Tag Archives: WWII

We’re winning the ‘war,’ but the fight will go on

Iraq has declared victory in its war against the Islamic State.

It has declared that ISIS is defeated in Iraq. The terrorist fighting force no longer is able to wage war against the Iraq military machine. Good news, yes? Of course it is.

But wait. What about the terrorist who tried to kill innocent victims in New York? He is “ISIS-inspired,” according to the FBI and New York law enforcement officials. How are we going to stop these monsters? How do we prevent the so-called “lone wolf” terrorists from perpetrating their evil acts against civilized society?

We cannot?

A Bangladeshi immigrant is now recovering from his injuries after he terrorized people in a New York train station. He tried to blow himself up, but failed.

Bold pledges and declarations of our intent to “destroy” the Islamic State shouldn’t be ignored. Indeed, our military forces have taken out many thousands of ISIS fighters; they killed or captured many ISIS leaders; they have disrupted ISIS’s command and control network.

The fight should go on. It must go on.

We are going to fight this war, however, for as long as terrorists exist anywhere on Earth. U.S. and Allied forces bombed Germany to ashes during the World War II; our forces killed thousands of Nazis; Adolf Hitler killed himself in that Berlin bunker.

Did that eradicate Nazi sympathizers in Europe — or in the United States of America? No! Nazi lone wolves are still on the prowl throughout the world.

This post-9/11 world continues to teach us a hard but necessary lesson, which is that we cannot let our guard down — ever — against those who would do us harm.

They are everywhere.

‘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.

Vietnam vets still tend to talk about ‘their’ war

One of the traits one often hears about World War II veterans is that they don’t talk much about their combat experience.

They answered the call after Pearl Harbor; they shipped out to the Pacific Theater or to Europe and went about joining other Allied forces in defeating the forces of tyranny.

They came home after that great conflict, shed their uniforms and cobbled their lives together. They moved on.

The Korean War came a few years later. That one didn’t end with an all-out victory and unconditional surrender of our enemy. Indeed, Korea is still in a “state of war”; they only signed a cease-fire. Korean War veterans became part of what’s been called “the forgotten war.” They aren’t known either to talk much about their years in hell.

Then came Vietnam. The Vietnam War ended in a stinging political “defeat” for the United States. It still hurts. Those who feel the pain the most likely are those who served there. Roughly 3 million Americans suited up for that war. I was among them. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

Vietnam veterans are more likely to talk about their experiences than those who remain from World War II or Korea. It must be a generational thing. It also must be a bit of a hangover of sorts from the crappy treatment many of those young Americans got when they returned home.

Thankfully, that treatment is receding farther into our national memory. Americans woke up to the reality that the young men who participated in that war did so solely out of duty. They were ordered to go. They went. They did their job. They came back.

Perhaps their willingness to talk about it is a function of their search for affirmation that they weren’t the villains that many of their countrymen and women perceived them to be in real time as they were coming home.

I have no particular need to discuss my service during the Vietnam War. My contribution to that effort was so insignificant, I don’t have the need that many Vietnam vets have — even as we all have advanced into “senior citizenhood.”

In one week, PBS is going to premiere the broadcast of a truly landmark television event. “The Vietnam War” will run over 10 days, covering 18 hours of what I am certain will be a riveting documentary on the nation’s most divisive and emotionally crippling conflict.

One of the outcomes of this documentary, assembled by the great documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, should be to spark more national conversation about Vietnam, the war, its aftermath and how we have made the journey from back then to the present day.

***

The first five episodes will air nightly on Panhandle PBS from Sunday, Sept. 17, through Thursday, Sept. 21, and the final five episodes will air nightly from Sunday, Sept. 24, through Thursday, Sept. 28. Each episode will premiere at 7 p.m. with a repeat broadcast immediately following the premiere.

Who should go? DACA residents or neo-Nazis?

Here it comes. I feel a raging rant boiling up. I know it won’t fly, but I must  get something off my chest.

