Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Day That Will Live In Infamy

Monday my ninth graders were copying down their latest vocabulary list, and one of the words was "infamous."  One boy, as he copied, recited FDR's famous declaration about December 7 -- and, yes, the boy knew what the day was.
Seventy years ago this week, my mother sat in her high school class and heard their principal announce over the PA system that the US was going to war against Japan.  She can't recall what she was doing 20 years later when JFK was shot, but the moment of that announcement about what we now call World War II is burned forever in her mind.  By the time she graduated from high  school, only two boys were left to walk with the class; the others had been snatched up as soon as they turned 18 and shipped off to basic training, not even being allowed to finish high school.  Two of her classmates lied about their ages, dropped out of high school, and joined the army at 16.  Both were killed at Iwo Jima before the day they would have graduated if there had been no war.
Dad has no strong memory of Pearl Harbor Day.  But he was already in basic training within some 6 months of the event.  As he told me Monday evening, the main reason he survived fighting the Japanese in Bouganville and in Manilla (Dad was part of the group that liberated the prisoners in the last Japanese stronghold at the University.) was because he was a farm boy.  He shot second best out of 3000 new recruits and -- thanks to hours shoveling manure -- he could dig a foxhole mighty fast.
And thanks to Dad and lots of his buddies, that ninth-grade boy in my class is free to learn about infamy and many other things -- even Japanese,  if he chooses -- in freedom.
My parents' generation truly was "the greatest generation."
Dad plans to put on his WWII vet baseball cap and walk down the street today -- because he still can.
Know a WWII Allied vet?  Give him a hug today.  The world's a better place because of what he risked.


  1. That's so sad how so many boys never got to graduate high school. And sadder still that it didn't matter if they had. They never returned home from war.

    My parents were born shortly after the war, but my father in law was around for it. He was living in Germany at the time. My father is English. My husband noted the irony of that just before both guys meet. Fortunately both were over the devastation the other's country caused. :D

  2. what a beautiful story! Your parents were really a part of history that should never be forgotten. Great post!

  3. My mom survived the bombing of Tokyo. Much of what I know about World War 2 is from the Japanese side because my mother is Japanese. They fire-bombed her house, her mother died, and she got raped and had to live under a collapsed bridge for three days with a head full of lice. World War 2 was ugly for everyone.

  4. So many young men were killed because of dictators, and still are. We should never forget what they suffered and what they had to do to keep us free.

    I don't know any veterans, so give your dad a hug from me.

  5. Critic,
    Your story brings home points about the suffering of ordinary people brought on by awful governments. I doubt your mom cared very much about expanding Japan into the whole Pacific, but she obviously paid a price for the greed of leader she couldn't control. And, of course, hers is not a rare story at all.
    Of course, Japan has long profited from losing the war, but that doesn't change what the ordinary folks had to suffer.

  6. Thanks, Martin, Stina, and Query.

  7. Beautiful, and give your dad a big hug for me, he deserves it.

  8. Lessons we should never forget, but I fear that as this greatest generation passes, so much will be lost, so many lessons forgotten. Hats off to your father and all the other men and women who have served and are currently serving.

  9. This was a beautiful post. I can't imagine what it was like for all those teenage boys going to war. I am so thankful they fought for our country, though.

  10. Thank you for sharing. That was very moving.