A DATE NOT FORGOTTEN
With the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day just ahead, I am reminded that it also represents the 25th anniversary of my reentry into journalism. After my retirement in 1988, I was looking for an avocation to fill in the time when we were not traveling. On the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1991, I was outraged that Japanese envoys to Pearl Harbor to participate in the ceremonies were excluded.
The reason this issue bothered me was I had spent six months in England during their 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, September 15, 1990. Everywhere we traveled there were special exhibits and ceremonies in process during that summer. Contrary to the way America excluded the Japanese, the English welcomed German visitors who came to pay honor to their fallen dead over Britain during the 1940 air raids.
Many of the fallen airmen were buried in England or in some cases the wreckage of their aircraft had been recovered and displayed in a local airfield museum. There were busloads of German sightseers visiting the various prominent air-battle sites that were treated with friendly hospitality by the English,
Needless to say there were no such commemorative celebrations in Germany that year, so the Germans who had lost friends and family over England came to pay their respects. It created a major tourist boom for that year. My German friends who were visiting us at that time were impressed how well they were welcomed and were very interested in the air museum exhibits.
That is the background that provoked me to write an editorial about that Pearl Harbor Day neglect of not allowing any Japanese representation in the ceremonies above the sunken battleship Arizona. Much to my surprise it was published in the San Diego Daily Transcript. That was the beginning of my reentry into journalism which I had abandoned in my junior year at college for a more promising career in accountancy.
75 years is a long time for recollection of that day when I was a mere high school student. I came home from church with my grandmother for lunch and heard the news at noon on the radio. We really didn’t know what to do about it because it was all so unexpected. I don’t believe I was aware of the devastation and the loss of lives aboard the Navy ships at Pearl Harbor and on the airfields in Hawaii.
I recall we went about the plans for that day without much further thought until the next day when we heard President Franklin D Roosevelt deliver his infamous speech before Congress about the “Day of Infamy.” Then the realization that we were at war after watching the destruction of Europe for the past two years and believing we were isolated from any enemy attack. Pearl Harbor Day certainly destroyed that illusion.
I will be interested to see what will happen on December 7 this year regarding any participation by the Japanese. Our government seems to prefer to downplay the reality of our prior hostilities with the Empire of Japan before August 15, 1945. When an anniversary date for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima was being mounted by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, there was considerable opposition to the displays that had been scheduled considered to be an afront to our important economic ally of Japan. That exhibit ended up being a watered-down display that totally avoided the indication of destruction by the atomic bomb on the mainland of Japan.
America believed the two oceans provided isolation from foreign aggression. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a shocking revelation, but it still was not the mainland. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 changed that. Now we were exposed to enemy aggression on the homeland with an even higher risk from nuclear missiles.
Although we tend to consider the death toll on December 7, 1941 to be the worst one-day war casualty count on U.S. soil (2500+ with 1171 on the Arizona), the casualties on 9/11 were worse. (2606 deaths in the World Trade Center and 390 at other sites for a total of 2996 victims.)