Remembering Dec. 7, 1941

Editor’s note: This is a reprint of the column Bill Shepard did last year shortly before the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

By Bill Shepard

The date Dec. 7 stares at me from the calendar on the wall. My memory goes back to another year – I am back to 1941 and I remember!

The songwriter wrote, “Let’s remember Pearl Harbor and go on to victory,” and so we did. The words of the song touched a nerve in the hearts of a nation and in a way became its marching song. A generation of people who had seen nothing but adversity and hard times since a previous world war had ended, and many who were born during that time, now found themselves facing an unsuspected enemy.

Like a thief in the night, the Japanese unleashed their fury against an unprepared and unsuspecting America. Historians have preserved that moment well in history books and filmmakers have enlarged upon it in old movies that still keep us glued to the television screens.

Ask any “old-timer” where he was and what he was doing on that day, and there is a good chance he can tell you in detail. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “It was a day that will live in infamy.”

And so we remembered Pearl Harbor and all the other treacherous deeds that were levied against us and in time victory became ours. It was not easy and it did not come cheaply.

Stories of suffering and heartbreak from that era can still wring tears from the eyes of many.

The broken lives have mended and the tears have dried, but for many, the scars remain. The war that was fought and the treaties that followed were supposed to be such that would end all wars, but time has proven them to be failures.

There have been other wars fought since the one of which I write, but none with the resolve and will of a people united toward a common goal. Perhaps one could look behind the reason behind wars and find some explanation as to the lack of determination to win.

There was no question as to the intent of the enemy on Dec. 7, 1941, nor who the enemy was.

He had brought the fight to America and now a nation united would carry the fight to him.

With the words of the Commander in Chief, “unconditional surrender,” ringing in their ears, the people united around a common cause and indeed went on to victory.

Is not that the way wars should be fought? No war should ever be fought without a just cause; the price paid is much too costly. No burden of war should be borne by a small segment of a nation. If the cause is a worthy one, then the entire nation should rally behind it, and with a resolve for nothing short of total victory, and that as quickly as possible.

Unlike World War II, the wars that followed were lacking in that description. Both the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War were dragged out to a questionable ending. The nation as a whole was never involved in those wars. They became political scandals, with only those directly involved bearing the pain, while the rest of the nation went about with little concern and less sacrifice.

In comparison, some of us remember the sacrifices made by those back home during World War II. We remember the posters that said “Uncle Sam Needs You” and the recruiting stations that were filled with volunteers.

We remember the days, weeks, months and years of rationing, so that our troops could have the best. And we remember those who allowed a small amount deducted from their weekly paycheck to pay for war bonds to help finance the war that was raging. The nation was at war and the nation was involved. The result was victory and when it came, the nation rejoiced.

As we prepare to remember Pearl Harbor, the sacrifices and the victory, it would also be wise to remember the words repeated so often: “United we stand, divided we fall.”

Just one remembering Dec. 7, 1941.

Author: Stephan Drew

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