Some of the very Americans who are angry at those who came here illegally as children, those who qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals law, also represent an ideology against which this country went to war.

I refer to the neo-Nazis, the morons who hate all immigrants, particularly those who aren’t of European descent.

On one hand we have DACA residents, many of whom came here as toddlers or younger. They have forged good and productive lives as Americans. The U.S. of A. is the only country they know. Donald J. Trump has decided to rescind the executive order that granted them temporary protection against deportation. They might be rounded up in six months and sent packing if Congress doesn’t come up with a legislative answer.

Those despicable neo-Nazis want them out immediately if not sooner.

If I were King of the World, my preference would be to deport the neo-Nazis over the DACA residents. Yes, yes. I know. They have the constitutional right to express their political views, no matter how vile and disgraceful they might be. The neo-Nazis take the despicability cake by a mile!

While I’m at it, I’ll throw the Ku Klux Klan onto that dung heap, too.

My father went to war against the Nazis in 1942. He was among the Greatest Generation that saved the world from the tyranny espoused by the Third Reich and the Nazis that murdered roughly 6 million Jews in Europe. Nazi soldiers, sailors and aviators tried to kill Dad  on multiple occasions.

This is the ideology that some so-called Americans choose to honor with that hideous stiff-armed salute?

Who is more preferable to have walking among us, I ask? Those who have lived in fear because of something their parents did or those who speak as champions of an evil, tyrannical ideology?

There. Rant over. I feel better.

This is how we remember traitors?

I want to discuss briefly a subject that makes me a bit uncomfortable: Confederate memorials and statues.

It’s been in the news of late. Communities across the land are pondering whether to remove statues commemorating leaders of the movement that ignited the Civil War, tearing the nation in half, killing roughly 600,000 Americans on both sides of that terrible struggle.

And for what purpose? The Confederate states wanted to continue to enslave human beings.

It’s news these days, of course, because of what transpired this weekend in Charlottesville (which has become a form of shorthand for “racism,” “bigotry” and “intolerance”).

I join others who are asking: What other country “honors” those who betray their nation, secede from it and then start the bloodiest war in that nation’s history? Slavery is undoubtedly this nation’s most visible scar. We cannot hide it, push it aside, ignore it. It’s part of our past.

In that context, Confederate descendants say that individuals such as Robert E. Lee, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Jefferson Davis and a whole host of others also are part of our nation’s history. Oh, sure they are. Do we honor them? Do we revere their memory or their legacy? I think not.

My wife and I visited Germany this past September. We stayed with friends in Nuremberg, which has a special place in world history: It was the city where Nazi leaders were put on trial for their crimes against humanity.

One of our friends, a journalist and a highly educated man, told us that Germany has come to grips with Nazis’ role in plunging the world into the bloodiest conflict in its history. There’s a place called the Documentation Center in Nuremberg. It tells the story of the Holocaust and the unthinkable misery that the Nazis brought to Europe and sought to inflict on the rest of the world.

“We don’t hide from it,” our friend said. “We are ashamed of that time.”

But the Germans damn sure don’t honor anyone associated with that period of their nation’s otherwise glorious past. One doesn’t see statues of Hitler, Goebbels, Goering or Himmler in public places.

Perhaps we ought to ponder whether these Confederate “heroes” deserve the same level of scorn.

Presidents make powerful statement, but it needs more

There you go. A powerful statement from the two most recent Republican presidents of the United States, father and son, George H.W. and George W. Bush.

Their reaction to the Charlottesville riot and the tragic death of Heather Heyer speaks volumes about their decency and compassion.

However …

There’s an element missing from this statement. What is missing is a specific condemnation of their successor, Donald John Trump.

It’s the kind of rebuke and denunciation that must come from members of the president’s own party. They must condemn not just the acts of hate that transpired in Charlottesville, but also the president who — in a stunning display of ignorance and arrogance on Tuesday — equated the hate merchants with those who oppose them.

