Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Thought for the day;  Those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

second grade school picture
Looking back, I was a pretty melodramatic kid. I took everything to heart, cried easily, thought in superlatives, and laughed quickly. (Come to think of it, I haven't changed all that much.)

Anyhow, I'd like to tell you a story about something that happened when I was in first grade. Sorry about using the later picture here, but my first grade pic is plastered (for eternity) in a montage my mother made years ago. Too bad, because I actually looked melodramatic in that picture. Very serious, and much more fitting for this post.

[ By the way, notice the pin I'm wearing? It was my treasured Davy Crockett pin. That, and a little green Heinz pickle were my favorites. Weird kid.]

Anyway, back to the story. It was December 7, just like today, and when I came home from school, I was still brooding about something my teacher had told my class that day. After dinner, the family took a ride to my grandmother's house, and while standing in the back of the old car with my cheek resting on the back of my mother's seat, I sighed deeply, and said, "Poor Paul." My mother, naturally, wanted to know what I was talking about. "Paul Harbor," I said very knowingly, with tears in my eyes. " Japan hit him on the head with a bomb today."

Okay, so gimme a break. I was only five years old.

The point is, even though we were only first graders, our teacher tried to tell us what the day meant, and every student in our elementary school stood with head bowed for a moment of silence that day. No matter how limited our understanding, we knew the day was important. We knew someone died. We understood the concept of bombs. And each year after that, as we were reminded by our teachers every December, and stood for that moment of silence, we better understood the significance of the day.

Early Sunday morning, seventy years ago today, Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and destroyed most of our country's destroyers. Caught us unaware. Killed far too many of our sailors and soldiers. And precipitated our country's entrance into World War II.

Most of the survivors of that attack are no longer with us. Most World War II vets are gone. But we should never forget. Schoolchildren no longer stand for a moment of silence. They're no longer taught to remember, respect and appreciate the significance of days like Pearl Harbor Day and of the veterans who lost their lives that day. More's the pity.

So WE must remember. And WE should teach them.

 wrecked destroyers

plane in flames

U.S.S. Arizona in flames

In 1942, this poster, created by Allen Saalburg, was issued by the Office of War Information:

To mark the thirtieth anniversary, the following montage poster was issued:

                                    And along withe the poster, this poem by JO3 Jim Deken, USN:

                                                          In the darkest of moments
                                                          a nation is wounded,
                                                          rights herself
                                                          and pushes on.
                                                          Her wounds give her strength
                                                          and urge her on to victory.
                                                          Time passes,
                                                          the wound heals
                                                          but leaves a mark.
                                                          The mark is her reminder
                                                          of what has been and could be again.
                                                           She does not forget.

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor

  [Except for that last picture, all the Pearl Harbor shots are courtesy of the National Archives.]

Interested in seeing some additional pictures, which evoke an uncanny you-are-there feeling? Please go here
to see an excellent collection of photographs compiled by the Boston Globe last year for the 69th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day.

To complete today's history reminder, how about FDR's speech about the date that will live in infamy?

                  Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. And ...  if only for a moment ... please remember all the Pauls.


  1. Thank you for the post Susan. So very moving and yet, hard to believe it was 70 years ago. Wow. I wasn't even a sparkle in my parents' eyes, but I know the day always resonates here.

    I heard today that this year will be the last year they have a Ceremony in HI for all survivors of the attack because the survivors are simply too few and they fear there won't be anyone left next year.

  2. Pearl does sound like Paul with a southern accent. Now I'll be doing my Blanche Du Bois impression all day! You were one cute and smart cookie back then, and you still are! I also can't believe it's been 70 years since the attack. Thanks for going to all the trouble of reminding us in such an entertaining way. Julie

  3. I imagine we WILL talk about this in social studies today, even though we're supposed to be studying the French and Indian War. There's a book that has been passed around my classroom lately, a book that I got in a Scholastic order: I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor.

    The kids ARE interested. They are fascinated, in fact. But they have a very shaky time period about when all these historical things happened. (Was George Washington at Pearl Harbor? No? It must have been Abe Lincoln then, right?)

    The children ARE interested in history, but they know nothing, have been educated in nothing. It seems to me that it's the PARENTS who aren't interested, who don't take the time to talk about it. Fifth graders ought to come to me knowing SOMETHING.

  4. Hitler and Germany are never forgotten, but The Japanese acts seem to have been conveniently hidden away. Pearl Harbour of course was dreadful, but if you've never read about The Rape of Nankin, it's worth looking it up on Wiki. The Japanese were probably the worst criminals of WW2.

