Monday, September 12, 2011

We can learn from WWII generation


Almost every year on Dec. 7 or Dec. 8, I receive a phone call. Sometimes it's a call thanking me for a story, but most years it's a reader chewing me out for not including anything in the paper about the 1941 Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
Unless I planned ahead for a Pearl Harbor story (which gets harder to come up with every year), all I can do is lamely point out that it’s mentioned in the “Today in History” feature. The callers are rarely satisfied with this response.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941 "a date which will live in infamy."
Sadly, as the WWII generation leaves us, and the Japanese have become allies rather than enemies, the sharp reality of that date has softened. The date, while still well-known, doesn't carry the vivid power it held for previous generations.
My dad told me that the lesson to be learned from Pearl Harbor is one of preparedness. When the country mobilized to fight the Axis powers, U.S. recruits were forced to march with rifle-shaped wooden boards; there weren't enough rifles to go around.
As I watched the various 9/11 observances, I couldn’t help thinking how Sept. 11, 2001 holds a special meaning to a different generation. Undoubtedly, over time, the horrors and visceral memories so many of us share will fade, too. Those who didn't experience 9/11 just can't get it.
But it would be especially sad if the overall lesson of 9/11 faded with our memories of the event. As 9/11 grows more distant, we should all do everything we can to make sure our children and grandchildren know the value of first-rate intelligence and, as the WWII generation learned the hard way, preparedness.

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