From the Archive: Memorial Day Remembrance
On December 7, 1941, Japanese carrier-based airplanes, in a surprise attack, struck the U.S. Pacific Fleet, based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In a raid lasting less than two hours, they sank four battleships and damaged four more. The crippling of the U.S. Navy was an essential aspect in the plans of Japanese expansion throughout the Pacific — an expansion that would ultimately threaten Australian sovereignty. On December 11, Germany and Italy joined their ally in declaring war on the United States.
By the end of December, the Japanese had taken British Hong Kong and had invaded the American-held Philippines. The American and Philippine forces surrendered at Bataan on April 9, and resistance in the Philippines ended with the surrender of Corregidor on May 6.
The Axis was riding a high tide by midsummer 1942. Stalingrad and the Caucases oil were seemingly within Hitler’s grasp, and Rommel was within striking distance of the Suez Canal. The Japanese had occupied Guadalcanal and were marching on Port Moresby.
What if that scenario was indicative of the final outcome? The primary democracies in the world today would be globally dominated by brutal dictatorships.
Japanese aggression rested on the belief that the Untied States would not be willing to fight long or hard enough to win. The leaders of Japan could not have been more wrong. The generation that had fought its way through the Great Depression (As a boy of 11, my Dad and his brothers made 10 cents an hour hoeing corn for 12 hours a day in the hot Virginia summer.) had more than enough resolve to see this war through to its end.
The victory over tyranny would require the focus and efforts of the entire nation. Sixteen million military personnel would serve in Europe and the Pacific. Over 400,000 would be killed; over 600,000 would be injured — but they would pay the necessary price for victory.
This Memorial Day weekend, Americans will celebrate the beginning of summer — with little thought on the part of many to the fact that our abundance and pleasure required the ultimate sacrifice of many before us.
Never forget: We enjoy living because others were willing to die.
From the Bulletin Article Archives, circa 2005.