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Pearl Harbor Day


Emily Waldorf
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Thanks, Emily. And if anyone knows a vet who served in WW II, be sure to thank them, as well.

 

Because we're all writers (and because I often gush about some of James Michener's novels) this immediately brings to mind Michener's first book, Tales of the South Pacific. Set during WW II in the Pacific. In a way it's a novel, but is really a book of short stories, in which the main character in one may be a secondary character in another, or even just an incidental character in a third. officers, enlisted men, doctors, nurses, and native peoples, all appear in their own, fascinating stories.

 

We would love for any of our works to win some award; Michener's very first book won a Pulitzer. But then, he was Michener...

 

The various stories all lead up to a climactic naval battle, in which some of the characters we've gotten close to will make it through, and some will not. It ends with one of the characters visiting the very peaceful, makeshift island cemetery, shortly after that big battle.

 

He speaks with one of the two servicemen in charge, there, finding out that they're the only two who want to do that job, but they're very happy to be there. He's surprised, but the worker says that up there, there are only heroes. They'd often remarked to one another that that would be the only time in their lives when they were only surrounded by heroes. It's a remarkable outlook in a truly horrific situation.

 

And my eyes tear-up every time I read it...

 

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One of my friends who was about 18 years old at that time told the story that a neighbor was home on leave from the military. When the news about the invasion came over the radio, her dad went out onto their porch and yelled over to the neighbor, "You better get back to base, Pearl Harbor has been attacked by the Japanese."  

 

I found that story interesting. Her dad sensed that it would lead to something bigger.

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Guest Spaulding

For my generation, the question is "Where were you when JFK was assassinated?" People today ask, "Where were you when the Trade Center went down?"

 

Mom and Dad both told their stories of where they were that day. Both ended there stories with the shock of that speech.

 

Mom was celebrating her 13th birthday. (Born on the 6th.) She and her friends went to the movies in a country that loves peace, (a little too much most times.) When she came out, they already felt something was different. And when they got home, they all found out what. Mom, in particular, was nervous, because her dad had fought in The Great War. Fortunately, he was older, had kids, and worked for the railroad, so he was only needed supply-side as a railroad man. (Also helped he was a high-ranking retired Army man.)

 

Dad was a couple of states away, and wasn't worried about his dad. PopPop was in the Great War too, but his lungs were destroyed by mustard gas. (Also saved by mustard gas. His one lung kept collapsing, so, since mustard gas burns to the point of searing tissue, they opened him up, smeared the solid mustard gas onto the outside of his lung, which seared it onto the connecting tissues, and his lung never collapsed again.) So no chance he'd leave for that war.

 

They found out about "the Day of Infamy," so late because 7 AM in Hawaii isn't 7 AM on the eastern coast.

 

I remember JFK's funeral, not his death. (I am Caroline's age.) I remember where I was for 911 more, and sensed that sensation in the whole country. Because of that, I thought it would be good to share the shock a bit of that other day in infamy.

 

We go to the VA often now. (Doctor appointments.) Most of the guys wear their caps proudly. Most are older guys - VN vets. (Some Gulf War vets roam about, but the younger ones get jobs, so don't need the VA.) Some old guys are Korean War vets. They get a bit more respect from the others. But a WWII vet is a celebrity there. Everyone wants to talk to him. And most stop and stand taller when he wheels by. Not many of them left. They all get the "Thank you for serving, sir" from all the other vets.

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4 minutes ago, Spaulding said:

For my generation, the question is "Where were you when JFK was assassinated?" People today ask, "Where were you when the Trade Center went down?"

 

I was a senior in high school when JFK was assassinated. It really was a time of deep grief but a lot of us couldn't understand what we were feeling. I got home from my part-time job when my friend from our church youth group called and said there was a special church service because of what happened. I went but I was so numb, I don't remember anything that went on. 

 

When the World Trade Center went down, our son was living and working across the state from us. Hubby called him.(He worked evenings.) All the businesses closed down even in Indiana. Again, the church I belonged to, had a special called service for prayer. I remember this time as a somber time.

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13 hours ago, Wes B said:

this immediately brings to mind Michener's first book, Tales of the South Pacific.

I was thinking of a movie called Midway (2019 release)--probably less worthy than the book, but still very good. It seemed historically accurate, as far as I could tell, and you really got to know and love the MC--as well as showing us a little, just a fragment, of what our military goes through to keep us safe;  what they might remind themselves of when their on the front lines. It was very sobering, heart-breaking, and exhilarating to watch a movie that did it's best to give credit to the real-life heroes that fought for us, in WWII and in all the preceding and subsequent wars. 

 

To any veterans who might be reading this, thank you, a thousand times over, for your service!

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Guest Spaulding

@Emily Waldorf

Although it's about as far removed from a children's story as I'll go, and it's set in the other arena -- Europe -- I recommend Band of Brothers. The most realistic series I've seen. (And the residents in the local VA nursing/rehab home taught me that.) We only buy videos if we plan to watch more than three times. That's in our collection.

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1331920004_Leo-BasicTrainingGreatLakesIll.thumb.jpg.80fe900d90f9974941405161da290704.jpg

My uncles Leo (photo above) and “Tip” Ellingsworth were radiomen on the Grumman TBF Avenger (torpedo bomber) in WWII.   From St. Paul, MN, they both signed up right after Pearl.   Leo died when his plane crashed at sea in a training mishap off the California coast.   My Mom said that when she came home from school, a military official had already come by the house to make next of kin death notification. 
 

Leo was just a skinny, wide-eyed teenager trying to get on the same carrier as Tip.  That aspiration never would have panned out, as Leo would have gone to the Pacific theatre.  Tip served in the Atlantic fleet on German U-boat hunts.  

 

On one flight, his plane ditched in the waters just after take-off.  Thankfully, for Grandma’s sake, this son survived and flew right away after that.  Leo once wrote to Grandma, “And quit worrying about me dying.  If it happens, it happens and there’s nothing to be done about it.”  

 

Tip carried on the military legacy, transferring to the then “Army Air Corps” after the war.  He retired as a Chief Master Sergeant from the U.S. Air Force.
 

Hats off to our service members, past and present.

 

When my Mom passed on to Glory last year, she left a collection of about 40 letters Leo had written, from Boot Camp to his final “don’t worry about me” letter.  These palpate with naïveté, energy, vision and, in general, the coping angst of a young sailor.   I have typed them out.   It is quite an emotional ride to read through them.  He just had this Anne Frank thing about him.  If anyone would like to read these, feel free to message me with your email.  I honestly think that Leo’s thoughts have the makings for a book, play or movie.

 

 

 

 

FDR Condolences.jpg

Edited by Ragamuffin_John
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