Tag Archives: Pearl Harbor

Day of infamy? Maybe, to a degree

Jill Wine-Banks is a partisan Democrat and a lawyer who served on the legal staff of the Senate select committee that examined the Watergate scandal of the 1970s.

She needs, though, to calm down a bit while commenting on Donald Trump’s disgraceful performance at that Helsinki press conference with Vladimir Putin.

She said to describe the president’s comments about Russian meddling in our 2016 presidential election: “His performance today will live in infamy as much as the Pearl Harbor attack or Kristallnacht.”

Whoa, Mme. Counselor. Hold on!

Thousands of American sailors and airmen died at Pearl Harbor. Thousands of European Jews died during Kristallnacht.

No one has died as a result of Donald Trump’s disgraceful comments. I agree that Trump’s disparagement of our intelligence service and his embrace of Putin’s denial of wrongdoing regarding Russian meddling will live in infamy.

However, may we hold back on the hyperbole?

Happy birthday, America; you’re still great

Happy birthday, America.

You look pretty good for being 242 years of age. Allow me these brief thoughts as we light some fireworks, grill some chow outside in the summer heat and toast your ever-lasting and enduring greatness.

I want you to disregard the blathering of our current president, who campaigned for office and then took office vowing to “make America great again.” He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You’re still great. You’ve always been great.

And, yes, the 45th president isn’t the first occupant of that office to make such a claim. Others have done so. But this guy keeps harping on it. He wears that goofy “MAGA” hat at campaign rallies.

Now, even though we celebrate your greatness, America, I must concede that you haven’t been perfect. The founders said at the beginning of the Republic that “all men are created equal.”

They were short-sighted. Women weren’t allowed to vote. That right didn’t come until 1920, for crying out loud. Furthermore, many of the founders were slave holders. They held men, women and children in involuntary bondage.

You’ll recall, America, how we waged a bloody Civil War over slavery. We killed hundreds of thousands of Americans to preserve our Union and, yes, to free those enslaved families.

Civil rights battles have ensued. We marched in protest against wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. We endured a Great Depression. We were attacked at Pearl Harbor and then we went to war against tyranny in Europe and Asia.

We let our guard down on 9/11 and were attacked yet again by terrorists.

In spite of all that, we remain great. We allow people to complain openly about the government. We allow freedoms that other countries have emulated. We are free to worship as we please — or not worship at all if that’s what we choose.

We allow “due process” under the law. We grant liberty and freedom.

And despite what that president of ours insists, we remain a beacon that attracts immigrants from those around the world.

I am proud to be an American. I am proud of my country, warts and all. Believe me, America, you’ve grown a few more of them in recent years. However, I salute you.

Let’s all have a happy birthday, America.

USS Arizona still gets earned reverence

A social media acquaintance of mine has voiced an objection to the placing of a USS Arizona artifact eventually at the Texas Panhandle War Memorial.

She believes the Arizona is too sacred a place — a resting place for more than 1,000 U.S. servicemen — to be taken apart for display in other locations.

I will disagree with all due respect to this person.

I happen to endorse the idea of placing this artifact at the War Memorial. I also happen to agree with her that the USS Arizona — a World War I-era battle wagon that was sunk by Japanese bombers on Dec. 7, 1941 — is a sacred place.

But the ship’s hulk that rests on the bottom of Honolulu harbor isn’t being dismantled. It isn’t being taken apart. The sailors’ remains are still interred with the superstructure that sank during the attack. Thus, they haven’t been disturbed.

The USS Arizona serves to remind all Americans who came along after the Second World War of the sacrifices made by those who served in harm’s way.

We all can rest assured, in my view, that the War Memorial board — along with Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell, who engineered the delivery of the Arizona artifact — will ensure that it is displayed with all due respect and reverence.

As for the ship’s hulk that will serve forever as a reminder of the “date which will live in infamy,” it remains a sacred place.

Recalling the last time we were truly ‘united’

I heard a cable news talking head make an interesting point the other day. He spoke of the issues that drive wedges between the political parties — and between Americans. He was speaking of the intense divisions existing today.

The United States has been “truly united” just twice in the past century or so, he said. The first time was after the Pearl Harbor attack by Japanese aviators, the act that pulled us into World War II. The second time? It was 9/11, when those terrorists flew hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Oh, how those of us old enough to remember that day can recall the rage we all felt at the monsters who committed that dastardly act.

Today I saw through a two-hour film that transported me back to that time of unity. It’s called “12 Strong.” It tells the true story of a dozen U.S. Army Green Berets who were sent into Afghanistan a month after the terrorist attacks. Their mission was to destroy a Taliban military operation. They rode into battle … on horseback!

The film speaks of their loyalty to each other and of the commitment the unit’s commanding officer made, that all of them would survive their mission of extreme danger.

The mission only was recently declassified. Indeed, after these Special Forces returned home from their mission, they weren’t given anything like the heroes’ welcome they deserved. Their mission was kept super-secret. No one outside those who were involved directly knew what they did.

The film is intense to the max.

