Tag Archives: World War II

Reparations for slave descendants? No

Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro — a candidate for president of the United States — has opened up a wide-ranging debate topic that needs a full airing.

However, the Democratic candidate, has to go a huge distance to persuade me of the need to pay reparations for the descendants of slaves.

I oppose such reparations understanding how it might look to those who favor them. I want to be crystal clear on a couple of key points.

First, slavery is the greatest sin this government has ever committed against Americans. I totally understand the pain it caused those who lived under human bondage. They were treated as property. They were considered to be three-fifths of a human being. They were bought and sold the way people buy and sell, oh, livestock.

They were “emancipated” in 1863, during the height of the Civil War, which was being fought over the issue of slavery. Slaves were set free more than 150 years ago.

Generations of African-Americans have come along since then. Yes, many of them have endured hatred, indignity, violence, outright discrimination on the basis of their race. However, this country has legislated equality for all Americans. I understand full well that those laws haven’t erased bigotry from all Americans’ hearts.

My concern over the issue of reparations deals with the time that has passed and the many generations that have come and gone since those terrible days when we enslaved fellow human beings.

Are there “direct descendants” of slaves? Sure. Have those descendants suffered directly from the enslavement of their great-great-great grandparents? Well, that is a highly debatable point.

It’s the timing of this proposal that Julian Castro has pitched.

Yes, our government has paid reparations to Japanese-Americans over their internment during World War II. But that atrocity occurred not quite 80 years ago. There are former internees still living to this day. Their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have been given some remuneration over what President Roosevelt decreed after the United States entered World War II; FDR feared Japanese-Americans would be more loyal to their ancestors than to the country of their birth, so he rounded ’em up along the Pacific Coast and sent them packing to concentration camps inland.

This idea of paying reparations for those descended from long-deceased slaves, though, gives me serious pause.

Do we stop working toward a “more perfect Union”? Of course not! Such a task involves eradicating bigotry and race-based hatred whenever and wherever we see it.

Reparations? That’s a bridge too far.

Sailor in iconic ‘kiss’ photo passes from scene

George Mendonsa likely would never have gotten away today with what he did nearly 74 years ago.

He was a sailor who was strolling down a busy New York City street when Japan surrendered to end World War II. He grabbed a nurse and kissed her hard. On the lips. It was a moment captured for all time.

Mendonsa died the other day at age 95; he would have turned 96 in two more days. He had fallen in a Rhode Island nursing home where he lived with his wife of 70 years.

He did not know the nurse he grabbed that day in Times Square. She was Greta Zimmer Friedman. He saw her in her white nursing uniform, grabbed her and planted a wet one on her. Friedman died in 2016 at age 92.

Mendonsa was on leave when the war ended. He had served on a destroyer in the Pacific Theater, fighting the very forces that surrendered in August 1945.

The act that Mendonsa pulled off has gotten criticism in recent years as women have spoken out against sexual abuse, harassment and assault. Their concerns about what has happened to them are real, legitimate and worth hearing.

However, I just cannot equate Seaman Mendonsa’s spontaneous bit of joy at the news of the end of World War II with what we’re discussing today, in the next century.

The picture likely will remain as one of the more iconic images of the 20th century. As it should.

So long, Chief . . . and well done

I used to call him Chief. Jack Barnes was a retired Navy chief petty officer. I made his acquaintance while I worked as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas.

Barnes hailed originally from Perryton, then spent a couple of decades defending the nation.

I was saddened recently to learn of Barnes’ death in December at the age of 68. I heard he suffered from an aggressive form of cancer. I am not going to comment on the end of this patriot’s life, but rather on what he did to enrich the lives of other patriots.

Barnes was the driving force behind a project called “Honor Flights.” He declared it his mission to shepherd World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to tour the memorial erected in these veterans’ honor. And to show them as many other sights as they could squeeze into a brief visit to the nation’s capital.

He worked tirelessly with Southwest Airlines to arrange to transport these veterans from Amarillo to Washington. Over time, he expanded his mission to include Korean War and then Vietnam War veterans. Given that the Korean War began only five years after the end of World War II, it became imperative, as Barnes saw it, to bring veterans of that war to D.C. to show them the Korean War memorial that honors the sacrifice of those who fought on the Korean Peninsula.

And, of course, the Vietnam War veterans also were invited aboard these Honor Flights. We, too, are getting a bit long in the tooth these days and Barnes wanted to treat the men and women who served in Vietnam to the same honor he delivered to the World War II and Korean War veterans.

Jack occasionally would ask me if I wanted to take part in an Honor Flight, given my own meager experience in the Vietnam War. I never found the time to take him up on his generous offer.

I lost contact — more or less — with Barnes after I resigned from the Globe-News in August 2012; we would see each other on occasion, at the grocery store or at a public event. But I surely knew of the work he continued to do to honor our World War II veterans.

Of the 16 million Americans who served during WWII, only a diminishing fraction of them are still with us. They’re all in their 90s now. Time is not their friend.

