According to the latest information available, there are only six Pearl Harbor survivors left to visit and commemorate that “day which will live in infamy.” Six. The Greatest Generation, aptly named for a variety of reasons few of us can fathom any longer, is almost gone from this Earth.
Eighty-two years ago today, a most heinous event happened, an event so distant to so many today as to almost not have occurred. We remember it only because someone in the news found a human-interest story or posted a picture of the skeleton of the USS Arizona, still leaking oil and still resting on the muddy floor at Pearl Harbor, so many valiant crew members locked inside their watery tomb, victims of the attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.
At the time, the notion of a direct attack on American soil was inconceivable, so when it happened, the shock waves were pronounced, rattling Americans to their core, a nation wrestling with entering a war in which President Roosevelt campaigned the United States would not enter. Eventually, we did, and in the process, thwarted the ambitions of Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo, dictators all, attempting to re-make the world in their image.
The morning of the attack has been well chronicled, written about, and even colored with conspiracy theories, such as FDR knowing the attack was coming and deliberately allowed it to happen so the United States had an excuse to get into the fight, partially solving the massive unemployment problem plaguing the U.S. because of the Great Depression. That is just one conspiracy theory, non-proven junk-think to throw disparaging paint on the U.S., something almost a sport today.
The fact is over 2,000 service men and women perished in what was, at the time, the most devastating foreign attack on American soil since the Revolutionary War, and one that burned as a glowing ember throughout the war, quite probably partially responsible for the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It was a different time, a different morality, and a different world in 1941. Hardened by the experiences of the First World War, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and crippling unemployment, exacerbated by poor government policy manifest in the New Deal the Greatest Generation were faced with yet another challenge, one in which their very way of life was threatened, but one they met with the ferocity of an attacking tiger. The modern mind cannot conceive the notion of total war, the idea of fighting for one’s existence as modern wars are fought, to quote the great author Norman Podhoretz, “on the political and military cheap,” never really going “all in,” but rather doing just enough to get the job done without spending too much political capital in the process.
The Greatest Generation did not possess that notion. Their entire lives were spent on the edge, hardened by the high cost of living life during the turbulent times between 1918-1945. There was only one way for them, and that was to go all in, making sure they would come out victorious and their enemies vanquished once and for all. They were fighters, people who asked no quarter and gave none. They were builders, dreamers, and achievers, and no amount of professorial doublespeak about this condition or that consideration can change that. Intellectualism is one thing, actions are another. The Greatest Generation was one of action, not words…doers, not speculators…achievers, not theorists.
That is why they were the Greatest Generation.
They had their flaws, as every generation does. They were not perfect for no group of people sharing a historical timeline can be, morality changing with the generations as the winds blow through the mountains. But they did save the world, a world which would be much different if they had not the resolve it took to be victorious.
In our time, we’ve forgotten much of those ideals. We shrink from a fight, our willingness to preserve what we have chipped at from every direction, most especially from the academic world, a world wherein our children are taught this nation is little more than the progenitor of all that is wrong on the planet, notions accepted by young people as they sit comfortably in their homes fingering their latest gadget or perusing Tik Tok, oblivious to what rages around them, sheltered from the storm.
It is our generation, the so-called “Boomer” generation, those children of the ‘60’s who allowed the memory of the Greatest Generation to fade, and with it their ideals, their fight, and their love of country, the “Generation Gap” the excuse for such brazen forgetfulness; spoiled children dreaming of Haight/Ashbury, the false dream of a Marxist utopia, and “free love,” along with a lack of accountability in a world where accountability is everything.
Their children, and theirs, forogt what built our nation, the memories of Pearl Harbor becoming little more than historical anecdotes to be recited at the beginning of a class period more out of habit than actual remembrance. Students, tired of being reminded of the sacrifice, the wonton death of 2000 sitting there yawning, unaware of their own history and worse yet, uninterested.
Teachers themselves give a passing nod to the events at Pearl Harbor, more interested in their next social justice campaign than covering history or the layers to it, the real reasons. They tell students we learn history so we don’t repeat it, never revealing the truth—we’re not smart enough to avoid repeated it, mostly because we’re creatures of habit. Twain was right—history doesn’t repeat, but it often rhymes.
It is a historical axiom: The further away we get from an event, the less impact it has, the ripples fading back into the sea, until the waters are calm again.
This is Pearl Harbor and the lessons from it. This is also 9/11 and countless other events buried under the dust of time.
On this day of remembrance, Pearl Harbor Day, let us take a moment to remember the men and women who lost their lives, of the Greatest Generation almost gone who saved a world from true tyranny, not made-up newspaper headlines designed to sway votes one direction or another.
Let us say a quiet “thank you” to them all and remind ourselves of what this great nation is capable of so long as we do not become distracted by charlatans, bad actors, and those with a personal agenda designed to divide us to further their own causes. Let us remember that when this nation, all of us, choose a direction, few can stop us.
If we do not, the prophetic words of Merlin the Magician, uttered in John Boorstin’s epic film Excalibur, may become our epitaph.
“…for it is the doom of men that they forget.”
 Hawaii didn’t become a state until 1951, but was still considered an American territory.
 Hideki Tojo was not a dictator but rather the commander of the Japanese Army, but the defacto head of the government as by tradition, Emperor Hirohito had to delegate his power. It is a convoluted history but an important distinction to make.
 Notice I left Josef Stalin out…a dictator as well, but one we were allied with until the end of the war, a man and nation once allied with Hitler as well. Interestingly enough, Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler were quite supportive of Roosevelt’s New Deal, most of which was ruled unconstitutional, but when announced, Mussolini stated, “behold, a dictator.”
 All of this is well chronicled and researched in the book New Deal/Raw Deal by Burton Fulsome, Jr.