Archive for the 'pearl harbor' Tag
Sixty-nine years ago those words ushered in a period of unbelievable agony, trial, effort and sacrifice. What was once before was forever changed afterward. Jack-booted thugs bent on their “Final Solution” strode cobblestone streets of the land distantly remembered as the forebear of a new nation, a New World. And across the broad expanse of the ocean called “peaceful” – because it’s discoverer found such contrast to the stormy passage he had recently survived, rampant nationalism was advancing at the tip of bayonet and crushing naval power.
The warnings were there – it’s just that being so far away; over the horizon in distance and mind, that what happened in the dim, exotic lands of East Asia just didn’t map to the concerns of Pennsylvania Avenue, Wall Street, or 5th and Main. The Old World was in flame yet again, though by now it was beginning to appear that once more, the oceans would serve as a guardian to keep the Ancient Evil – Over There and our boys home, over here. No more Beallau Woods, no more Marnes — no more Flanders. The plucky occupants of a small island off the coast of that continent – protected again by the seas, had apparently staved off the onslaught of the German air force, which washed across the Channel and appeared to break on the rocks of “the Few” who rose in their isle’s defense. Cause for muted celebration – but not really of our concern. And now that industrial war machine had turned its attentions to the riches of the Eurasian heartland and engaged in battle with yet another statist foe. Fascist against Communist, German against Russian; West vs Oest /Восток против Запада. Let them slug it out and bleed each other white – not our concern. Let the Old World and the Far East dissolve in flame and fury – we have our own problems and the great distances of the oceans to protect us…
Sixty-nine years ago a lesson was seared in a generation’s conscious and would underpin the awakening of a giant, heretofore unseen or much thought of.
A slogan was born and a promise made.
For the better part of the remaining century that followed, as plans were drawn, metal cut and bodies counted; that phrase lay, oft time unspoken, deep within the hearts and minds of men as they prepared for a war they hoped and prayed would never come.
It didn’t – and now, the problems at home seem so overwhelming. An economy that can’t seem to pick itself off the deck. A work force embraced by hopelessness of ever finding a job in a land of plenty. And across the broad oceans, beyond the visible horizon old forces are stirring once again in different lands. Scores to be settled – philosophies to be paid homage; resources to be gathered and sent homeward.
And a promise which rang with clarity across a land and through generations is but a fading whisper upon the ear.
Remember Pearl Harbor.
As our nation celebrated Martin Luther King Day yesterday, it is fitting to look back in history at some of the other, lesser-known African-Americans who forged “firsts” in this country. Consider the story of Doris “Dorie” Miller, a Navy cook onboard the battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) when the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. Miller is widely recognized as the first African-American hero of World War II for the swift and bold actions he took that day, earning him the Navy Cross.
Miller was not trained in surface ship combat tactics or machine gun operations, being relegated to the role of ship’s cook due to his race. But Miller had played football in high school and was the reigning heavyweight boxing champion on the West Virginia. His physical strength was well known among his shipmates. When the Japanese first struck, he ran to the battle station where he had been assigned the task of carrying wounded Sailors to safety. A torpedo had damaged the anti-aircraft battery magazine at his battle station, so he was ordered to the bridge to aid his commanding officer. He found the ship’s captain had been mortally wounded. Enraged, he took control of the nearby 50-caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun, firing until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship.
Miller had not received any training on the operation of this gun, but instincts served him well: “It wasn’t hard,” he said. “I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine. I had watched the others with these guns. I guess I fired her for about 15 minutes. I think I got one of those Jap planes.” For his heroism, Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest award the Navy bestows. Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz said of Miller at the time: “This marks the first time in this conflict that such high tribute has been made in the Pacific Fleet to a member of his race and I’m sure that the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts.”
Tragically, Miller was killed a few years later in November of 1943 while serving aboard USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56) near the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific. The ship was felled within minutes by a Japanese torpedo, killing 646 Sailors aboard – including Miller. But his legacy continues. Actor Cuba Gooding, Jr., honored Miller’s service and sacrifice with his portrayal of Miller in the movie “Pearl Harbor,” and on February 4 at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Postal Service will unveil a stamp in his honor. This stamp is one of four being dedicated to four notable Navy Sailors. The other three are two-time Medal of Honor recipient John McCloy, WWI convoy advocate William Sims, and WWII Navy hero and former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Arleigh Burke.
For more information on the U.S. Postal Service’s first-day-of-issue ceremony, go to the United States Navy Memorial’s web site: www.navymemorial.org. To watch a short video about Doris Miller, go to Navy TV: www.navytv.org.
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Sixty-five years later and with emotions still raw, Wilbur Wright fights to maintain control as he recalls his personal experience on board the USS Ogala at Pearl Harbor the day after the Japanese attack:
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