Tag Archives: World War II

We’re remembering ‘a date which will live … in infamy’

This is not a celebratory date. I hesitate even to call it an “anniversary.” It’s a date of solemn remembrance and honor.

We remember the event, the attack on our Navy at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Japanese fighter planes and bombers that roared in over the harbor that day 78 years ago brought this country into the world’s bloodiest and costliest war.

We also honor the heroes who fought back that Sunday morning. They were awakened by the sounds of ships and planes exploding under the force of the ordnance dropped by those aircraft.

We remember the USS Arizona, the World War I-era battleship that is memorialized to this day in the harbor, at the place where it blew apart and sank. There reportedly are just three survivors of the attack on the Arizona. One of them is a gentleman named Lou Conter.

Conter is now 98 years of age. His time on Earth is running out, just as it has already for all but fewer than 500,000 of the more than 16 million men and women who fought for this country and saved the world from the tyrants who wanted to conquer us all.

I want to insert a point of personal pride here. One of those brave Americans was my father, Pete Kanelis, who 78 years ago today — as he and his parents and siblings were listening to the news about the attack on the radio — ventured to downtown Portland, Ore., to enlist in the Navy.

Lou Conter will receive honors and high praise from those who have gathered at Pearl Harbor. He couldn’t participate a year ago and this year he is the only one of the three Arizona survivors who is able to take part.

Let us never forget the sacrifice of these heroic Americans. Indeed, we should honor them every single day and thank them — either privately or out loud — for all they did to save us from the evils of oppression.

Be sure to thank our WWII, Korean War vets

Their ranks are diminishing each day.

I refer to the brave veterans of two long-ago wars: World War II and the Korean War.

World War II came to an end in September 1945; less than five years later, North Korea invaded South Korea and the Korean War was on. Thus, the men who fought on World War II battlefields aren’t much older than those who fought in Korea.

Monday is Veterans Day. I am a veteran as well. My wife and I are going to breakfast in the morning at a restaurant that will provide free chow to vets who I presume can present some ID that proves they served in the military; I have the ID, so I’ll enjoy a meal on the house.

If I see any WWII or Korean War vets, I’ll be sure to extend a hand of gratitude for their service. I’ll know them if they are wearing a ballcap that IDs them in that manner.

These men and women are in their very late 80s and 90s these days. Sixteen million Americans served in the military during World War II; fewer than 500,000 of them are still among us. During the Korean War, 5.7 million Americans wore our nation’s uniform and my hunch is that their numbers have diminished to levels rivaling the WWII vets.

Sooner than many of us want to acknowledge, there will be no one left from those two grisly conflicts.

So I am pledging to shake as many hands and express my thanks and gratitude to as many individuals as I recognize as vets. My gratitude will extend far beyond a single day we set aside to honor these brave Americans.

And rest assured, by all means we should honor all the men and women who have served our nation.

All of them have earned our eternal thanks.

Where is Ike’s wisdom now?

Yep, to be sure Dwight David Eisenhower was a wise and brave man. He was a soldier, a warrior, a patriot and a statesman.

The 34th president of the United States earned his high office simply by commanding the greatest military effort in world history to victory in World War II.

The quote attributed to him in this blog post sums up the fearful time we have entered with the election of the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump.

Of course, Ike didn’t foresee the election of Trump when these remarks came out. It was Trump who said that “I, alone” can repair the nation and restore it to greatness. President Eisenhower knew better than to make such a presumption when he first ran for president in 1952. He knew better, even though he commanded all those men and women in Europe, that no “one Great Man” can lead a nation such as ours.

The United States of America cannot possibly be led in the manner that many of us fear is being crafted in this moment by Donald Trump.

Ike’s words serve as a dire warning to what lies ahead in the 2020 election. We can restore the essence of what this country is all about, or we can continue down the frightening path that the current president seeks to take us.

Let us beware.

My favorite veteran would enjoy the recognition he deserves

The picture you see here reveals my favorite veteran. He’s the fellow on the right, the sailor who is standing guard next to a British marine in front of a door where some highly sensitive negotiations were underway.

The sailor is Pete Kanelis, my father. The marine’s name, as Dad told me, was Tony. That’s all I know. The year was 1943. The place was off the coast of Sicily aboard a command ship in the Mediterranean Sea.

The negotiation involved the Allied naval commander in the Med and the British prime minister, Winston Churchill.

So, Dad had a brush with arguably the 20th century’s greatest statesman. As Dad told me the story, Churchill looked at him, asked Dad a question, then patted him on the head and said something like, “There you go, Yank.”

Dad will be among the veterans we will honor Monday. It’s called Veterans Day, a holiday that came into being known as Armistice Day; it was established to commemorate the end of World War I, which was supposed to be The War to End All Wars. It wasn’t.

World War II followed. The United States joined the fight on Dec. 7, 1941, with the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

I learned something profound about my favorite veteran on a trip to the Pacific Northwest with my wife in September. Dad’s youngest brother, Tino, told my wife and me about the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor. “I was 9 nine years old at the time,” Uncle Tino told us, “and I remember it vividly.” The family was listening to the radio news broadcast of the attack and its immediate aftermath.

