Today marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. If trends I have seen over the last few years continue very few will mark this day. I do not know if this is because of the apathy that is infecting our country like a cancer or because the number of those who were there that fateful day is steadily diminishing. However those of us who do remember will hopefully continue to carry on and pass on the tradition. After all only the forgotten are truly dead.
I have had the honor of knowing many veterans from the war that the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into. Men who stormed the beaches of Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Normandy, who flew dive bombers off of carriers at the battle of the Coral Sea and Midway. Men who marched at Bataan, and flew B-17s over Western Europe over places like Brest, Berlin and Frankfurt, Men who faced Field Marshal Rommel in the Deserts of Africa. But there is one man who I remember above all others. He was a quiet unassuming man who lived with his wife in a single-wide trailer in a park near the base he worked at when he retired. On his wall was a non-descript document, the only memento he ever displayed that marked his service. The documents were orders transferring him from the USS Arizona (BB-39) to the aerial reconnaissance shop on land. The date marked on the orders was December 6, 1941.
In the pre-dawn hours of that fateful Sunday morning he climbed one of the mountains overlooking the harbor. His plan was to film the sunrise to familiarize himself with the equipment. Instead of the sunrise he wound up filming the attack. Including the deaths of his former shipmates who died onboard the Arizona as a bomb detonated in her forward magazine. He never saw anyone he had worked with on that ship again. He spent the rest of the war flying in reconnaissance in the Pacific. That’s all I learned about what he did for the rest of the war.
He passed away several years ago and in keeping of the traditions of many survivors of Pearl Harbor his ashes were placed with the Arizona. When I see footage of the attack I wonder which scenes are ones he shot. I wonder what he may have felt as he watched the horrors unleashed by the attack from his mountain perch. I wonder if he would be pleased or horrified at how we have handled the legacy he and so many others of his generation put their lives on the line to pass on to us.