Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dec. 7, 1941 A Day That Will Live In Infamy

Where were you on that fateful day? The day that certainly changed the world as we knew or as we were to come to know it. There was a war raging in Europe conducted by a mad man who had controlled Germany and had the the Axis with Italy, and Japan, Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito. The United States was sitting on the sidelines waiting to see when it would or could jump into the European battle. But the USA's time line was no longer left up to the Americans to make the decision as Japan launched a surprise attack on our Naval base destroying most of our Navy killing about 2,400 of our people. So with one master stroke by Japan we were in the middle of a war on two fronts, the European Theatre of Operations and the Pacific Theatre of Operations. The fighting would go on for almost four years and the aftereffects forever.

The Japanese society forever changed from a war-like, cruel one, with women who were sub-servant to the men to a gentler almost loving society with women who desired and became westernized like the "round eyes". Europe took advantage of the Marshal Plan to become economically powerful with Germany leading the way. Who were some of the enemies of the United States became allies as the heavy boot of Marxist Russia came down heavily on their necks. Because of the war many young male citizens were drafted sapping the strength of the home work force. Women were drafted into the jobs of the men, "Rosie The Riveta" was born and women never were to return exclusively to be masters of the home rather they remained in the workforce demanding equality of everything. The women are still demanding everything and forcing change in all aspects of our lives from the workplace to the bedroom. All these changes and more were brought about and still evolving because of that fateful day.

 But this started with the question, where were YOU on that fateful day (?). Many who experienced that day are no longer with us and most of the living weren't with us some seventy years ago and have their own days and wars such as The Korean War, The Vietnam War and 9/11 which started the War on Terror. As for me I was seven going to be eight in two months and had finished Sunday lunch of Spaghetti and Meatballs, sitting in the backyard of the Saviolas with my friend Frankie and his kid brother. As I remember it was a sunny not particularly cold day and I had overheard my parents discussing what they had just heard over the radio that the Japs (that's what we called them then, remember they were our enemies), had just bombed the heck out of us in a far away place we owned called Hawaii. We were at war and we kids played war games where we, the Americans, beat our enemies everytime. All the grownups wore serious expressions on very grave faces for they knew that the draft that had been in effect for a while was going to become more intense and that our young brothers, and children were going to die in defense of our country. I don't remember much more than that, being in Queens Borough Hill, Flushing, at home on that day. I remember some of the other things about that time though.

My favorite Uncle had to leave for Fort Totten for basic training a few months earlier because our country was preparing to defend ourselves for an oncoming war. He was at the bottom of the stairs to our finished basement and I was on the top I called out his name, he turned and I jumped the whole flight and he caught me hugging me tightly and laughing. We kissed and he left. He did return from many battles safe and sound but never the same man.

The Monday following, Dec. 8, 1941, I had to go to school of course, PS 120. I was on a bathroom pass visit when I ran into a fellow schoolmate who was six months older than I. We talked about being Japped (Already there were derogatory names being attached to our enemies, the Germans were Heinies like behinds, the Italians had enough derogatory names so I don't remember any new ones coming up). We wondered what we would do if the Japs were to invade. I remember that we thought they were small so we'd just beat them up the way Joe Louis beat up all the heavyweight contenders he faced.

My favorite Uncle fought in the Pacific, amphibious Tanks. His letters were like photostats with many lines crossed out. My Grandmother, his mother lived with us and she was led to believe he was in California all this time. My Grandmother was born in 1875 to a poor family and had very little schooling. My Mom would intercept the V-Mail before her mother could get it. Then my mom would re-write the letter, put it in an envelope and mail it. When it came back she'd open it in front of my grandmother and read it to her. My grandmother never suspected the deception and never worried that her son would be killed. My father was too old to go in but many of my cousins saw action, one was seriously wounded, almost killed and carries the bullets around in him today, another received a battlefield commission and accommodation for bravery in action, another saw a lot of action and came out as crazy as he was before he went in. There were many windows that hung stars  and the gold ones signified a lost son, a fallen warrior.

Yes Dec. 7, 1941 for us Americans a day that will live in infamy but also a day that brought good changes.

We helped stop the mad man in Europe, gave Japan a second better life and gave women a chance to become freer and  independent. I'm not sure that was a good thing. (Only joking) We weren't all good though. We treated our Japanese citizens deplorably shipping them off to camps and causing them much hardships. I don't remember the Italians or Germans being subjected to any of that type of thing even though German Town, around 86 Street in New York City, had trouble with the Bund and such. Peculiar though it may be but all the killing, all the hatred, all the tears wrought on the world because of WW II, more good than bad came out of it all. The problem is that the world in general hasn't yet learned that hatred is destructive and only love can bring civilization to the brink of peace on earth to men of good will.  
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