December 7, 1941–A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Driving down one of the busiest streets of Oklahoma City today, I noticed a flag at a local business flying at half-staff.  It was the only one on that block.  I’m sure many people wondered about it. 

But I remembered

December 7, 1941…the day the U.S. was brought into World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. 

Through the years, my mother recounted tales brought home from “over there” by her relatives who enlisted.  She talked also about the rationing here at home—how difficult it was to get needed items, and how impossible it was to get luxuries.  She was 19 when the U.S. entered the war—just the very age of so many of the young men who were killed in the surprise attack on December 7, 1941.  Was there a man of that age who didn’t rush down to sign up for duty after that fateful day?  Many of her fellow students and co-workers did just that, and during the course of the next four years of war, many of them were lost. 

My father tried to sign up, but his lungs were bad.  He was turned away.  I think he was always ashamed of that, because until the day he died, he had one of the most patriotic hearts I’ve ever known.  Secretly, when I was old enough to realize what that might have meant, I was glad that he had not had to go to war.  I knew that would have changed everything in my world. 

Being as close as it was to Christmas made the deaths of the men at Pearl Harbor even more poignant.  Just done with Thanksgiving, looking forward to the Christmas holidays to come, so many young lives snuffed out in the space of minutes. Watching the documentaries, hearing the old soldiers that are left from that time talk about the horror of that day, and of war in general, brings tears to my eyes. 

 

I’m always amazed by the generations that have gone before us, and how they stood up and faced adversity when it was required of them.  Being human, as we all are, the unknown was just as frightening to them as it is to us.  We tend to forget it, somehow, because of the luxury and comforts of our modern lives that we have become used to.  We have let ourselves become numb, in a way, and what’s worse—we have forgotten.

 

We have forgotten what the generations before us sacrificed for us, their future.  We have forgotten how to honor the memory of those men and women, and what they did, individually and collectively.  

I counted flagpoles the rest of the way home from that one, lonely half-staff flag—about a mile and a half to my house.  There was only one other pole along that route that flew their flag half-staff in memory of that day seventy years ago.  A day that ended in smoke, and fire, drowning and death…and war. 

Something peculiar occurs to me.  I have been alive during the time when the last surviving widow of a veteran of The War Between The States died.  I have been alive during the time that the last survivor of World War I died.  There are not that many survivors left of World War II.  Yet, our schools pass over these huge, world-altering events as if they are nothing, devoting a page or less to them in the history texts.  Think of it.  A page or less, to tell of the suffering, the economic impact, the technological discoveries, and the loss of humanity of each of these wars. 

No wonder our society has forgotten the price paid by those who laid down their lives.  When we don’t teach our children, and learn from the past, history is bound to repeat itself.  

President Franklin Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941 as “a day that will live in infamy.”  That statement, spoken so boldly, believed so strongly, held so close to the hearts of that generation, is only true as long as the next generation, and the one beyond that, remembers.

 

Well, many years have passed since those brave men are gone

And those cold ocean waters now are still and they’re calm.

Well, many years have passed, but still I wonder why,

The worst of men must fight and the best of men must die.

(From REUBEN JAMES, by WOODY GUTHRIE) 

 

 

Cheryl Pierson
A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: https://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 37 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
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25 Comments

  1. Thank you for this post, Cheryl. It’s so sad, but true how many youth (and not so young) no nothing or next to nothing about the sacrifices made for the life they enjoy today. It’s so disheartening how history classes are seen as unnecessary in our schools to push math and science when knowing and understanding our past and honoring those who sacrificed is so very important.

    –Kirsten

  2. Cheryl, thank you for your thoughtful, heartfelt post. Even those of us who know the sacrifices made in the past need to be reminded on occasion.

    Hugs, Margaret

  3. Chery – Thank you for your heart-touching post. I think all America would benefit by reading these words. Well said!

  4. A wonderful reminder, Cheryl.

  5. Kirsten,
    I remember when my sisters were in junior high and high school back in the early 60’s. Russia had just launched Sputnik, and the US was scrambling because suddenly they were worried that our youth was not “keeping up”–what I remember about those years (I was only about 3-7 during that time) was how much homework my sisters brought home every single night–seemingly all in math and science. I believe that’s when this push began and history began to be left behind, and de-valued. One of my son’s friends decided to become a geography major. He’s the only one in that group that isn’t majoring in some kind of math, science or technology. It really is sad how our schools just push this all aside and think they can “make it up” by having a Veterans’ Day assembly or something. I look for that to be the next thing to go. Thanks so much for commenting.
    Cheryl

  6. Margaret,
    Thanks so much. I agree with you. To me, it is so amazing to think that that has “only” been 70 years in the past. Just mind boggling, really. Well worth a reminder, for sure.
    Cheryl

  7. Lori,
    Thank you! That is very very sweet of you to say. I wish there was something we could do to turn the tide of what’s being taught and emphasized in our schools. My son had a wonderful history teacher who really stirred his love for history his sophomore and junior years in high school. My daughter discovered her love for history in a college religion class she took. It’s just a shame they don’t spend a bit more time on it.
    Cheryl

