The attack on Pearl Harbor happened way before my time, Modern Philosophers, but I often reflect on how it might have affected my father’s life.
He was a couple of months shy of turning 16 when the attack occurred. I’ve tried to put myself in his shoes, and consider what might have been going through his head when he heard about what happened.
Nothing occurred in my life when I was almost 16 that I possibly could compare to this moment. The closest I get is my senior year at college, gathering around the TV in my dorm room with my friends, and watching the coverage of our attack on Iraq.
At the time, all I could think about was hoping I wouldn’t get drafted to fight in a war halfway around the world.
It’s not that I was a coward.
Or maybe I was. Let’s be honest.
I just didn’t want to die. I wasn’t a soldier. I wasn’t brave. I was a Film Major who’d seen too many Vietnam War flicks, and knew I’d never be able to handle life in the Armed Forces.
My Dad, on the other hand, enlisted in the Marine Corps and wound up stationed in Japan during the occupation.
He didn’t wait to get drafted. He volunteered to fight for his country.
My Dad would never talk about his time in the Marines during the war. WWII, “The Big One” as my stepbrother used to call it.
I remember a Japanese flag in the house, that I assume he had brought back from his time overseas.
The one story he ever shared was that the first time he rode a motorcycle was while he was stationed in Japan.
I remember him saying something about being on Okinawa.
I always wondered how close he was when the bomb was dropped, but could never get up the courage to ask him about it.
After my Dad died, I made a futile attempt to get his records from the USMC. When that didn’t work, I took to devouring every book I could on the Marines and the role they played in World War II.
I wanted to at least have some idea of what it must have been like for the teenager, who signed up to fight a war halfway around the world.
Was it because of what happened on this day in 1941?
I wish I had pressed him about it.
I would have loved to have understood his mindset, especially knowing that the idea of being drafted had frightened me so much.
It’s a day we will never forget, and one which I’ll also wonder about in terms of my Dad.
Sadly, I’ve never met a veteran yet that was in combat and could talk about what it was like. My older brother received a Purple Heart serving in Vietnam and he would never talk about his time there. I was with my husband for 30 years and he never could talk about the two years he spent in the jungles of Vietnam. My wish for the World is that no one has to suffer the consequences of another war.
here’s to your dad and all the other brave souls –
Here’s to your dad and all that he and service people like him did for our country, Austin.
Austin, I can share one data point for you to help clarify the timeline. The day the first atomic bomb was dropped, Okinawa was under Allied control. An invasion force was in a bay in Okinawa, loading for the invasion of the Japanese home islands. My father was in the Navy crew of one of those transport ships. He didn’t talk about WWII until he was in his 80s and going to ship reunions. Even then he said little.
Thank you for sharing that..
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