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Historic photos of Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941: Thank you, Greatest Generation

21

Sadly, the Greatest Generation gave birth to the worst generation.  But today we remember the former. Today we remember the great Americans who fought and died so that we might live free. Thank you for saving the free world.

“December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy no matter how long it may take us to overcome the premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous mind, will win through absolute victory.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt (a Democratspoke like that?)

President Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy.” On that day, Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. The bombing killed more than 2,400 Americans. It completely destroyed the American battleship U.S.S. Arizona and capsized the U.S.S. Oklahoma. The attack brought the United States into World War II.

And so came American resolve. The worst of circumstances brought out the very best in us. We didn’t cower, submit or retreat. We held fast to our convictions and beliefs and never stopped or gave up.

America’s darkest hour led to our finest shining hour.

What the greatest generation did for freedom, its offspring has systematically destroyed. Perhaps because they fought an incomprehensible evil, stood at the edge of the abyss and against all odds prevailed and gifted their baby boomer children the greatest of all precious gifts – freedom, but at little to no cost to them. Certainly that is true of the children of the late twentieth century. This was exploited by the leftwign enemy who exploited our freedoms to destroy our freedoms.

The late World War II combat veteran and memoirist E. B. Sledge enshrined his generation of fellow Marines as “The Old Breed” in his gripping account of the hellish battle of Okinawa. Now, most of those who fought in World War II are either dead or in their nineties.

Much has been written about the disappearance of these members of the Greatest Generation—there are now over 1,000 veterans passing away per day. Of the 16 million who at one time served in the American military during World War II, only about a half-million are still alive.

Military historians, of course, lament the loss of their first-hand recollections of battle. The collective memories of these veterans were never systematically recorded and catalogued. Yet even in haphazard fashion, their stories of dropping into Sainte-Mère-Église or surviving a sinking Liberty ship in the frigid North Atlantic have offered correctives about the war otherwise impossible to attain from the data of national archives.

More worrisome, however, is that the collective ethos of the World War II generation is fading. It may not have been fully absorbed by the Baby Boomer generation and has not been fully passed on to today’s young adults, the so-called Millennials. While U.S. soldiers proved heroic and lethal in Afghanistan and Iraq, their sacrifices were never commensurately appreciated by the larger culture.

The generation that came of age in the 1940s had survived the poverty of the Great Depression to win a global war that cost 60 million lives, while participating in the most profound economic and technological transformation in human history as a once rural America metamorphosed into a largely urban and suburban culture of vast wealth and leisure.

Their achievement from 1941 to 1945 remains unprecedented. The United States on the eve of World War II had an army smaller than Portugal’s. It finished the conflict with a global navy larger than all of the fleets of the world put together. By 1945, America had a GDP equal to those of Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the British Empire combined. With a population 50 million people smaller than that of the USSR, the United States fielded a military of roughly the same size.

America almost uniquely fought at once in the Pacific, Asia, the Mediterranean, and Europe, on and beneath the seas, in the skies, and on land. On the eve of the war, America’s military and political leaders, still traumatized by the Great Depression, fought bitterly over modest military appropriations, unsure of whether the country could afford even a single additional aircraft carrier or another small squadron of B-17s. Yet four years later, civilians had built 120 carriers of various types and were producing a B-24 bomber at the rate of one an hour at the Willow Run factory in Michigan. Such vast changes are still difficult to appreciate.

Certainly, what was learned through poverty and mayhem by those Americans born in the 1920s became invaluable in the decades following the war. The World War II cohort was a can-do generation who believed that they did not need to be perfect to be good enough. The strategic and operational disasters of World War II—the calamitous daylight bombing campaign of Europe in 1942-43, the quagmire of the Heurtgen Forest, or being surprised at the Battle of Bulge—hardly demoralized these men and women.

Miscalculations and follies were not blame-gamed or endlessly litigated, but were instead seen as tragic setbacks on the otherwise inevitable trajectory to victory. When we review their postwar technological achievements—from the interstate highway system and California Water Project to the Apollo missions and the Lockheed SR-71 flights—it is difficult to detect comparable confidence and audacity in subsequent generations. To paraphrase Nietzsche, anything that did not kill those of the Old Breed generation made them stronger and more assured.

