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December 7th

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  • December 7th

    Somehow it doesn't seem right that December 7, 1941 goes completely unnoticed.

    Probably few here are old enough to remember it personally but I remember I had just finished the morning milking and was walking up to the house with two buckets of milk when my 86 year old paternal grandfather, who heard the news on our windcharger powered Philco radio, came rushing out shouting "War, war."
    Born during the Civil War and with three sons who served in France WWI, he had been plotting the progress of WWII on a wall map for years. He survived until about a month before VJ day.

    I was only ten but both of my parents had 13 siblings and I had 62 first cousins from both sides of my family, most of them older than I. Every male cousin old enough to enlist, 18 of them, served in the Army,Navy or Marines in WWII. Four of them enlisted on Dec 8th. Sixteen came home, two of whom later died young from service related illnesses. Only two are still alive.

    I realize my rambling doesn't mean anything to anyone else.. but I just got to thinking about it and realized I had not heard the day mentioned all day, not even on national news.
    Last edited by lonewolf; 12-08-2015, 08:13 AM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by lonewolf View Post
    I realize my rambling doesn't mean anything to anyone else.
    I beg to differ. A first-hand report of the day is special. My mom and dad were 20-year-old college students (wouldn't meet for another 6 years), who both were commissioned officers within 6 months. Mom went into Cryptographics and Dad was a Corsair fighter-pilot in the Pacific. They rarely talked about the War, but there were a few pictures in their bedroom that indicated just how important that time in their lives was.

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    • #3
      Great memories lonewolf. I can remember as a child that just about every man in the neighborhood was a WW2 veteran. We had men that flew countless B17 bombing runs over germany , there were men that trudged the whole length of Italy. But most importantly were the haunting memories that we heard of the men from that neighborhood that never came back.

      They were good and honorable men and they gave America it's greatest age.

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      • #4
        Great story lonewolf. Having known people who fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, I've noticed a pattern among war veterans. The ones who go through their whole lives never talking about their war experiences, even with close friends and family, are generally the ones whose experiences were the most horrific and barbaric, and they go through their whole lives trying to forget that part of their life, hoping that one day the nightmares will stop. And if anyone does ask them about their war experiences, the effect on them is similar to the effect of ripping a big scab off a bad wound.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by jazzcyclist View Post
          The ones who go through their whole lives never talking about their war experiences, even with close friends and family, are generally the ones whose experiences were the most horrific and barbaric, and they go through their whole lives trying to forget that part of their life, hoping that one day the nightmares will stop.
          I didn't find out till after my father died (I was in my 30s) that he had single-handedly sunk a large Japanese resupply ship by dropping a bomb down its smokestack. There may have been 100 souls on board. I often wonder if that bothered him, or, being his mission, there was no remorse at all. I hope the latter, but suspect the former.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Atticus View Post
            I didn't find out till after my father died (I was in my 30s) that he had single-handedly sunk a large Japanese resupply ship by dropping a bomb down its smokestack. There may have been 100 souls on board. I often wonder if that bothered him, or, being his mission, there was no remorse at all. {b]I hope the latter[/b], but suspect the former.
            That's interesting that you hope your dad was remorseless. My dad was an infantry captain in the Mekong Delta from June 1967 through April 1968. One day, my brother, who was about 12 or 13 at the time, asked him if he ever killed anybody when he was in Vietnam. I was older than my brother and I had already come to sense that it wasn't a good idea to ask war veterans about their war experiences. Anyway, my dad immediately went silent and bowed his head, and my brother instantly realized that he had struck a nerve. My brother then apologized and tried to console my dad, but he just sat there motionless. At that point my brother decided it was probably best to leave him alone, but my dad sat there silent with his head bowed for another 15-20 minutes.

            When I thought about my dad's reaction, I took it as a sign that he hadn't lost his humanity, despite the fact that he'd done things in Vietnam that he wasn't proud of. My sense is that most decent and caring human beings will feel remorse when they kill people who they're never met and don't even know well enough to dislike, much less hate. It seems to me that the folks we should worry about are the ones who don't feel remorse.

