Tag Archives: World War II

You want major national change? Try this!

Mom and Dad saw the world change in front of them when we went to war against international tyranny. We emerged victorious from that world war and took our place as the world’s colossus … and the world changed forever.

Then came 9/11, when those terrorists flew jetliners into office towers and into the Pentagon. The nation went to war again against the monsters who sponsored those madmen. The nation is still fighting that war … and, yes, the world changed once again forever.

The world went through fundamental change in the 20th and 21st centuries because of senseless acts of violence brought to us.

Now we’re entering another fundamental change brought to the world by an “enemy” no one saw coming until it was too late. The world likely is going to change in ways we cannot even foretell now as we seek to stem the attack brought to us by the coronavirus pandemic.

Our world will change culturally, with no arena sports to cheer from grandstands packed with fans like you and me. Our interpersonal behavior will change. We’ll be far more cognizant of personal hygiene.

Think of this for a just a brief moment. Our government has enacted certain restrictions on our behavior. We must not gather in large crowds. We dare not venture into public places without wearing face masks. We pack sanitized wipes, little bottles of alcohol-based cleanser. We maintain what we now know colloquially as “social distancing” from those we meet.

We shouldn’t shake a stranger’s hand. We shouldn’t even embrace friends we haven’t seen in good while. Oh, sure, we aren’t prohibited by law from doing these things. It just is patently unwise given the nature of the COVID-19 virus that attacks even the heretofore perfectly healthy among us.

Therein lies the change that awaits us as we continue this struggle against the pandemic. My rumbling gut tells me we’re likely going to change forever … yet again.

The world changed 75 years ago

What a difference a head of state can make

I could not help but draw the immediate comparison to another head of state when I heard Queen Elizabeth II speaking Sunday to her subjects about the coronavirus pandemic.

You know how it goes, my fellow Americans, when we hear constantly from our head of state, Donald Trump, who has the capacity to say so little with so much useless verbiage.

Then in the United Kingdom, Her Majesty the Queen addressed her subjects for only the fourth time in the more than 60 years of her rule.

The queen was, shall we say, majestic. She spoke for only a few moments. She said with absolute calm that the UK will get through the pandemic. The UK will emerge strong and she implored Brits, Welsh, Scots and Irish to pull together as one family.

She spoke of the horror she endured during World War II as a youngster living through the Battle of Britain, as Nazi warplanes bombed and strafed the cities. She said our current war is every bit as deadly as that earlier conflict.

Then she ended it.

National Public Radio reported this morning that the Queen’s remarks were so profound, so rare and so well-aimed that she moved many of her listeners to tears.

Imagine, if you can, that kind of reaction on this side of The Pond to the sound of our own head of state. You can stop laughing now.

Here is Her Majesty’s speech:

You will not hear a single, solitary self-serving boast from this magnificent monarch.

Wow.

This crisis seems vastly different from previous crises

I’ve been around awhile, a bit more than 70 years.

In my lifetime I have endured a presidential assassination, global warfare. I have witnessed a volcano erupt in real time. And yes, I have lived through health crises of all sorts.

None of those events has delivered quite the impact on our lives as the one that’s evolving at this moment. The coronavirus pandemic has brought a temporary (I hope) collapse of our national culture.

Think of this: Professional basketball, hockey and baseball have suspended their seasons; college basketball has canceled its men’s and women’s tournaments; Disneyland and Walt Disney World have closed; public schools are closing or are delaying their reopening after spring break; pro golf tournaments have been canceled or postponed; late-night comedians have suspended production of their shows, given that they cannot welcome audiences into their studios.

The president has declared a national emergency. Governors around the country are declaring disasters are at hand. Cities are banning events that bring crowds of assorted sizes.

Our popular culture is being affected in a major way by this coronavirus.

I am trying to remember a single event bringing this kind of disruption to our lives. I can’t remember it.

When the Japanese navy and air force attacked us at Pearl Harbor, the nation mobilized immediately but went about its life as we prepared to go to war. Our nation’s commercial air traffic was suspended for a time after 9/11, but yet we went to work the next day and our children went to school.

Yes, this one feels different. Our media are covering the ramifications of this crisis 24/7. They are far from exhausting every possible angle on this still-developing story.

As a former colleague of mine wondered on social media, he now will get to experience what he’s pondered over the years: How do people cope without being able to watch any sporting activity? I guess I can expand that to include going to any sort of event that brings crowds that get to laugh and cheer.

I long have called for patience and perseverance when government undertakes a project. My reference usually is of road projects or any sort of infrastructure capital construction.

We’ll need patience and perseverance in spades as we work our way through this health crisis. I also must add prudence.

Stars and Stripes falls victim to changing media climate?

Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute.

Donald John Trump keeps yammering about how much he cares about the men and women who serve in the military, doing duty that he couldn’t fit into his own life when he was of the age to fight for his country.

Why, then, is the Pentagon — under the current president’s watch — stripping Stars and Stripes of the government subsidy on which it relies to provide news and other information to our military personnel?