But I sat through it, cheering the bravery of our soldiers — and the bravery of the Northern Alliance Afghan fighters with whom they were teamed to fight the Taliban.

The film does remind us that this country is able to unite. Americans are able to coalesce behind a common cause. The 9/11 horror produced our nation’s most recent sense of unity.

I pray, however, that we can join together without having to endure the tragedy and misery through which we have suffered. Pearl Harbor and 9/11 were unique events in our nation’s history.

I am left to wonder whether the unity those events produced must be attached uniquely to such heartache. I hope that’s not the case. I fear, though, that it is.

‘Pretty wild scene’ … do ya think?

I really have to hand it to Donald John “Orator in Chief” Trump.

The man has an amazing way of understating monumental historical events’ impact on our nation’s life, its history, its very identity.

The president played host to survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which occurred 76 years ago this week.

He turned to one of the men who lived through that hell on Earth, telling him “That was a pretty wild scene.”

Yeah. Pretty wild it was, Mr. President. Why, you even told a small gathering of Navajo “Code Talkers” recently how much you “like” them. That was so, um, nice of you to say that.

It makes me wonder how this president would have reacted had he been standing at the Capitol Hill podium the next day to ask Congress for a declaration of war. Whereas President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called it a “date which will live in infamy,” and a “deliberate, dastardly attack,” I keep wondering whether Donald Trump could muster up the kind of awe-inspiring rhetoric that came from FDR that day.

Something tells me we’d be called to arms with “pretty wild scene.”

They wanted to get into the fight

My late father was 20 years of age on Dec. 7, 1941.

Pete Kanelis was a second-year student at the University of Portland (Ore.) when word filtered back to the mainland about the “dastardly act” in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

It didn’t take Dad long to make up his mind on what he wanted to do. He wanted to get into the fight. He waited about two whole months before going downtown. He went to the armed forces station and sought to enlist in the Marine Corps. The door was locked. He walked across the hall to the Navy office and signed up.

He was after all, young and full of what might be described as “p*** and vinegar.”

He would become one of about 16 million young Americans who responded just as he did. He went looking for a fight and oh, brother, he found it. The Navy sent him to the Mediterranean theater, where he fired a 3-inch, 50-caliber deck gun at Italian and German aircraft.

He was part of the so-called “Greatest Generation.” I was — and still am — so very proud of his service.

The attack at Pearl Harbor, which occurred 76 years ago today, defined a generation. Dad’s generation — virtually all of them, as near as I can tell — fought willingly in that great conflict. Their hearts were broken at the prospect of a foreign power killing so many of our young Americans — on American soil to boot!

They answered our nation’s call, did their duty and then came home to help build a postwar country that has set the economic and military standard around the world.

I’ve re-thought a bit the notion that Dad’s generation was the “greatest” this nation ever has produced. I am not yet willing to hand that title to another generation of Americans, but my sense is that today’s young Americans are competing with Dad’s brethren for the title of “greatest.”

Many of today’s military men and women dropped what they were doing one Tuesday morning, on Sept. 11, 2001. Let’s call them the “9/11 Generation.”

I’ve actually met young Americans who joined the military because they, too, wanted to get into the fight — just as Dad did so long ago. I recently made the acquaintance of a young physical therapist at the Thomas Creek VA Medical Center in Amarillo. She joined the Navy right after 9/11 because — like many of us — was enraged at the attack carried out on U.S. soil.

Whereas Dad and his brethren enlisted — or were drafted — to serve “for the duration” of World War II, the current fighting force has been deployed multiple times to battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, I long ago lost count of the deployments a cousin of mine has served in those conflicts before retiring from the Army.

It’s good today to recall how an earlier generation of Americans surrendered their relative comforts to take on a direct and existential threat to their nation’s way of life.

Dad was one of them.

Declaration of war? Not even close, Mr. Foreign Minister

A statement by North Korea’s foreign minister might have gotten muddled in the translation, but I feel the need to set the record straight for this fellow.

Ri Yong Ho has accused Donald J. Trump of “declaring war” on North Korea with his threats of using military force if the North Koreans continue to threaten the United States and our allies.

According to Reuters: “The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,” Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters in New York.

Let’s step back here.

I believe Ri needs a quickie lesson on U.S. government civics.

The president of the United States cannot “declare war” on anyone. A declaration of war in this country is a multi-step process, Mr. Foreign Minister — which is something that is alien to you and your dictator/despot Kim Jong Un.

The president prepares a declaration document, which he then presents to our Congress. He then requests the legislative branch of government to issue a declaration. The last time we did that was on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after Japan attacked our naval and Army air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Congress voted virtually unanimously to declare war; by the way, U.S. Rep. Jeannette Rankin of Montana voted “no,” just as she had done when Congress declared war against Germany during World War I. Foreign Minister Ri also should know that Rep. Rankin wasn’t jailed — either time — for her principled votes.

Do I agree with Donald Trump’s bluster and bellicosity with regard to North Korea? No. He’s risking — with his taunts and childish name-calling — the potential for provoking Kim into doing something stupid in the extreme.

