Still Awaiting Pearl Harbor Holiday
Wednesday - December 07, 2005
Pearl Harbor Day is upon us as this issue of MidWeek comes into your house or apartment.
Oddly, it’s not a national holiday. It’s been a movie several times. Dory Miller is shown in Pearl Harbor shooting down a Japanese plane. He admitted he never came close to even hitting one. But he got the Navy Cross.
The day is the subject of many books about heroes, conspiracies and oversights. Thurston Clarke’s Pearl Harbor Ghosts is a good one on conspiracy, treachery and unfairness. We Remember Pearl Harbor by Lawrence Rodriggs is my personal favorite that reminds us how that day changed the lives of ordinary Oahu people. And Japanese Eyes American Heart, the transcribed oral histories of volunteers for the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
I wonder what future historians will tell us about Pearl Harbor or Vietnam or Iraq? Will we be pleased or shocked?
Historians write that our first Revolutionary War general, Nathaniel Greene, was a military disaster, but he was depicted in schoolbooks as a hero.
Nathan Hale, the schoolbook patriot, was in his early 20s, untrained in espionage, told everyone he was a spy, was captured on entrance into Manhattan and hanged without trial. There was no known witness to those words “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
I’ve been corresponding with a Kaneohe Marine about patriotism and heroism. He was in the Fallujah, Iraq, house-to-house fighting. Let’s call him Mohawk. He tells me:
“At first it’s always for God and country. They drill it into a guy at boot camp. When the bullets start flying, that seems to go out the window and your comrades are what’s more important - the first place in the heart of a fighting man is his friends, then his lover or wife and finally his folks and family.
“I once debated the politics of the wars our nation has fought and what our purpose in Iraq was really all about with Mike [his friend]. I was never for it, seemed too much to lose to me. He told me that he at first bought into the whole fight for freedom and saving Iraq deal. But once you’re on the ground and fighting a determined enemy the only thing that mattered was the platoon. He was right, you know. He died believing that and leading from the front.”
Mohawk, AP says the insurgents are right back in Fallujah, roadside bombs are increasingly common; Marines there say teenagers are being paid to throw grenades at them.
There’s no great message in this column. It’s just a reminder that as the fog of war lifts we get better views.
Robert McNamara now admits that no North Vietnamese PT boat tried to attack the destroyer Turner Joy. It was a jumpy sonarman’s mistake.
President Nixon told us we were not bombing Cambodia near the end of the Vietnam War. We were. Nixon said on tape “We’ll tell them one thing but we’ll do another.”
So much is based on things not known. Lies. Deceit. Hype.
But let’s remember Pearl Harbor regardless of the disputes over who started what, who knew what, who screwed up.
Fact is 2,403 humans not at war died that day, 551 fewer than in the 9/11 attack and we don’t have a holiday for that, either.
We had 58,480 dead and 14,000 missing in World War I (about 8 million military dead from all countries) and we casually changed Armistice Day to the innocuous Veterans Day.
More than 290,000 U.S. military dead in World War II and at least 50 million people killed world-wide. No holiday.
No formal observance for the 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam and Laos.
And we sure as hell won’t have an End of Iraq War holiday.
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