As an ignorant teenager, I once asked my father whether the war had been worth it. After all, I smugly pointed out, the “victory” had ensured the postwar empowerment and global ascendance of the Soviet Union. My father had been a combat veteran during the war, flying nearly 40 missions over Japan as the central fire control gunner in a B-29. He replied in an instant, “You win the battle in front of you and then just go on to the next.”

I wondered where his assurance came. Fourteen of 16 planes—each holding eleven crewmen—in his initial squadron of bombers were lost to enemy action or mechanical problems. The planes were gargantuan, problem-plagued, and still experimental—and some of them also simply vanished on the 3,000-mile nocturnal flight over the empty Pacific from Tinian to Tokyo and back.

As a college student, I once pressed him about my cousin and his closest male relative, Victor Hanson, a corporal of the Sixth Marine Division who was killed on the last day of the assault on Sugar Loaf Hill on Okinawa. Wasn’t the unimaginative Marine tactic of plowing straight ahead through entrenched and fortified Japanese positions insane? He answered dryly, “Maybe, maybe not. But the enemy was in the way, then Marines took them out, and they were no longer in the way.”

My father, William F. Hanson, died when I was 45 and I still recall his advice whenever I am at an impasse, personally or professionally. “Just barrel ahead onto the next mission.” Such a spirit, which defined his generation, is the antithesis of the therapeutic culture that is the legacy of my generation of Baby Boomers—and I believe it explains everything from the spectacular economic growth of the 1960s to the audacity of landing a man on the moon.

On rare occasions over the last thirty years, I’ve run into hard-left professors who had been combat pilots over Germany or fought the Germans in Italy. I never could quite muster the energy to oppose them; they seemed too earnest and too genuine in what I thought were their mistaken views. I mostly kept quiet, recalling Pericles’s controversial advice that a man’s combat service and sacrifice for his country should wash away his perceived blemishes. Perhaps it’s an amoral and illogical admonition, but it has nonetheless stayed with me throughout the years. It perhaps explains why I look at John F. Kennedy’s personal foibles in a different light from those similar excesses of Bill Clinton. A man, I tend to think, should be judged by his best moments rather than his worst ones.

Growing up with a father, uncles, and cousins who struggled to maintain our California farm during the Depression and then fought in an existential war was a constant immersion in their predominantly tragic view of life. Most were chain smokers, ate and drank too much, drove too fast, avoided doctors, and were often impulsive—as if in their fifties and sixties, they were still prepping for another amphibious assault or day-time run over the Third Reich. Though they viewed human nature with suspicion, they were nonetheless upbeat—their Homeric optimism empowered by an acceptance of a man’s limitations during his brief and often tragic life. Time was short; but heroism was eternal. “Of course you can” was their stock reply to any hint of uncertainty about a decision. The World War II generation had little patience with subtlety, or even the suggestion of indecision—how could it when such things would have gotten them killed at Monte Cassino or stalking a Japanese convoy under the Pacific in a submarine?

After the stubborn poverty and stasis of the Great Depression, the Old Breed saw the challenge of World War II as redemptive—a pragmatic extension of President Franklin Roosevelt news-conference confession that the “Old Dr. New Deal” had been supplanted by the new “Dr. Win-the-War” in restoring prosperity.

One lesson of the war on my father’s generation was that dramatic action was always preferable to incrementalism, even if that meant that the postwar “best and brightest” would sometimes plunge into unwise policies at home or misadventures abroad. Another lesson the World War II generation learned—a lesson now almost forgotten—was that perseverance and its twin courage were the most important of all collective virtues. What was worse than a bad war was losing it. And given their sometimes tragic view of human nature, the Old Breed believed that winning changed a lot of minds, as if the policy itself was not as important as the appreciation that it was working.

In reaction to the stubborn certainty of our fathers, we of the Baby Boomer generation prided ourselves on introspection, questioning authority, and nuance. We certainly saw doubt and uncertainty as virtues rather than vices—but not necessarily because we saw these traits as correctives to the excesses of the GIs. Rather, as one follows the trajectory of my generation, whose members are now in their sixties and seventies, it is difficult not to conclude that we were contemplative and critical mostly because we could be—our mindset being the product of a far safer, more prosperous, and leisured society that did not face the existential challenges of those who bequeathed such bounty to us. Had the veterans of Henry Kaiser’s shipyards been in charge of California’s high-speed rail project, they would have built on time and on budget, rather than endlessly litigating various issues as costs soared in pursuit of a mythical perfection.