But he didn’t “declare war.” That’s not how we do it in this country. Our founders established a system that limited the president’s power to issue such a declaration. He’s got to ask for it from the legislative branch of government.

There. Lesson over.

Mr. POTUS, apologize to Sen. McCain

Gregory Wallance is a lawyer and author who has written a wonderful essay for The Hill in which he declares it’s time for Donald J. Trump to say he’s sorry for defaming John McCain.

What’s more, according to Wallance, Trump defamed an entire corps of warriors who served their country with honor and valor in precisely the manner that McCain did.

Here is Wallance’s essay.

Sen. McCain, an Arizona Republican, has been diagnosed with brain cancer. His prognosis is not yet known to the world, although my sense is that doctors have given the McCain family a full briefing.

The point is that Sen. McCain served more than five years as a Vietnam War prisoner. He was shot down in 1967 over a Hanoi lake. He suffered broken limbs after he ejected from his stricken jet. The North Vietnamese who captured him stuck a bayonet in his abdomen. He was tortured, beaten and berated by his captors.

He was offered an early release. The communists thought they would win points by releasing the son of a senior Navy officer. The young aviator refused, and was subjected to more torture.

What did then-candidate Trump say about McCain’s service during a war that Trump managed to avoid? He said McCain was a “hero only because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

No one on Earth thinks Trump has it in what passes for a heart to say he’s sorry for defaming a valiant and gallant war hero. Gregory Wallance, though, has offered a stirring account of why such an apology should be made to honor all the individuals who endured the kind of wartime misery inflicted on John McCain.

Wallance writes: “In the decades after World War II, when more than 120,000 Americans had been POWs, insulting a former POW the way Trump did would have ended any politician’s career.”

Wallance writes about the raid conducted on Japan immediately after Pearl Harbor, about how Col. Jimmy Doolittle and his fellow Army aviators took off from the USS Hornet aboard land-based B-25 bombers. Their mission was fraught with peril from the get-go. They struck targets in Japan. Many of the men were captured by the enemy.

“American servicemen and women become POWs because they are serving their country in harm’s way,” Wallance writes.

He doesn’t expect Trump to apologize. He wants the country to salute those who served their nation and paid a heavy price because they fell into enemy hands.

I join in that salute. Fruitless as it is, though, I also demand that Donald Trump apologize for the hideous insult he leveled at a true American hero.

No apology for attack, but still a profound promise

As the son of a gallant World War II veteran who jumped into the fight just weeks after a treacherous attack against the United States, I was hoping for an apology.

It didn’t come. Instead, the prime minister of Japan — the nation that yanked us into a global bloodbath — offered something that came pretty close to an apology.

Shinzo Abe visited the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu as the guest of President Obama, who is on vacation there with his family. He spoke of the “precious souls” who died during the Japanese air attack on our naval and air forces on Dec. 7, 1941.

He vowed that Japan never again would go to war. Abe offered a statement of condolence that he said, in effect, will never end.


The prime minister also expressed his gratitude for the generosity that Americans have extended to his people in the years since the “date which will live in infamy.”

“On behalf of the Japanese people, I hereby wish to express once again my heartfelt gratitude to the United States and to the world for the tolerance extended to Japan,” Abe said.

An actual apology would have been the best outcome of this first-ever visit to Pearl Harbor by a Japanese head of government.

This American, though, will accept the prime minister’s statement of eternal condolence.

They fought for ‘the duration’


Seventy-five years ago today, Japanese navy pilots swooped in over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and — perhaps without knowing it at the moment — changed the world forever.

That act dragged the United States of America into the greatest global conflict the world has ever witnessed.

The young men who answered the call from that day forward did so under terms that no longer apply in this day.

Many of them volunteered to get into the fight; others of them were drafted by the government. They all took an oath to defend the nation. Then they signed a paper that committed them to fighting for their nation for as long as it took to finish the fight.

They signed up for “the duration” of the conflict. The war would end in August 1945, but no one who signed up for that battle had a clue as to how long it would last.

Think about that for a moment. As the smoke billowed from the wreckage in Hawaii, did anyone know how long this war would last? It could last for a year, two, three. It could go on for decades.

The young Americans who donned their country’s uniform did so without knowing how long they would be ordered to sacrifice.

My father was one of those young men. He was 20 years and seven months old when we entered World War II. He waited just a few weeks before deciding one day to go to the federal courthouse in downtown Portland, Ore., and enlist in the armed services. His first choice was the Marine Corps. The office was closed. He then walked across the hall and enlisted in the Navy.

He didn’t know when he’d be finished. He didn’t know if he’d ever come home. Dad wanted to fight the enemy.

And he did.

We don’t ask such things of our young men and women these days. We send them off to war for a length of time. They serve and return. Of late — since 9/11 to be exact — we’ve been sending them back into harm’s way repeatedly. That, too, is creating tremendous emotional stress on our young warriors and I wouldn’t for a moment wish to be wearing their boots.

Many of us today, though, will recall the sacrifice made by the young Americans who answered their nation’s call to arms against tyranny.

When we do, think of how they might have felt knowing they might be going into a battle with no end.

That’s what I call “sacrifice.”