December 7, 1941 transformed the lives of every American even more completely than the September 11, 2001 attacks did two generations later. Young Americans from all corners of the United States suddenly saw the scope of their world change radically. For most, their lives consisted of all the Depression Era travails of trying to establish a foothold in the job market, or somehow finding a way to get an education. Most had not traveled, few had been overseas. They lived in quiet small towns, on farms or in cities still reeling from the labor unrest and high unemployment rates that had become hallmarks of the previous decade.
The Pearl Harbor attack scattered the Greatest Generation across the globe. Kids from small town America found themselves fighting and bleeding in places they had never heard of before December 7, 1941. Yet, those far flung places would forever be pivotal moments in their lives, and the memories the “lucky” ones carried home would haunt them for their remaining years.
There were three wartime anniversaries of the Pearl Harbor attack. Each one was exploited for its propaganda and political value by the domestic media, but for the individual Soldier, Sailor, Aviator and Marine, these anniversaries had profound personal meaning. For them, it marked the end of their peaceful lives and the start of a new arc that would test their mental, spiritual and physical endurance.
They were caught up in a high tide of events far beyond their control, but ultimately each played a part in reshaping the world through the victories they secured.
May we be grateful for all they gave up for that victory, and may we strive to ensure that no generation, from any nation, endure such a crucible again. Peace to all of you, and best wishes for this holiday season.