Tino looked around for his big brother. “Where’s Pete?” Tino said he asked about Dad. He was gone. He had left the house in northeast Portland; he went downtown to enlist in the Navy.

Yes, Dad was so incensed at what had happened in Hawaii, he enlisted on that very day to get into the fight. He would suit up a month or so later. He would complete his basic training in San Diego, Calif. and then would ship out for Europe.

He got his wish. Dad took part in the fight to save the world from the despots in Berlin, Rome and Tokyo who wanted to subject the rest of us to their tyranny.

All told, about 16 million Americans took part in that great struggle. Seventy-five years later, their numbers have dwindled to just slightly less than 500,000 men and women. They are almost all gone.

Indeed, just this weekend, the last known survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack reportedly passed on. I fear the day when all those Americans who answered their nation’s call will be gone.

We honor them today. We honor all our veterans who have donned a military uniform — in war and in peace.

It is their day. As for Dad, I am immensely proud to be the son of an American who performed heroically and who, along with his comrades in arms, saved the world.

‘Boomer’ becomes a negative term?

Social media have this way of injecting curious judgments into everyday terms and phrases.

Those who use social media, for example, have suddenly decided that the term “Boomer” — as in “Baby Boomer” — is a negative term.

I guess some of the younger among us think that “Boomers” are too old to be relevant in contemporary issues debates and discussions. I saw a video of a New Zealand member of parliament put down an elderly heckler with an “OK Boomer” response. The video went viral and has become something of a talking point throughout social media.

Well … pardon me!

I am proud to be a Boomer. I have been referring to myself as a Boomer since I first heard the term. I cannot remember when that occurred, but that doesn’t matter to anything.

I was born in 1949, which puts me near the front end of the Baby Boom Generation. Dad returned home from World War II in late 1945. He was one of about 16 million Americans who suited up to save the world from tyranny. He and Mom got married in August 1946. They got busy right away producing a family. They delivered a baby boy in 1947, but he died shortly after being born.

Then in December 1949, I came along. I’m about to hit 70 years of age. I am proud to be a Boomer. I also am proud to declare that I have most of my marbles, I enjoy relatively good physical health (a few annoying aches notwithstanding), I am fully engaged in issues of the day and — my sons might not believe this entirely — I do seek to embrace 21st-century technology. That last item does get me a bit confused at times, given that I am not entirely fluent in what I call “techno-speak.”

Still, “Boomer” ain’t a pejorative term in our house.

‘Thank you for saving the world’

I vowed a while back to start thanking World War II veterans when I encountered them. I would do so more frequently, except that I don’t find too many of The Greatest Generation wearing gimme caps with “World War II Veteran” inscribed on the front of them.

I did so yesterday, though, while shopping for groceries here in Princeton.

I saw a gentleman pushing a shopping cart. I walked over to him, extended my hand and said, “I want to thank you, sir, for saving the world.” The nice man smiled, took my hand, returned a firm handshake and said, “Well, we did what we could.”

That’s typical of those folks, all 16 million of them who suited up for World War II after the attack on our armed forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I told the gentleman that he “damn sure did” do a lot to save the world.

I mentioned my effort to thank World War II vets in an earlier blog post, but a reader of this blog reminded me that Korean War veterans are getting long in the tooth, too. The Korean War erupted only five years after the end of World War II, so the reader is correct to remind me that I most certainly should extend the hand of gratitude to those veterans, too.

I am proud to be the son of a World War II veteran. Dad is no longer among us, but I offer these words of thanks and gratitude in his memory.

It will be a sad day, indeed, for the nation when the final World War II veteran passes from the scene. Oh, what these men and women did during that time of grave worldwide peril is the stuff of legend.

‘They didn’t help us’ during World War II

Are you fu**ing kidding me, Mr. President?

You justify abandoning our allies in the fight against the Islamic State because they didn’t “help us” during World War II.” You said, “They didn’t help us in the Second World War; they didn’t help us with Normandy. With all of that being said, we like the Kurds.”

Oh, brother. The stupidity of your comments simply defies understanding.

Kurdistan is a region that sprawls across several countries: Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Armenia and Syria. The Kurds comprise about 30 million people. They do not function under a formal government. Kurdistan also is a long way from Normandy, France.

However, Mr. President, they are a proud and sophisticated people. They have been devoted allies of ours in the fight to eliminate the Islamic State. Thousands of them have died fighting ISIS alongside our military personnel.

But you have left them to fight not only ISIS, but apparently the Turks, who have launched attacks in northern Syria. The Turks hate the Kurds. How this tragic circumstance plays out is anyone’s guess.

You have incurred the wrath of politicians in both parties here, Mr. President.

And now you add to it all by speaking stupidly about Kurds’ absence from the beaches at Normandy.