The logical conclusion of our cohort’s emphasis on “finding oneself” and discovering an “inner self” is the now iconic ad of a young man in pajamas sipping hot chocolate while contemplating signing up for government health insurance. Such, it seems, is the arrested millennial mindset. The man-child ad is just 70 years removed from the eighteen-year-olds who fought and died on Guadalcanal and above Schweinfurt, but that disconnect now seems like an abyss over centuries. One cannot loiter one’s mornings away when there is a plane to fly or a tank to build. I am not sure that presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower were always better men than were presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, but they were certainly bigger in the challenges they faced and the spirit in which they met them.

This Thanksgiving, let us give a toast to the millions who are no longer with us and the thousands who will soon depart this earth. They gave us a world far better than they inherited.

Battleship USS West Virginia sunk and burning at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In background is the battleship USS Tennessee.

 

Black smoke rises from the burning wrecks of several U.S. Navy battleships after they had been bombed during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. (AP Photo)
The wreckage of a drug store smolders at Waikiki after attack by Japanese planes, Dec. 7 1941. (AP Photo)
7th December 1941: A picture taken from a Japanese bomber showing another Japanese plane and plumes of black smoke on the ground during the attack on Pearl Harbour (Pearl Harbor). (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
“Japanese cabinet meets in emergency session,” is the bulletin shown in Times Square’s news zipper in lights on the New York Times building, New York, Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo/Robert Kradin)
American ships burn during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1942. (AP Photo)
Black smoke pours from the U.S. Destroyer USS Shaw after a direct hit by bombs during the surprise aerial attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. Defenders on the pier at left throw water into the blazing wreckage. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)
December 1941: The horror of destruction at the US Naval Base of Pearl Harbour (Pearl Harbor) which without warning was attacked by the Japanese airforce on the 7th December 1941. The attack caused the USA to join the war. Seen here is the wreckage of a Japanese fighter bomber brought down during the attack. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
A small boat rescues a USS West Virginia crew member from the water after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941 during World War II. Two men can be seen on the superstructure, upper center. The mast of the USS Tennessee is beyond the burning West Virginia. (AP Photo)
The horror of destruction at the US Naval Base of Pearl Harbour (Pearl Harbor) which was attacked without warning by the Japanese airforce on the 7th December 1941. The attack took place whilst the Japanese were holding peace talks in Washington. More than 2000 servicemen were killed, and a large part of the US fleet destroyed. The attack caused the USA to join the war. This salvage crew is on the deck of the USS Oklahoma sunk on the night of the attack. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
A Japanese plane, braving American anti-aircraft fire, proceeds toward “battleship row,” Pearl Harbor, after other bombers had hit USS. Arizona, from which smoke billows, Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo)

 

 

Pamela Geller's shocking new book, "FATWA: HUNTED IN AMERICA" is now available on Amazon. It's Geller's tell all, her story - and it's every story - it's what happens when you stand for freedom today. Buy it. Now. Here.

  • Suresh

    Those were quaint days . you knew your enemies and could hate them .

    But now Left/Liberals and pro-jihadis and jihadis are wiithin and outside America trying to bring it down.

    we have Islamonazi demanding we stop honoring American soldiers during Memorial day and instead honor Jihadis killed by American Soldiers just the way Palestine govt does to its jihadis !

    Hard to believe ? check http://bit.ly/2qvcHov

    And why are such scumbags who cannot even respect our soldiers deported after rescinding their citizenship rights & for supporting jihadi terrorists ?

  • IzlamIsTyranny

    It’s interesting that before JP attacked the US, a squadron of US-built, manned and maintained fighter aircraft were fighting against JP in China and ALL the pilots, maintenance men and commanding officer just happened to be recently discharged US service men.

  • Mahou Shoujo

    This is what it took to get America of the day to fight tyranny and oppression. 9-11 and subsequent atrocities and sneak attacks have not been enough to get the free world to fight islam.

