Why is Pearl Harbor Important?
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."
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