|Why study Pearl Harbor? An event 60
years past would, on the face of it, seem irrelevant
today. Sure, the movie will be out soon and the
interest is inevitable. But let's put Pearl Harbor
into proper perspective: This attack shaped
generations of American military and political
thinking. The cold was consumed by a "peace
through strength" mentality burned into their
memories by the events of that December.
As a "baby-boomer" I concur with Thurston
Clarke who wrote: "I was... in the earliest of
post war generations, one that grew up listening to
war stories, surrounded by German helmets, Japanese
bayonets, and the flight jackets we wore as teenagers.
For us bravery was defined by Omaha Beach, leadership
by Winston Churchill, evil by the Holocaust, and
treachery by Pearl Harbor. The war we know was
immediate, its wounds raw, its issues simple. We were
too close to it for historical perspective, too
removed to understand its ironies and moral
ambiguities. The movies we saw and the books we read
were often wartime propaganda, but we were too young
to separate the real from the bogus. And after
watching all those black and white documentaries,
reading those fat histories, and participating in
those philosophical disputes that could never be
argued without reference to Hitler, and after
comparing our restless, unfulfilled generation with
the one before it, perhaps it is not surprising we
felt such second-hand nostalgia for a time we had
never lived and a was we had never fought, nor
surprising that my second-hand memories had become
second-hand grudges" [against the Japanese].
For many the wounds are still raw, so be prepared
for a two-pronged response to this history section.
One generation remembers December 7th, 1941 as a
reverent event; another may just think the planes and
ships are "cool". Both will respond through
their own prisms. All are welcome. Future articles
will feature technical stories of ships and planes as
well as human stories of survival and fate.
For the average person, the real lesson of Pearl
Harbor was eloquently put by Vice Admiral E.P. Aurand
in 1986: "The men who died there bought with
their lives a lesson for Americans that should last
forever. You cannot entrust peace to the promises of
men who rule countries where free elections and free
speech do not exist."