Barnes, though, was dedicated to these men and women and sought to honor them the best way he knew how. He honored them greatly with his diligence in escorting them to Washington, to see the memorial that is dedicated to their service in the fight against tyranny.

Jack Barnes was a proud man who spread his pride generously. His work should live on forever.

Rest in peace and well done, Chief.

NATO pullout back on the top shelf

In 2018, when Donald J. Trump decided to scold the leaders of our most trustworthy military alliance, he sounded like someone who wanted to pull the United States out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Those leaders need to pay more of their share of the defense of Europe, Trump said, or else face the consequences, which might involve a U.S. pullout.

Now, against that backdrop we have The New York Times report about an alleged investigation by the FBI into whether Trump was an “agent” of Russia.

The connection? Well, Russia wants NATO weakened badly. He would prefer that NATO be destroyed. Why is that? Because NATO came into being after World War II as a military alliance to defend Europe against the Soviet Union’s bloc of satellite nations. Russia, you’ll remember, was known as the Soviet Union from 1917 until 1991, when it collapsed under its own weight.

But NATO remains as a bulwark against Russian aggression. Therefore, Russia wants NATO to go away.

So, what connection is there between Donald Trump’s implied threat and Russia’s stated aim of ensuring that NATO withers away and dies? Is there a connection? Trump says “no!” I do not believe Trump’s declaration on its face. I want to know the truth.

If only I could find where the truth is hiding.

Our nation will survive — and flourish

Make no mistake about it: I am alarmed at the accelerating crisis in Washington, D.C.

Some Republican lawmakers, such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, might believe that “no one outside the D.C. Beltway cares” about Russia and Donald J. Trump’s alleged involvement with the nation’s pre-eminent adversary. I, though, do care about it. So do millions of other Americans, senator; you’re just not listening to us.

Does my alarm extend to my fear for the resilience of this system of government of ours? No. Not for an instant.

I remain an eternal optimist that we’ll get through all of this, no matter what the special counsel’s report reveals to us. Robert Mueller could exonerate the president of any wrongdoing. Or he could lay out a smorgasbord of questions that call into fact-based suspicion about the president’s fitness for the job.

Whatever happens, I feel compelled to remind us all that this country has survived equally serious — and more serious — crises throughout our history. We endured the Civil War; we engaged in two worldwide wars; we also endured a Great Depression; we have watched our political leaders gunned down by assassins; Americans have rioted in the streets to protest warfare; we witnessed a constitutional crisis bring down a president who resigned in disgrace; we have entered an interminable war against international terrorism.

Through it all we survived. The nation pulled itself together. It dusted itself off. It collected its breath. It analyzed what went wrong. The nation mobilized.

Our leaders have sought to unite us against common enemies. We responded.

Here we are. The special counsel is preparing — I hope — to conclude a lengthy investigation. There have been deeply troubling questions about the president’s conduct. One way or another I expect the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to answer those questions. They might not be to everyone’s satisfaction. Indeed, I can guarantee that the findings will split Americans between those who support the president and those (of us) who oppose him.

But we’re going to get through it. We might be bloodied and bruised. It might take some time to heal.

It’s going to happen.

The founders knew what they were doing when they crafted a government that they might have known — even then — would face the level of crisis it is facing today.

The ‘best’ are great, the worst are, well, something else

Donald Trump has shown an ability to hire a wide-ranging array of key administration officials. They run from the brightest of lights to the dimmest of bulbs.

I consider Defense Secretary James Mattis to be among the stars of the Trump administration. He’s a retired four-star Marine Corps general; tested in combat. He’s dedicated to the defense of this country. Thoughtful, learned and a totally competent strategic thinker.

I hope he stays for the duration of the Trump administration, although Mattis’s tenure is beginning to show signs of wobbliness.

Then there’s the president’s latest selection to be our ambassador to the United Nations.

I am having difficulty wrapping my noggin around this one. Heather Nauert is nominated to be our nation’s top envoy on the world stage. Her credentials? None. She has nothing to offer.

Except for this: She once was a “news” personality on the Fox News News Channel, the president’s network of choice. She did a co-hosting gig on “Fox & Friends.” She dressed up in goofy costumes and acted totally, well, the way morning “news” talk show co-hosts often act.

Then she got a job as spokeswoman for the State Department. You might be recall how she sought to praise U.S.-Germany relations by citing, for instance, the upcoming D-Day commemoration. D’oh! Wait a second!

Our guys fought the Germans to the death on the beaches at Normandy, France. We were at war.

This is the kind of “experience” the president sought when he named this person to be our advocate on at the United Nations.

Weird, man.

Pearl Harbor, Mr. POTUS?

Oh, man. I just had to share this hilarious social media post . . . with a brief comment.

It reminds us that Donald J. Trump, no matter what he says about his love, affection and respect for the men and women who serve in our armed forces, just didn’t have time on Pearl Harbor Day to commemorate the sacrifice made by roughly 2,500 Americans on Dec. 7, 1941.