  8. Wonderful post,,,ive been to pearl harbor,,it actually made me ill when we went to the Arizon memorial just the thoughts of those soldiers still under sea after all these years,,,an the bullet holes are still in some of the building at Hickem airforce base,,,its a odd feeling to see it now I cant imagine at the time it happened,,,I too have lived thru some times I wish I hadnt seen but life goes on an we can only hope an pray we learn from the mistakes of our ppl that have gone on before us,,

  9. I remember when 9/11 happened and many of the words used for consellation were taken from the tragedy at Pearl Harbor. How do people find the presence of mind to say such heartfelt and consoling things at the worst of times.
    Some wars have to be fought. World War II was one of those wars where everything was at stake. I can’t imagine a world ruled by someone like Hitler.
    Amazing to me is the number of people who have so little knowledge or respect for history. Some years ago when I was triage nurse in the ER on December 7, I asked each person I tiaged what significance December 7 had to American history. Out of close to a hundred people that I triaged that day, only 2 knew that it was “the day that lives in infamy”, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked and America entered WWII. Both of the 2 people were over forty. Disheartening to say the least.
    Wonderful blog, Cheryl, and a great reminder of what a significant day it is today.

  10. I meant consolation–not constellation–like what’s up with the stars or something. LOL

  11. Vickie,
    That is one place I want to go–it’s on my bucket list, but not sure I’ll make it at this point. LOL I started writing a story about a nurse who was there at Pearl Harbor and I still have not finished it. I have to put it down and come back to it later. Yes, I know what you mean about living through times we wish we hadn’t–the one that I was closest to in my life time was the Murrah Building bombing in 1995 by Tim McVeigh. We were here in OK City, with kids in school, both of us at work. That was a tough time, for sure. Thanks for stopping by!
    Cheryl

  12. Sarah,
    That reminds me of that thing that Jay Leno does where he asks people on the street about stuff that most everyone, you’d think, would know about. Some of the answers he gets! I don’t know how he keeps from just busting out laughing–probably because it IS so sad and disheartening that most people do not know or care about our history. You’re right, WWII had to be fought. I think people get complacent in their lives and don’t want to think about the painful things, but if we forget, those hard-won victories will be forgotten too, along with the sacrifices and deaths of so many people. Thanks so much for coming by, Sarah!
    Hugs,
    Cheryl

  13. Thanks Cheryl for your wonderful reminder. My dad was one of those few surviving WWII men, has recently passed – so few left. Now, my prayer is for those serving now for us.

  14. Thanks for a beautiful post, Cheryl. My dad enlisted in the navy after Pearl Harbor. He had a wife and small child (me) and another on the way. Still he went willingly. Remembering him, I understand why his is known as “the greatest generation.”

  15. Judy,

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my dad 4 years ago this month and of course, I still miss him. I know he always wished he had been accepted into the service, but with his lungs being so weak he probably wouldn’t have survived over there with all they went through. I’m with you–my prayer is for those still serving, and for those who came home with permanent physical and/or mental injury. A huge THANK YOU to all of them!
    Cheryl

  16. Elizabeth,
    You are right—they were the “greatest generation” and it’s sad to see them all leaving us. I don’t think there will ever be another generation like that one, do you? That had to be so hard to leave your mother and you, especially with your mom being pregnant again! What a true patriot he was!
    Cheryl

  17. Thank you Cheryl for this touching post.

  18. My daddy went to sign up also but he had four kids and they would not take him. I had family that fought in Italy, Germany and the Pacific. Thankfully no one was killed. I watched the history channel last night and they showed film of the attach.

  19. You are welcome, Liz. It’s just a small way of trying to keep their memory alive. Thanks for coming by.
    Cheryl

  20. OH GOLDIE! How hard that had to be for him to even think of leaving you all to go fight in the war. What a patriot he was, even though they wouldn’t take him. There are a lot of men who weren’t taken for various reasons, as my dad for his lungs and yours for his family commitments. They were all patriots, and did things here on the home front that needed to be “carried on” with. Your family was very lucky, as was mine-I had uncles, great uncles, etc. that fought and one was taken prisoner, but no one was killed. Thanks for coming by, Goldie.
    Cheryl

  21. This was a terrible day in the heart of the citizens of the United States.. I am honoured to take a moment and remember all those lives lost this day. I don’t know of any of my friends in the US to loose family memebers or friends on this tragic day in US History, but they will never be forgotten..

  22. thank you, Kathleen. It was something that we can never let be forgotten–thanks so much for commenting.
    Cheryl

  23. Hi Cheryl,
    I found your words very moving and sadly true. As time goes by we forget their sacrifice and sadder still that we neglect to teach our young about the greatest generation. Thanks for your moving reminder.

  24. Mary,
    THANK YOU for coming by. I know you are an “Army brat” and I’m sure your family sacrificed a lot through the years. Give your dad a hug and say thank you from me, will you?
    Hugs,
    Cheryl

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