Today, December 7th, is the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. December 8th, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood before Congress and delivered his famous “date that will live in infamy speech” that officially declared war on Japan, launching the United States into World War 2. Three days later, Germany declared war upon America.
As I skimmed through my usual collection of internet news sites, which I admit range from the BBC to CNN to Huffington Post to the Christian Science Monitor to Yahoo and TMZ, I saw a few mentions of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. But, certainly not as many as I expected to see. Especially since there have only been a handful of times, in our country’s history, that America has been attacked by foreign forces, on our own soil.
And yes, I had to Google that fact. Because, I could only think of two attacks, Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
I forgot about the British on April 18, 1775. And that whole War for Independence thing.
I also forgot about the War of 1812. Specifically, August 24, 1814, when the British burned the White House, to the ground.
Embarrassingly, I didn’t even know about March 9, 1916. That’s when Pancho Villa and his troops attacked New Mexico, killing 18 Americans.
But, could my lack of memory could be an unfortunate foreshadowing, of things to come. Will there be a day when we don’t remember Pearl Harbor? Or even September 11th? As of right now, that may seem impossible. But, as the generations who lived through these experiences pass on, so do their first hand memories. I will always remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news about the attack on the World Trade Center.
Just as both my parents remember sitting around the radio, with their families, listening to reports on the bombing of Pearl Harbor and FDR’s speech to Congress. It was a day that changed their lives, forever. Something they would never forget. And while The Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that as of November 2012, there are still 1.4 million WW2 veterans living, their average age is 92. What will happen when they are all gone?
In 1992, the last surviving soldier of the Spanish American War died. Some of us may not remember when or where that war was fought. (1898 – Cuba, Puerto Rico, Philippine Islands and Guam)
Consider the Civil War, fought on our own soil, between our own people. The last living veterans of the Union and Confederacy Armys didn’t die until the late 1950′s. Yet, you rarely hear a mention of April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces first fired upon Fort Sumtor; starting a blood bath that lasted till April 9th, 1865. I don’t remember hearing much ado about that date, either.
It is the way of the universe, the new eventually replacing or at least superseding the old. On the other hand, that does not diminish the importance or relevance, of remembering and honoring the past.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana
Incidentally, after rummaging through the scrum of today’s news, I did find an article that seemed pertinent to the spirit, of the moment. Members of our local Boy Scout Troop #1300 got up early to plant 100 flags up and down the street. They did so in honor of those who died on December 7, 1941 and all the veterans who served in World War 2. Maybe all is not lost.
Editor’s Note: With the exception of December 7th and September 11th, all dates and historical facts are from Wikipedia. I didn’t know them. Heck, I can’t even remember my own cell phone number. Only because I never call myself, at least not on purpose!