Monday, December 6, 2010

A Sunday In December

An anniversary is creeping up on us. It’s an odd one, a red-headed stepchild to the anniversary that will happen next year to much hoopla. Sixty-nine years ago the U.S. was rudely awaken by the news that the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii had been attacked.

In that one day the Empire of Japan broke the back of U.S. Pacific power for nearly two years. The pride of the fleet, the battleships, were sunk at their piers. It was the worst day in the history of the U.S. Navy.  Never before and never again would the U.S.N. suffer such a one-sided and humiliating loss. Never again would they be caught so unawares.

The passage of time has altered much but not the sacred waters of Pearl Harbor.  Ships still pass and give honors to the USS Arizona. The ship is much more than the final resting place of the officers and men who died nearly seventy years ago. It also a marker.

The Arizona marks the end of an era. Not only did the era of the Dreadnoughts pass that day, but so also an insular United States. The creation of the Hyperpower that is the modern United States began on that awful day. It was a creation of the blood, sweat and tears  the sailors and airmen shed that day.

It is hard not to contrast the iconic image of that day, the explosion of the USS Arizona, to the iconic image of another day closer to our own times, the airplane strike into the South Tower of NYC’s World Trade Center. In two short years Pear Harbor was bigger, better, and more supplied with the implements of war. The replacement of the WTC is still a big hole in the ground. No indication of when the “Freedom Tower” will actually be up and running. There is good reason that the WWII generation is called “The Greatest Generation.”

As that generation slowly fades into history, as the soldiers, sailors, airmen, coast guardians, merchant mariners, and marines answer the last call. As these heros slowly muster out of our presence, let us remember them and all those who defend our nation.

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