Novemeber 1, 2002
Family reunions, school reunions and assorted other get-togethers .... They are all pretty much alike in many respects, but the one that is becoming increasingly meaningful to me is the annual reunion of old Army friends from the World War II era. A few days ago I met with some of the guys who produced various editions of The Stars and Stripes, the fabled Army newspaper which has won acclaim and acceptance from all branches of military service since the U.S. Civil War. We met in Honolulu where the edition I worked on in 1945-46 was written and published. It was distributed throughout the Pacific Ocean area. To me, my time on the paper was like a post-graduate course in journalism taught by some of the ablest practitioners who ever toiled in the Fourth Estate. Sadly, many of those once-young men have either passed away or reached a stage in life where travel is no longer possible.
Let me set the stage for this a little more. As stated earlier, our offices were in Hawaii. Other editions, each an independent entity, were published in London, Paris, Italy, Germany and elsewhere. The paper continues to be published today but most of the editorial work is done in the U.S. and transmitted electronically to major headquarter bases throughout the world, wherever American military personnel are based. When we were in Hawaii during World War II, Honolulu was a bustling little city badly overrun with men and women from all branches of service. That much has not changed, but the city's skyline and its attitude toward servicemen are quite different. There used to be a decided animosity between the military and civilian populations, but we all got along. Some of the biggest problems resulted from the occasional forays of soldiers, sailors and marines into the limited number of available females, but that was a concern wherever large encampments of troops were located. The point is, now, in peacetime, that is still a serious cause of friction and it began long before WWII. That much has not changed, but in most other respects Honolulu bears little resemblance to the wartime city I knew.
Sad mementos still remain from those uneasy days after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The USS Arizona still lies on the bottom of that immense naval, base with a memorial topside to mark the spot. Contemplating the tragic overtones of that horrific day, one cannot avoid a feeling of immense grief at the fate of those young American men who gave the last measure of devotion in their sacrifice that day. Armistice Day (now called Veterans Day) is just around the corner. Each of us would do well to utter a prayer then for those who made it possible for you and me to enjoy the fruits of freedom in this wonderful country.
Our Stars and Stripes reunion was a brief one. No major business matters were brought up for discussion and most of the joy came from some of the conversations that took place in the coffee shops and (I understand) the bars along Waikiki Beach. Personally, a special thrill came from a visit with Bob Ebert, who has lived in Honolulu since the end of WWII. Bob, a Pulitzer prize winner for some of his post-war work on assignment from Time-Life magazines, was celebrating his 90th birthday while we were there last week. He was chief photographer on our edition. He and I were the only attendees from the Honolulu paper. Those of us who were there for the reunion decided to do it again next year in Nashville, partly as a convenience for former staffers who now live along the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. I guess we reelected officers, but most of the serious topics were settled at a meeting of the board of directors, and we can read about that in the next monthly issue of our association's newspaper. That's about all there is to say concerning this bittersweet reunion. These are sentimental occasions at best, but they do provide a few moments of reflection on many topics, and a time to remember old friends who have signed "30" to their last sheets of copy paper. Bless `em all.