Indeed, the silence from the GOP political high command has been deafening in its own right. House and Senate leaders have spoken eloquently about their loathing of intolerance, bigotry and racism. Good for them!

But the rest of the condemnation also must single out the president of the United States who tossed aside the proverbial “dog whistle” he has used to incite his political base and replaced it with a bullhorn. We all heard what he meant when he said “both sides” are to blame for the tragedy that unfolded in Charlottesville.

No, Mr. President. There is no “both sides do it” moral equivalence here. The riot was provoked by the presence of white supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis who protested the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee. They marched under the lights of tiki torches, which symbolize the terror tactics used by the Klan and, yes, by the Nazis in Europe prior to World War II.

And yet the president drew a moral equivalence between the hate groups and the counter protesters. It was disgraceful in the extreme for Trump to do such a thing.

I’m glad the two former presidents have spoken out. They both have been quiet since leaving the presidency in 1993 and 2009.

I just wish they would have taken the final step and called out Donald Trump by name. Maybe that moment will arrive in due course. Let us hope.

‘Power like the world has never seen’?

Donald J. Trump has issued the sternest of statements to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. It’s full of bluster and a bit of bravado.

It’s also frightening in the extreme — to our side as well as to the North Koreans!

The communist regime reportedly now is able to place a nuclear weapon aboard an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the United States. That’s a line that the president cannot tolerate.

So, while vacationing in New Jersey, Trump issued a direct threat to North Korea, saying that the United States is prepared to unleash “fire and fury” and a “power like the world has never seen.”

Let’s hold on. The United States once did unleash “fire and fury” on an enemy combatant state. It occurred on Aug. 6 and again on Aug. 9, 1945. We dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. World War II was drawing to a conclusion and President Truman decided he needed to deploy those weapons to persuade the Japanese that continued fighting would be futile.

Truman learned of the Hiroshima bombing while returning from the Potsdam Conference.

The strategy worked. Japan surrendered just days after Nagasaki was incinerated.

If Donald J. Trump is proposing measures that would eclipse those twin events in August 1945, then we are truly embarking down the most dangerous path anyone ever imagined.

Hiroshima debate will rage until the end of time

Seventy-two years ago today a single U.S. Army Air Force bomber dropped a single bomb on a Japanese city and ushered the nuclear age into modern warfare.

The plane was called the Enola Gay, named after the mother of the bomber’s commanding officer, Col. Paul Tibbetts. The place was Hiroshima. The atomic bomb killed many thousands of Japanese civilians — quite literally in a flash of light, heat and unimaginable concussive force.

Aug. 6, 1945 has gone down in history as arguably the most compelling moment of the 20th century. American air power would drop another atomic bomb three days later on Nagasaki, Japan. The Japanese would surrender a few days after that and World War II would come to an end.

The debate has raged for seven decades: Should we have dropped the bomb? Did we have to kill so many Japanese civilians? Would the Japanese have surrendered without having to suffer such horrific destruction?

I have some proverbial skin in that argument. A young man was stationed in The Philippines when the bombs fell on Japan. He was serving in the U.S. Navy and well could have taken part in the invasion of Japan had it occurred. We also well might have died in the effort, denying him the chance to return home and start a family that resulted in, well, yours truly being born.

Dad made it home from that terrible war, got married and produced his family. I wrote four years ago about how the Hiroshima decision remains quite personal:

Hiroshima gets personal with me

President Harry Truman had been in office only since April 1945; he assumed the power of the presidency upon the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. He only learned about the A-bomb development after he had taken the oath.

The newly minted commander in chief was handed some information that could have shortened the war by weeks, maybe months. Yes, the option before him would cost a lot of Japanese lives and he knew that at the top. He had to make a stern choice: Do I deploy this weapon knowing the destruction it will bring to the enemy’s homeland or do I risk sending our young men into battle at the cost of many thousands of American lives?

The president knew the consequences of the choice he had to make.

In my mind — and in my heart and gut — the president made the correct call. I cannot be objective or analytical about this. It’s personal, man.

God bless President Truman.