            Atticus, in no way do I mean to pass any value judgment on you, so please take no offense.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by jazzcyclist View Post
              Atticus, in no way do I mean to pass any value judgment on you, so please take no offense.
              I do not. But there's a subtle, but important distinction between being remorseless and carrying no remorse. I am so thankful that my 20-year career in the Navy did not dovetail with a major conflict that I would been involved in. I did not want to kill anyone, but if I had been called to, I would have, and I really hope that I could see it as my raison d'etre at that time. I hope that anyone in combat sees it as mission, not a cardinal sin. To feel remorse in war would completely undermine one's effectiveness. Kill or be killed. Getting killed doesn't help your country. I have no idea if I could have handled it, because I have ALWAYS been staunchly anti-war. But I figured if someone HAS to do it, it should be me, so I could at least be there to perhaps help prevent the atrocities that often happen in war (innocent civilians, etc.).
              As for lingering guilt, after the war, I'm sure there are always pangs that never go away.

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              • #8
                My Dad told me he was listening to the NY Giants football game on the radio when they broke in to announce Pearl Harbor. Mom and Dad then both worked on the war effort. Dad was in the Army Air Force at first at San Antonio at Randolph Field, and Mom was a WASP, a true Rosie the Riveter who worked there re-building planes. But they were recruiting people for a new Special Forces called the 10th Mountain Division, the Ski Troops, to fight in Italy. The officers at Randolph Field noticed my Dad's legs - at the time he was a national caliber cyclist and speed skater, so they recruited him to join 10th Mountain and he moved up to Camp Hale, between Vail and Leadville, Colorado to get ready for an assault on Italy. He was about to go to Europe and face those decisions your Dad's faced. Then his brother was killed, and Dad was the sole surviving son - the Private Ryan rule - so they didn't send him. He ended up not seeing combat.

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                • #9
                  bam, on a multi day bicycle tour around CO about 13 years ago, one leg was Vail down to Leadville. I stopped and read all the signage along the way at Camp Hale with great interest.

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                  • #10
                    The difference in the post-war adaptation of combat veterans is interesting.

                    My reflections on Dec 7 was prompted by the recent death at 92 of one of my four cousins who enlisted on Dec 8. Son of a WWI vet, he was a HS senior, two time state wrestling champion, full scholarship offer from Univ Oklahoma, who would inpress us younger kids by doing one-arm pull ups.
                    He did the bloody South Pacific island hopping tour, came home with three purple hearts and a chest full of ribbons, went to OU on GI bill, went into banking, became President of large Oklahoma bank. Inpeccably dressed and painfully polite,he did not seem depressed and I never heard him say a word about his combat experience.

                    At the other end of the behaviour spectrum was a gregarious cousin, again son of a WWI vet, who was a loveable hell-raiser in HS, drank, smoked, wrecked cars, chased girls (not that that is a bad thing) enlisted in Navy, served on a destroyer in SoPaC, cigarette pack rolled up in T-sirt sleeve, glorified in being a swabbie, came home eager to show off his battle wound scars and recount his experience in gory detail, became a successful car salesman and dealer, died relatively young, unbowed/uncowed with a full head of hair.

                    Just two of the 18, most of the rest were somewhere in between in personality and post-war behavior.

                    Just occured to me. In addition to my three older uncles who served in WWI, I actually had a first cousin, eldest son of my eldest aunt, who was in WWI, tried to enlist in WWII, turned down for age and physical condition.

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                    • #11
                      December 7th was a very interesting day in my wife's family history. They were Yugoslav Jews and left Belgrade when it was bombed and never went back to the house. They made their way to the north coast, where the family was from and survived there for a while but eventually went in to Italy at Trieste and were interned, relatively benignly, in northern Italy in a smallish town. The day that they arrived at the town was December 7th (1921), my father-in-law's 21st birthday. He described it as the best day of his life because he knew that the Americans were now in the war and that Germany would lose. When the Italians surrendered and the Nazi's instantly came in, the Nazi's can in at one side of the town and they fled from the opposite side. They made their was by bicycle and train to the north and then found some one to lead them up the mountains to a back pass in to Switzerland where they were letting a small flow of refugees in (the major crossings were much more controlled and many were turned back, I think). They used that pass a few years ago in the Giro (Tour or Italy) - Col de Finestre.

                      My first father-in-law landed on Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1944; he said somewhat later in the day when the bad stuff was over. However, he never talked about the war other than the funny stories of stuff that happened in the barracks or whatever.

