, the ranks of veterans who lived through that horrific day when the water caught fire and the harbor was choked with the bodies of the living and the dead, grows thinner. They are old men now. Their memories are still tinged with the sadness that comes from the realization that soon, they will all be gone and, like other landmarks in American history such as Gettysburg and Antietam, it will be up to the rest of us to keep the remembrances alive and never, ever forget what happened on that impossibly beautiful Sunday morning when the world turned upside down and changed all of us forever.
Dave Logan links to archival resources and a nice video tribute:
Flashback: Patriotism and Pearl Harbor