December 7, 1941, 68 years ago today is a date that was slated to “live in infamy.” Then president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, addressed Congress and the nation with a speech that began,
“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
This date marked our country being drawn into the already ongoing war that would now and forever be known as World War Two, the bloodiest conflict in the recorded history of our planet. After the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, we as a country came together with resolve to end the tyranny of the Nazi's, Fascist and Imperial Japanese.
In time, the allied forces drew the conflict to a victorious close. Life began anew as war weary Veterans came home and began raising families and building businesses. Memorials were erected across the nation to honor those that paid the ultimate sacrifice to beat back the enemy and grant even them the freedom to rejoin the nations of the world.
One such Memorial still rests on the bottom of Pearl Harbor. The rusting hulk of the United States Battleship, USS Arizona with over one thousand of her crew forever entombed within her hull.
Each year, fewer and fewer aging Veterans travel to her to pay homage to their fallen heroes, their numbers dwindling at a rapid rate today. Former enemies stand together in respect of the crew and others who gave their lives to bring freedom back to the world. Some have difficulty facing each other, old wounds coming up just below the surface of these men, but they all show respect for those who paid the ultimate price of freedom.
General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur, in accepting the unconditional surrender of the Japanese aboard the decks of the Battleship USS Missouri said in part,
“It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past -- a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice.”
America vowed to never be caught off guard like that again as we began a peacetime draft of a war ready Military with around the clock watches worldwide as a former ally returned to their villainous conquest of free nations.
Nearly 5 decades later, that “evil empire,” the communist Soviet Union imploded and collapsed upon itself, freeing even more nations from oppression.
During the 5 decades of the “Cold War,” voices that before were marginalized and ignored gained favor and were accepted wherever they spoke against our resolve to remain a free people. Agents of the Soviet Union successfully infiltrated and fed leftist groups sympathetic to the Soviet Cause and convinced all too many that standing for freedom was no longer noble, but a suckers game.
Where our resolve saw us through in keeping South Korea free from Communist aggression, these anti-war voices misled the populace, causing many to look upon the brave sacrifices of our Troops in standing up against Communist aggression in another Southeast Asian county with scorn.
They had us abandon that country to the dark days of years of Communist oppression, millions of their citizens just disappearing.
Elected leaders who spoke out against this evil empire of communism were ridiculed, scoffed at and undermined, some being driven from office and replaced by more leftist who had no resolve to protect the country, falsely believing all we needed to do was appease enemies to avoid war, ignoring that appeasement did not stop the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor long ago.
But, those officials stood fast. They faced communist leaders and the empire collapsed.
Almost immediately, those who favor appeasement began dismantling our around the clock guarding of the country. They spoke of a “peace dividend” and an end to war.
They lulled the nation back to sleep, almost as it was prior to that fateful day in December 1941. The growing threat of another enemy to mankind, even more brutal and savage than before seen was ignored, in spite of nearly three decades of attacks.
They were treated as criminal matters, marginalized as random events or excused as retribution for our own foreign policies from long ago.
Small skirmishes or limited missile strikes were launched in half-hearted strikes against the threat, but it did not deter this new enemy, it only gave them the resolve to continue coming as they saw this powerful nation as on its knees, merely a “paper tiger” now.
Our Military’s were “down sized” and intelligence agencies gutted.
Forgotten was the lesson of needed vigilance learned by an earlier generation at Pearl Harbor as yet another early day saw our country once again “suddenly and deliberately attacked” by high jacked airliners flown into civilian buildings occupied by thousands of innocent people just beginning their days ritual of work.
The death toll of September 11, 2001 exceeded that of the Pearl Harbor Attack as the country rallied behind our president and Troops as once again we went to war to push back an enemy that threatens the peace.
Unlike 1941 though, the country’s resolve for victory was short lived as opportunistic politicians began seeing their chance at seizing political power.
Instead of fighting the radical Jihadists, calls for investigation of the president permeated the air in efforts to have him removed from office. Some of the most ludicrous conspiracy theories were advanced as truths with little or no evidence.
Our Troops were sent off to battle and as we saw in Southeast Asia, prevented from engaging the enemy by “rules of engagement” as politicians decided we must play “nice” with those who would brutally behead our people they captured.
The same “anti-war” voices granted voice in the 1960’s regained their voices and actively hamper the effort at defeating this enemy drowning out the resolve shown shortly after September 11, 2001.
President Roosevelt genuinely felt that December 7, 1941 was a “date that will live in infamy.” He didn’t count on a loud voice from within that cannot even remember September 11, 2001 68 years after.
President Roosevelt told the country,
“No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”
In the midst of the Cold War, then President John F. Kennedy told us,
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001 former President George W. Bush said,
“This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.”
Current President Barack H. Obama, after delaying nearly 3 months, announces fewer Troops to the war effort than sought and gives a date he intends to begin to quit.
Gone is that resolve for victory, replaced by talk of limited engagement, exit strategy or it costs too much.
Sorry President Roosevelt, but that day you thought would “live in infamy” does seem largely forgotten today.