December 4, 1998
Next Monday marks the 57th anniversary of the infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the sun-drenched, slumbering Hawaiian Islands. It was the single event that propelled this nation into an epic struggle of global proportions that we now know as World War II. You won't hear much about it, although some TV newscasts and a few major metropolitan newspapers will take note of it with feature stories and a reflective piece about what happened ‘way back then. For the most part, though, this day goes by with a little less recognition each year. It seems to me, considering World War II's historic impact on humanity in general, there should be a more visible observance.
I know, I know. We've already read and listened to too many speeches, read countless stories and attended other public presentations that describe the world's condition on Dec. 7, 1941. After all these years, the repetition makes us tune it all out and our eyes tend to glaze over at the mere mention of Pearl Harbor Day. Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt's statement that the day would live in infamy may cause younger generations to wonder what he was talking about. That's the condition we need to remedy. The problem is, simply stated, people are tired of hearing war stories. They don't want to keep hearing about the thousands of human casualties, the personal victims who were reduced to statistics, the countries that were ravaged by mad dictators, and the national resources that were sacrificed. All these things are natural outcomes of any war in greater or lesser degree. Gen. Sherman's assessment ("war is hell") is as valid today as it was when he first uttered it during the American Civil War. I do not know of any good wars.
Historians of succeeding generations may not be kind to any of the belligerents who fought in any of the great wars. From the perspective of hindsight, it's not always possible to assess the guilt or innocence of the participants in an incident so all-encompassing as global warfare. The overwhelming and prevailing point of view at this time, looking back at World War II, is clear -- free countries everywhere were united in their opposition to fascism and other government philosophies which scorned the right of all men, and women, to remain free.
At a Rotary meeting here the other day, Dr. and Mrs. John Loose discussed the recent successful effort to resuscitate the Perry American Legion post and its auxiliary. Dr. Loose quoted statistics that indicate veterans of World War II, now the Legion's bulwark, are being lost through death at the rate of 1,000 - 1,500 per day. At that pace, they will soon vanish altogether and their personal knowledge of the great conflagration will be gone. I am one of them and I confess that I worry about a future where my grandchildren do not understand the dangers of apathy in the face of great peril.
May there never be another war on the face of this earth. A corollary to that fervent wish is that despots may never be allowed to succeed because of indifference. And our everlasting thanks to all the patriots through the ages who sacrificed so much to provide us with our blessed legacy of peace and liberty.