Stars and Stripes, which has been published regularly since World War II, is losing its $8 million annual subsidy, ostensibly so the Pentagon can spend that money (which amounts to chump change in the total spending accrued by the agency) on other projects.

As Stars and Stripes reported: “Every day in my office as commander of U.S. European Command, I would read Stars and Stripes,” said retired Adm. James Stravidis, who served as EUCOM chief and NATO Supreme Allied Command from 2009 to 2013. “It was an invaluable unbiased and highly professional source of information which was critical to me in my role overseeing U.S. military throughout Europe.”

Allow me to join Adm. Stravidis in declaring my own intense interest in Stars and Stripes. Many of us serving in Vietnam came to rely on the newspaper to tell us of what was happening back home. We also had Armed Forces Radio, but to those of us who preferred to read the printed word, Stars and Stripes served as a sort of lifeline to the “The World.”

Are we now being led to believe that our young men and women no longer get to read the news that Adm. Stravidis said kept him informed just a few years ago?

This is an absolute shame.

USS Doris Miller: What a marvelous honor for a Pearl Harbor hero

Doris Miller was in the right place at the wrong time, I suppose one could say.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Miller was working in the laundry room on the USS West Virginia, a battleship that was moored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Then all hell broke loose.

Japanese warplanes swooped in over the harbor and hit the West Virginia, along with many other ships and planes. Miller jumped into action. He tended to his mortally wounded ship captain, helped other wounded sailors. Then he strapped himself into a deck gun — a weapon on which he was not qualified — and began firing at enemy aircraft.

He survived that terrifying event. He received a medal from Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. Miller would die in action in 1943.

But here we are today. The U.S. Navy has announced that it will name a future Gerald R. Ford class nuclear aircraft carrier in honor of Doris Miller.

Yes, the USS Doris Miller will carry the name of the first African-American so honored. It will carry honor a young man who was thrust into a hero’s role in a time of immense national peril and tragedy.

Doris Miller was a native of Waco. I am pleased to see the picture above of Miller receiving a medal from another native Texan: Nimitz hailed from Fredericksburg. Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, the Purple Heart and received a commendation from the Navy secretary at the time for the actions he took on that “date which will live in infamy.” 

The Navy Department chose to make the announcement today to coincide with the nation’s celebration of Martin Luther King Day, a holiday set aside to honor the memory and the work of our great nation’s greatest civil rights champion.

“Doris Miller stood for everything that is good about our nation, and his story deserves to be remembered and repeated wherever our people continue the watch today,” acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said in a statement.

May they “continue the watch” with the pride and courage exhibited by the young man under whose name they will set sail.

Trump’s belittling of brass simply stinks beyond belief

The history of Donald Trump’s pre-business history is well-known.

He sought to avoid service in the military during the height of the Vietnam War. He received dubious medical deferments citing bone spurs or some such ailment that kept him out of being eligible for military service.

He went into business. Made a lot of money. Lost a lot of money. Had mixed success as a business mogul. Then he went into politics. He ran for president of the United States. He won!

So for this current president to dress down men who have served their country honorably, in combat, thrust themselves into harm’s way is insulting, degrading and astonishingly unpatriotic.

Two reporters for the Washington Post, Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, have written a book that tells just how disgraceful Trump’s conduct has gotten with regard to the military high command. An excerpt from that book tells of a meeting in a Pentagon room called The Tank. The brass sought to explain the nuts and bolts of military matters to the commander in chief. He was having none of it.

He called the generals “babies and dopes.” He has told them they are “losers” and said he wouldn’t “go into battle” with them.

I am trying imagine, were I one of those decorated combat veterans, hearing such denigration coming from the commander in chief. The entire world knows this man’s history. We all know that, when he had the opportunity to serve his country, he chose another path.

Don’t misunderstand me on this score. I do not begrudge a president who’s never worn the nation’s military uniform. Two recent presidents did not serve: Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. Neither did Franklin Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson, both of whom led this country through two world wars.

What is so objectionable is the snarky attitude this president demonstrates to individuals who have done what he sought to avoid doing. That he would speak to these patriots in such a manner is disgraceful on its face.

Recall Einstein’s projection about ‘WW IV’

An excellent analysis on Politico.com suggests that Iran isn’t likely to trigger an overarching armed conflict in the Middle East in reaction to the death of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Sulemaini on orders from Donald Trump.

The Iranians are blustering about a severe response to Sulemaini’s death in a U.S. air strike. Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, believes Iran will back off and will not provoke a conflict that would fester into a third world war.

Read his essay here.

It goes without saying that I hope he’s right. I’ll say it anyway: I hope he’s right.

I want to look back at a statement attributed to the physicist Albert Einstein, who after contributing to the development of the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II, offered his view of how future world wars would unfold.

He supposedly said he didn’t know how World War III would be fought, but said he was certain “World War IV would be fought with sticks and stones.”

If ol’ Albert Einstein didn’t say precisely that, the message remains vital if the Iranian mullahs have any ideas about how they intend to react to the death of a killer.

As Takeyh said, the “last thing (the mullahs) need is a costly confrontation with a president willing to do things they once considered unimaginable.”

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.