The Corpus Callosum

Pearl Harbor Day

This is a href="http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=41500">high-resolution
photo of Pearl Harbor (click to enlarge). When I saw that it had
been posted to the NASA Earth Observatory, I wondered — momentarily –
why they would post a photo of Pearl Harbor. Then I remembered:
December 7th.

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My father was 14 on 7 December 1941. He studied in high school, got
good grades, and enlisted when he turned 18. Didn’t think about it.
There was nothing to think.  Every able-bodied young man did it,
unless there was a compelling reason to do otherwise.

He was good at math, so they send him to study Engineering. He also had
good language skills. So after studying Engineering for a while, they
offered him a spot in the Japanese Language Program.


This got him transferred to Military Intelligence. Under the direction
of Professor Joseph K. Yamagiwa, he learned to speak Japanese. There
were two good things about this. First, he learned to speak Japanese.
Second, the time involved in starting in Engineering, then studying
Japanese, meant that the war ended before he was deployed.  He
arrived in Japan in December 1945.  So he never got shot at.

The lessons from this: it is good to study hard. It is good to develop
a rare skill. It is good to avoid being shot at. All of that is
reasonably self-evident. 

What is striking to me about this, is to compare the experience of my
father, and his generation, to the current generation. We are in not
one war, but two. We have been at war longer than we were in World War
II. But the sacrifices???

Don’t get me wrong. One of my nephews was killed in Afghanistan. I
can’t claim to know sacrifice like some others, but I have seen enough
to have an idea of what it is.

The sacrifices we are making are being made the American way. On
credit. We’re destroying the economy, and the planet, while most of us
sit around and watch TV. Most of what we pay, will be paid later. When
we get around to it. That is the American way.

Comments

  1. #1 RSG
    December 8, 2009

    Not everyone enlisted. John Wayne, for example, got his movie studio to get him a deferment because he was in an ‘essential occupation’, and never served a day in uniform. Since he was pretty much the only actor of the appropriate age left in Hollywood, his career took off and he got very rich by being a draft dodger.

  2. #2 stumpy
    December 9, 2009

    What about Ronald Reagan? I’m thinking the same type of thing happened with him. But I may be getting my book plots confused with reality.

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