Oh, no. Instead, he chose to launch into a Twitter tirade about Robert Mueller’s probe into the Russia matter.

Mr. President, don’t ever proclaim your phony respect for those of us who have worn the uniform in defense of our country. Those proclamations are as phony as your commitment to making America great again.

USS Arizona artifact honors the fallen

Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell’s mission is accomplished.

A piece of an iconic historical treasure is now in display at the Texas Panhandle War Memorial. It is a small section of the USS Arizona, the World War I-era battleship that was sunk 77 years ago today at the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by Japanese fighter pilots.

The event thrust the United States into World War II.

More than 1,000 men died on the Arizona.

Houdashell made it his mission to bring a piece of the sunken ship to Amarillo, to display it at the War Memorial, which honors the men from the Texas Panhandle who fell in battle in conflicts dating back to the Spanish-American War.

The judge told KFDA NewsChannel 10: “Pearl Harbor, the Arizona, is a cemetery,” said Judge Houdashell. “There’s hundreds of men still buried on that. We have a piece of a national relic and it’s a sacred relic. Very few people have a piece that big. There’s a little bitty piece at the WWII Museum but we have a huge piece.

He meant to welcome the display on Pearl Harbor Day, when the nation remembers the event that mobilized the nation into a new era of industrial and military might in the fight to quell the tyrants in Europe and Asia who sought to conquer the world.

I am delighted that Ernie Houdashell accomplished his mission, just as he worked to bring the F-100 Super Sabre jet fighter and the UH-1 Huey helicopter — both Vietnam War relics — to the War Memorial grounds at the site of the former Randall County Courthouse Annex in south Amarillo.

These displays are important to Houdashell, who served two tours in the Vietnam War himself and who wears his love of country on his sleeve. Indeed, they are important to all Americans, all of us who understand the sacrifice made by those who fell in battle. The names of the Panhandle sons who fell are inscribed on the stone tablets that stand on the memorial grounds.

They now are accompanied by yet another historical artifact, a reminder of the horror of the bloodiest war the world has ever seen. May it stand as the worst the world will ever see.

Pearl Harbor signaled an awakening

Seventy-seven years ago today, warplanes swooped in from over the ocean and laid waste to a U.S. naval base and nearby Army airfield at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, U.S.A.

The event brought the United States into the global conflict that already had swallowed Europe.

I don’t want to recall the destruction of what occurred in Hawaii that day. We know what happened there, with thousands of American sailors and soldiers dying at the hands of the attackers.

This day marked the birth of America’s Greatest Generation. These men and women answered the call to duty, they rushed to save the world from the tyrants who would do what they did at Pearl Harbor and worse, what they were doing to civilians in Europe and Asia.

We’ve spent a good deal of time remembering one of those young Americans who thrust themselves into harm’s way. Young George Herbert Walker Bush had a college career waiting for him, but he put it on hold. He enlisted in the Navy and became the youngest naval aviator during the war. He faced a harrowing shootdown and rescue by an American submarine in the Pacific Ocean.

He was one of an estimated 16 million Americans who did as the late president did. My father was among those who got into the fight quickly. He, too, felt the enemy’s wrath — in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.

Pearl Harbor signaled a new day in global geopolitical history. It thrust the United States into a worldwide conflict. It mobilized our industrial might and turned it into the world’s greatest military machine.

It also heralded the birth of a generation that demonstrated courage beyond measure. We honor those Americans today while we recall the tragedy that sprang them into action.

Tough to watch Sen. Dole

The scene was almost too much to bear.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, a World War II hero of the first order, needed help to stand while he saluted the casket carrying his one time political rival, former President (and fellow World War II hero) George H.W. Bush.

Dole is a very old man now. His body is betraying him. He was pushed in a wheelchair toward the 41st president’s casket. To watch this great man struggle to stand — at attention! — while he paid tribute to the president tore hard at my heart.

Oh, I remember the day when Sen. Dole was known as a political pit bull. He ran as vice presidential running mate to President Ford on the 1976 Republican ticket. Do you remember when he referred –during a vice-presidential debate with Sen. Walter Mondale — to World War II, Korea and Vietnam as “Democrat wars”?

Then in 1988, he competed for the GOP presidential nomination against Vice President Bush, the same man he saluted today under the Capitol Dome. On a split TV screen, he said through a scowl that the VP should “stop lying about my record.”

In 1996, Dole became the Republican presidential nominee but lost in a landslide to President Clinton, who won re-election that year.

But before all that, Sen. Dole was a young soldier fighting for his country against the Nazis. In 1945, near the end of World War II, the young soldier was wounded grievously while trying to rescue another Army infantryman. He would lose the use of his right arm as a result of his wound. It didn’t stop him from pursuing a long and distinguished career in politics.

To watch him, then, struggle today and then lift his left hand to salute his former rival, well . . . it broke my heart.

Sen. Dole, too, is part of the Greatest Generation. He is a man to whom we all owe a debt of eternal gratitude for helping turn back the tyrants and for his decades of continued public service for the nation he cherishes.