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Archive for December 6th, 2018

In the US, December 7 is Pearl Harbor Day. Pearl Harbor Day was established to remember and honor the 2,403 citizens of the United States who were killed in the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. The attack catapulted the United States into World War II, with President Roosevelt declaring war on Japan, calling December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy.” As the years pass, fewer people are alive who remember the day from personal memory. Pearl Harbor Day is not just a vague day of remembrance for me. My father was a World War II veteran, having served in the US Navy near the end of the war. He was not in the service when the war started, nor in 1941. Like many other young men of his day, he volunteered when he was old enough to do so. Why he picked the Navy, I don’t entirely remember. He got seasick and he couldn’t swim. He had to communicate in semaphore, which he laughingly told me he could never master during his brief stint in the Boy Scouts. When the war was over, he left the service, tried out a couple of colleges, and then worked for others until he struck out on his own as a business owner in San Francisco. Where would my father have ended up if he hadn’t been in the service? Not sure. I think he had already dropped out of high school. I don’t think he could have afforded even the little bit of college he attended if it hadn’t been for the G.I. Bill. He was a child of the Great Depression and a bit of a rebel kid, from his telling of it years later. He never considered himself to be a member of any sort of “Greatest Generation.” As I mentioned before, Dad said he felt that every generation rises up to the challenges of its day. Some though, you would have to acknowledge, have had far graver challenges than others.

When I was living on Maui, my sister and her family would come to visit. During one visit, we all spent a few days on Oahu. My sister, Mike, and I went to Pearl Harbor, and we went out by boat to the USS Arizona Memorial. It was an incredibly moving experience for me. I’d have to look back at my old blog entry (if I still have it) for more details, but I remember feeling less sad than I thought I would but also completely in awe of the magnitude of the events of that day. And still very sad for the Navy service members who lost their lives aboard the USS Arizona. And throughout Pearl Harbor. Hearing and reading about it don’t generate the feelings that come when you stand above the wreckage of a sunken ship somewhat frozen in time. Or see the wall of names of those who died. I’m grateful I had the experience to visit the memorials and exhibits in person. As more and more years past, fewer and fewer visitors will have had stories of World War II told to them in person by someone with firsthand knowledge. As it is, those of us with “Greatest Generation” parents and grandparents probably didn’t hear a lot of stories to begin with. It seems to be a shared trait of many WWII veterans to have rarely shared stories of their service. When my father halted his cancer treatments over 10 years ago, I realized I had no idea where he had traveled during his Navy career. I went out, bought a large paper world map, grabbed some pens, and put the map in front of my dad. I told him, “Now you show me where you went, where you stopped, how did you end up with those carvings you said you got in Africa?” I’m glad I had the chance to do that too. There’s a big chunk of collective history we are losing year after year.
And with that, I’ll post a few pictures from my trip to the USS Arizona Memorial. It’s been over 10 years since I was there, so I don’t know how much its operations have changed. I think it was shut down for a while. I hope there are still opportunities for others to visit it.
On a lighter note, December 7 also happens to be my parent’s wedding anniversary. And this year would have been their 50th, if my father was still alive. There’s a whole other set of stories about their meeting, and marriage, and wedding day. Mom loves to tell people a few particulars about the day. Maybe I’ll share that on a separate blog. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.

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