Letter From New York 12 07 15 Pearl Harbor Day…

Pearl Harbor Day.  December 7th.  Japanese Empire. Second World War. Russia. England. United States. “The New History of World War II.”  CL Sulzberger.  Stephen E. Ambrose. Axis Powers. Hitler. Italy. Germany. Gestapo. SS. General Winter.  John D. McCormick.

The heavy fog that blanketed the world this morning is dissipating in the afternoon.  Sun has replaced the grey.  When I drove to the gym this morning, it was hard to see far down the road.

It is December 7th and today is the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, resulting in the US entering the Second World War.

As it happens, I am reading “The New History of World War II” by Stephen E. Ambrose and CL Sulzberger.  The book does an excellent job of following the course of the war, point by point.

One of the things about the War that I had never really thought about was that Russia, England and the US coordinated their efforts through communications and meetings, bound by a single goal:  to win the war and, particularly, to gain the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers.

The Axis powers, Germany, Italy and Japan had no coordination between them.  Japan didn’t inform their allies they were going to attack at Pearl Harbor and there was no wartime coordination between them.

The book also clearly points out the number of disastrous military decisions made by Hitler, who, after his early successes, began to think of himself as the greatest general to have ever lived.

He listened to no one and no one stood up to him.  Terror is effective in silencing critics.  You don’t need the Gestapo knocking on your door in the middle of the night.

That happened often enough without disagreeing with Hitler.

Germany and Japan were brutal to the citizens of the countries they conquered.  Had Hitler not been such a monster to the Russians, they might well have rallied behind him.  When the Nazis first rolled into Russian towns, they were hailed as liberators.  Then the soldiers were followed by the SS and things got ugly.

The Japanese were equally brutal.

What I am also getting out of reading this history is what life was like for the ordinary soldier on both sides of the war.  It was a horrific business that required enduring, in the deepest sense of that word, horrific situations and surviving if one could, conditions that are almost unimaginable but for that fact they were endured.

And that was true for both sides, particularly in the Asian jungles and in the bitter Russian winters.  “General Winter” is what defeated Napoleon and went a long way to breaking Hitler.

Knowing that this anniversary was coming, I have thought about World War II and the sacrifices it demanded of everyone.  Since Korea, we’ve been fighting without asking sacrifices on the home front.  In World War II, everyone was contributing.

John D. McCormick, patriarch of the McCormick clan of which I am an “honorary” member stood on the deck of the battleship upon which the Japanese surrendered.  I didn’t know that until his Memorial Service.

And it connects me to that war in a way I didn’t feel connected before knowing that.  This wonderful man who gave me piggyback rides and twirled me through his legs along with his own children fought in the Pacific and was there to watch the final surrender of the Japanese Empire.

It is with his two oldest daughters and their families I will spend the Holidays.

The ancient Egyptians used to say that to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again.

Today I speak John’s name and thank him for the sacrifices he endured so that I didn’t grow up speaking German or Japanese.  I think of Eileen McCormick’s brother who was an airman and did not return from the war, shot down on a mission.

Perhaps today we should all take the time to think, for a moment, of the people of which we know, who participated in that struggle, while the fate of the world hung in the balance.  Speak their names to yourself so that they live again, for a moment.

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