    • Our military did as told

      Our military fought them. But our politicians did not have the balls to direct our military to beat them into submission. That would not be politically correct. So, they continue working to destroy the world with the help of liberals in all nations; and if we point this out we’re called all sorts of evil names – xxxphobe, xxxist, etc..

  • We are losing these people everyday. And, we’re stuck with these millennial BRATS.
    Makes me so sad

  • AR154U☑ᵀʳᵘᵐᵖ DEPLORABLE 2020
    • George W – crying in his grave

      Very sad to watch the decline of our country.

    • Mahou Shoujo

      The girl in the lower left is the ugliest one of the bunch.

      • Cai

        LOL……Good one Mahou

      • Mark Steiner

        FUN-ny!

  • robert v g

    Thanks again to Greatest gen.,many of whom I have had the privilege of knowing.

  • USA or USS Titanic? we’ll see

    “The attack took place whilst the Japanese were holding peace talks in Washington.” Did someone shoot the bastards?

    Each year on Dec 7 the light on top of Mt. Diablo in the east SF Bay Area is lit. It can be seen for many miles.

    https://www.ebtoday.com/stories/the-light-on-mt-diablo

    The story talked about someone “deciding” to buy government health insurance. Today, if you don’t have health insurance thru work you are FORCED to buy goobermint HI, and if you don’t buy it, they fine you!
    Many of those folks in WW2 knew what hard physical work was. Today, many have never done physical work, much less hard physical work – we’re softies; pussies as Clint Eastwood would say.
    Will this nation survive? I am not sure, but, yes, we must thank those who fight our enemies so we can give it our best shot in freedom.

    • Hope the USA survives

      Another story on the Mt. Diablo light:

      http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Mt-Diablo-beacon-restored-for-Pearl-Harbor-4917919.php

      What are the main reasons for the decline of the USA since those days? I’ll guess:
      1) less religious population
      2) goobermint schools
      3) liberalism
      4) welfare
      5) illegal immigration
      6) add to the list……..
      Bet all the technological achievements from the 20th century were not made by people who studied Common Core math, how evil America is, and how to put a condom on a cucumber.

  • Alleged-Comment

    THERE is only one thing. Americans did this on purpose and sacrificed PH to get into the war. Many stories abound they knew the attack was coming.

    Somebody is guilty of MURDER here like at 9/11. Those few up there, who gives them the right who is to live and who is to DIE for their greed and avarice and phony patriotism??

  • Drew the Infidel

    The attacks of 9/11 we’re this generation’s Pearl Harbor. And those currently graduating from high school were not even an idea when it happened.

  • James Stamulis

    Baby boomers are not the worst generation by a long shot and remember it was the Tea Party that was a thorn in Obama’s side trying to wake people up and us baby boomers were in Vietnam, Iraq etc fighting and dying and Trump BTW is a baby boomer. The worst generation is the result of many decades of liberal brainwashing and their final product are the social justice warrior cupcakes known as millennials. Yes Clinton was a baby boomer but like in anything there is good and bad in all groups.

  • Poppey

    The tragedy for those at Pearl caught up in that was that probably unknown to them on the 11 of November one year before, the Royal Navy had launched Swordfish torpedo strike aircraft from fleet carriers and attacked and sunk major units of the Italian Mediterranean battle fleet at Taranto harbour in Italy.

    The Japs noticed, I’m not sure anyone else did.

  • Midnattsol

    Roosvelt turned back Jewish refugees from Europe, and there is several stories that he knew the attack was coming, but he is considered a “hero.” The Japanese internment came from his orders too.

    • Mark Steiner

      Roosevelt also knew the attack was coming. Adm. Kimmel and Gen. Short never received the intelligence they needed. Of course, they were cashiered.

  • Merchantseamen

    Thank You Pam. Great piece. I have been “studying” World War II for almost 50 years. Three uncles a father and many friends of the family all served during the war. They came home and lived life the best they could. I know the 60’s really hurt them and yes the politicians are to blame. FDR gave the order and the Generals fulfilled the mission without his mettling. Unlike presidents who came after him. Now we have life costing “Rules of Engagement” for fear of hurting someones feelings for blowing their brains out. What crap.

  • joe1429

    If todays politicians were in charge… would be speakin German

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