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                      • #12
                        lonewolf -- I appreciate you sharing this memory. As with all of your posts -- no exaggeration -- I appreciate reading them, and I learn from them. As for Pearl Harbor, I am not making excuses for the slippage of memory, but I suppose some of it is unavoidable -- though the USA seems more 'built for amnesia' than a lot of cultures.

                        Both of my parents are of the WW2 generation, both now past 90yo. They rarely have ever spoken of those times, so among all the other things I don't know about them, I don't know anything about their Pearl Harbor-related memories. My mother would have been a senior in HS; my father a university student. In the war, my father was a bomber pilot. Beyond that, I know little. I have seen photographs of him in action -- e.g., in the cockpit -- and one thing I am sure of is that I do not know this man. Too much of his experience is so far beyond mine that he is, for all practical purposes, from another world. I write that with respect to him. The one thing I recall him saying -- and the only time I saw him express anger (decades later) about the war and to put to rest any possible 'doubts' he might have had about the use of atomic weapons to end the war -- was over his immediate post-war experience with assisting the 'recovery' of Australian POWs from Japanese POW camps. His seeing the condition of those men told him that imperial Japan brought its own harm on itself and its civilians, and in that sense, 'reaped the whirlwind' -- getting for themselves and their citizen-subjects the worst outcome they could imagine, and one deserved, in my father's view.

                        Moreover, in August 1945, he was on Okinawa or somewhere around there, waiting to be part of the invasion force of the main Japanese islands. I think he knew his chances of being killed in that battle were significant, and thus he knew that the means by which the USA ended the war had increased his chances of remaining alive.

                        At the same time, the most painful WW2-related memory I have heard my mother express is regard to her best friend in HS, a girl who had the misfortune in that moment of being not just an American, but one of Japanese ancestry. My mother's friend's family was 'relocated,' and she never saw her friend again. I think about her often, too.

                        My father met his wife-to-be, 60+ years married now, on a blind date during the war, when he was in his flight training. Thus, the war brought them together. The end of the war -- with him unharmed -- allowed them to have a long and happy life together, somehow still going on. One of the lesser outcomes of their life together is me. Thus, I have to be mindful of the fact that I am born, pretty much literally, from those events. Each of us -- every one -- is born and made of some endless cord of love and hope and violence and the sufferings of the world. If that does not seem apparent, it is only because one has not looked very closely.

                        With all that stuff of my parents' histories in view -- and that is just the tip of it -- I would expect any thinking persons, such as my parents are, to have some complex views of the events of their lives. My parents rightly have a great pride in their country, and in their role (and the role of their friends) in helping see this country through a great trial. They are good people, and they have lived good lives. And somehow are continuing to live good lives, in the face of the indignities of very advanced age. Their integrity is much more than I can ever claim for myself.

                        One other person whom I knew a little bit: The father (now passed on) of one of my sisters-in-law was a Marine in the Pacific theater. I heard him make one indirect statement about the war: He said that he had no doubts that he would go to Heaven when he died, because he had already been to Hell. He carried shrapnel, among God knows what other things, in him to his end.
                        Last edited by Master Po; 12-08-2015, 07:54 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by 26mi235 View Post
                          The day that they arrived at the town was December 7th (1921), my father-in-law's 21st birthday. He described it as the best day of his life because he knew that the Americans were now in the war and that Germany would lose.
                          You probably already know this, but on 12/08/41, the U.S. only declared war on Japan. On 12/11/41, Germany declared war on the U.S., and on 12/12/41, the U.S. responded in kind by declaring war on Germany. I've heard that the those three days, between the 8th and the 11th, were the longest three days in Winston Churchill's life, as there was still uncertainty about whether the U.S. would get involved in the European theater.

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                          • #14
                            Given the pact between Germany and Japan, it really could not have turned out much differently, and the U.S. would have done it anyway, just that FDR would have had to work a little harder to get around the obstructionists like Lindberg.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by lonewolf View Post
                              Just two of the 18, most of the rest were somewhere in between in personality and post-war behavior..
                              I think that gets at the heart of it. It is not the acts of war that cause men of conscience to feel pride or guilt , it is largely the response of their fellow country men when they return. If they return to a country whose elite media culture scorns and slanders them , some will feel shame. If they return , as they did in ww2 to cheers and honor they will be proud of their service and live a full and happy life.

                              Vietnam was markedly different than wW2 NOT IN the acts of bravery of the combatants but in the slanders that met the Vietnam veterans.

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