  5. Hi, Skippy. I heard the same thing about this being the last year for a survivors' ceremony in HI. Not many of the survivors left, and even fewer who are well enough to travel.

    Julie- That sounds like a plausible excuse. (We won't tell anyone Mrs. Howard had a Baltimore accent, okay?)

    Dianne- Too bad there aren't more teachers around like you. Really. Your students are very fortunate.

  6. Hi, Cro. How horrendous! It's unfathomable that human beings could behave so abominably and have so little regard for the sanctity of life. I'd read other accounts about Japanese atrocities during the war, but this was the first I'd read about Nanking. That's for the heads up.

  7. All the elders in my family were WW1 and WW2 service people, including my mother. That kids are growing up not knowing is just unfathomable to me. It was so ingrained, the whole story, in us.

  8. My granddad had a South Carolina newspaper from the day after Pearl Harbor. Its mind boggling to think how word was spread of the attack all across the country without television.

    More importantly it hard to fathom the instant call to duty the vast majority of Americans responded to just days after December 7th. My grandad and his brother left their farm to go down to Charleston to enlist finding a very long line of other men wanting to do the same.

    A far cry from the call to duty after 9/11.

  9. Thank you. Poor Paul, indeed. (Is it bad that I laughed at that? No disrespect to the date intended.)

  10. I think it's wrong to stop the commemorations just because the military survivors will be gone....everyone alive and living in peace right now is a survivor of every war that ever was. We all need to remember.

  11. Hi, Austan. I dunno. Maybe war seems like something "far away" that happens to "other people," so there's no need to teach our children about such things? I'm not saying we should return to the days of holding air raid drills in school every week, and people building bomb shelters in their back yards, but as a society, we forget the lessons of history at our own peril.

    Beach Bum- Yes, no TV, but almost every American home had a radio, and that's where they got most of their news. But you're right; considering the technology of the time, the news spread amazingly fast, and the response to the call of duty, swift and wide-spread.

    Linda- I think it was entirely appropriate to laugh. (My parents did.)

    Delores- Absolutely. Well said.

  12. I have mixed emotions about this Susan. I'm not so sure we should memorialize war and death. Suppose we were to memorialize our greatest achievements instead? The moon landing. The Civil Right Act. Great architecture or art or music... maybe then we really could find peace.

  13. Davey Crockett was my second love, the first being Tonto. I was a wild child.

    Listening to the wonderful FDR, you can hear the sadness in his voice. He is standing, which I have read was so difficult and painful for him, and he delivered a speech that will long be remembered throughout the history of our country.

  14. Thanks for the photos and reminders. I grew up in HI and have been to the Memorial many times. If anyone has a chance to visit, it's worth missing the beaches to visit.

    As for children remembering, teachers can do their bit, but parents have to teach their kids. My mom grew up in the Occupied Netherlands and I have tremendous love for my freedom because through my mom's memories I know what it's like to live without it.

  15. Hi, Mr. C- I understand where you're coming from, but the idea isn't to romanticize or memorialize death and war, but to be aware of history and to remember and honor those who've sacrificed. In 1985, PBS carried a special, "By Vietnam Vets For Vietnam Vets," and one of the vets on there said, "The lesson of war is ... no more war." I agree with that wholeheartedly, but if we fail as a society to learn about and from our past wars, we miss out on that very important lesson, run the risk of becoming complacent and unappreciative of both our freedoms, and of the many sacrifices that have been made throughout our history to secure them.

    Arleen- I shoulda known you were a Davy Crockett fan, too.

    Connie- When my hubby and I met in Hawaii for R&R, we signed up for a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, but he left to go back to Nam earlier the same morning of the planned tour. I'm sorry for your mother's experiences, but glad she shared them with you. You have a better understanding of the meaning of freedom than most.

    Take care.

  16. Never, ever forget.

    I read your post with a lump in my throat. This is a day that changed my Dad's life forever.

  17. That mix up over Paul made me smile. I was always doing that sort of thing when I was a kid. But this is a serious post too and you're quite right that children should be taught to remember the mistakes of the past.

  18. What a great post, Susan. I loved the story about Paul, it's so cute and shows the innocence of a child so well. Beautiful poem by Jim Deken, thanks for sharing that. It gave me goose bumps to read.

    Love the second grade picture, very cute!

  19. Hi, Al. Exactly.

    Liz- Sorry. Didn't mean to make you feel bad. If your dad's still living, give him an extra hug for me.

    Rosalind- Whattayamean? I'm STILL making those kinds of mistakes!

    Julie- Glad you enjoyed the post, dear lady.