December 7, 2011––December 7, 1941
Seventy years ago. An unbelievable happening. A jarring wake-up on a peaceful Sunday morning.
I expect my parents more fully recognized the seriousness of what our nation was facing than I. I was still young (really, now, I was), and although the semi-weekly newspaper had been filled with reports of the war in Europe, that was far away, That was a world away.
My dad was an independent man who had chosen the life of a farmer, partly because he loved growing things and the outdoors, but also because he wanted the freedom of doing his work the way he thought best, free of interference from anyone.
By this date, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt had been in office almost eleven years and in his efforts to move the country out of its deep depression, had promoted many new laws, some extremely beneficial, some very restrictive, and some determined to be unconstitutional. My dad, the independent farmer, had found himself being told what to do, when to do it, and how. He expressed his opinion of our nation's leader quite frequently and quite expressively, all negative.
So, is it any wonder that the two most memorable statements of the next day were, first, President Roosevelt declaring in that unmatched ringing voice of his: "We are at war." and second, my father saying, "Dannie, you've heard me criticizing our President, but you'll not hear another critical word. We are at war and he is our Commander-in-Chief."
What a hornet's nest that attack had disturbed. Going to war meant winning the war, and that's exactly what we intended to do. Men 'joined up.' Women went to work outside their homes. We bought War Bonds to help finance it, and endured severe rationing in order to supply our troops. Old methods of manufacturing were trashed and the assembly line created. Classmates were drafted or volunteered. And before the year was over, we learned some would never return.
Those who were left on the home front listened to heavily censored news. Letters from servicemen had sections blacked out. The newsreels we saw at the movies (no home TV watching of an invasion) were horrible, showing burning convoys of ships, bombing runs and then the resulting devastation. There was an unspoken fear––were we going to be able to win this war?
Tonight, I saw the faces of survivors of Pearl Harbor––old weathered and wrinkled faces of men in their late eighties and nineties. There were photos of the young men they had been and there were a few stories of their war years that followed. To see those old warriors, to remember the battles they fought for our country, should make us all stop and give serious thought to what we have––and why we have it.