That is idiotic, Mr. President. Oh, wait! I shouldn’t be surprised.

What would Dad think of this charlatan?

My father wasn’t a particularly political person. He didn’t talk much in detail about public policy or those who shape it. He did have opinions about some politicians and when he expressed them to me, they usually were negative.

He was a proud World War II veteran who fought Germans and Italians in the Mediterranean theater of operations. He hated the tyrants he took an oath to defeat when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy right after Pearl Harbor.

I cannot help but wonder what Dad would think of the individual who was elected in 2016 as president of the United States.

Although Dad wasn’t a keen political observer, I believe he was intuitive enough to know a huckster when he saw or heard one. Dad was among the best sellers of products who ever lived. Thus, I have to believe that Dad would know a huckster, a flim-flam artist, a carnival barker when he saw one.

That is what we have in Donald Trump.

I cannot ask Dad what he would think of this guy. Dad died more than 39 years ago. He was 59 years of age. He would have turned 98 this past May, so it’s entirely possible that Dad would be unable to process much of what the nation has seen unfold since Trump took office.

I wonder how he would react to the way Trump has behaved since becoming our head of state. I ponder how Dad would perceive the pronouncements that come from Trump.

Mostly, I wonder how Dad would react to Trump’s kowtowing to dictators, strong men, murderers, Marxists and assorted tinhorn leaders around the world.

Dad’s service in our nation’s time of terrible peril helped define him. He hated tyrants and the tyranny they sought to advance. How in the world would this proud patriot think of a president who sought to avoid/evade service in the Vietnam War? Hmm.

I have to believe Dad would be aghast, appalled and astonished that Donald Trump even got elected to the nation’s highest and most exalted office.

If only I could ask him.

My favorite veteran’s story has gotten more glorious

VANCOUVER, Wash. — This is a picture of my favorite veteran. He’s my Dad, who died 39 years ago today in a most unexpected and tragic manner.

That is not why I am posting this item about Pete Kanelis. It involves my belief that Dad was my favorite military veteran. I heard something this week from his sole surviving brother that I did not know, but which solidifies my opinion about Dad’s service to the country in a time of great peril.

My wife and I were visiting Uncle Tino and Aunt Claudia the other day. We were reminiscing about family. Then my uncle offered this bit of information that I never knew; if I knew, perhaps I forgot. It’s chilling and heroic at the same time.

Uncle Tino was 9 years of age when the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He told us about how he and the rest of his family were listening to the radio at their home in Portland. They were transfixed by what the news reports were telling the world about what had just happened, which is that the Japanese Empire had just committed a supreme act of war on the United States.

President Roosevelt would stand before Congress the next day to ask for a declaration of war in retaliation for the “dastardly act.” Dad didn’t wait for the president to make his request, according to Uncle Tino.

“Your Dad got up out of his chair and left the room,” Tino told us. He said Dad — who was 20 years of age — went downtown on that Sunday afternoon to enlist in the military. That very day! He was so enraged at what he had heard that he wanted to get into the fight immediately.

Dad did tell me once that his intention was to enlist in the Marine Corps, but that the Marines’ office was closed. So, he walked across the hall and enlisted in the Navy.

I don’t recall Dad telling me that he did all that on the very day of the Pearl Harbor attack. I do recall him saying that he actually reported for duty in January or February 1942. I guess I never pieced together over those many decades that Dad well could have been motivated in the moment to join the fight, but that it took a few weeks for the paperwork to get processed.

Tino told us he remembers the day “vividly.” I believe him. Dad was a red-blooded American patriot. It rings so very true to me that he would act so impulsively.

Dad got into the fight in a big way. He saw combat in the Mediterranean Theater battling the Germans and Italians. He and millions of other young Americans fought hard and saved the world from the tyrants who sought to conquer it.

I am grateful to hear this recollection, as it affirms my view of my favorite veteran.

‘Congratulations,’ Poland … on being invaded and brutalized?

Donald Trump’s lack of historical perspective is astonishing in the extreme, such as what he displayed today when given a chance to comment on the 80th year since the start of World War II.

A reporter asked the president if he had any words to offer to Poland, where he was scheduled to visit this week to commemorate the launch of that massive and bloody conflict. He stayed home to “monitor” the progress of Hurricane Dorian.

Trump mentioned that the vice president, Mike Pence, was going to “represent me” and the United States at event in Poland marking the event.

And then … he offered a word of “congratulations” to Poland. Yes, congratulations. For what? For being invaded and brutalized by the 20th century’s most despicable tyrant, Adolf Hitler? Or, for being attacked as well from the east by the Red Army, which operated under a non-aggression pact signed by Hitler and Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin?

Trump then offered his customary ignorant platitudes about Poland being a “great country” with “great people,” compliments he could apply to virtually any country on Earth — with the exception of the “sh**hole” nations that produce all those immigrants who seek entry into the United States.

The president’s lack of knowledge of — or empathy for — the suffering of others is manifestly evident to me when he makes observations such as what he offered today.