Tag Archives: World War II

Irony abounds in this political debate

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

As I watch and listen to the contemporary political debate, I am struck by the profound irony I see and hear almost daily.

It slaps me in the puss, punches me in the gut, gnaws at my innards.

Here’s what I mean.

I listen to those on the far right fringes of our nation’s political spectrum proclaim their “patriotism,” their “love of country” and their devotion to the Constitution. Then I see the occasional image of these “patriots” standing under a Confederate flag. Or they lambaste the movement known as “Antifa,” which — as you might know — is a sort of short-hand for “anti-fascist.”

The irony? Well, the first ironic notion is obvious, given that the Confederacy stands as the nation’s most profound enemy of the state. The Confederate States of American seceded from the Union and went to war to protect the institution of slavery within those states.

In recent times, of course, many of us has awakened to what the Confederacy really represented: treason against the United States of America. Statues of Confederate soldiers have come down. Americans have rioted to protest their removal. A president of the United States tried to make excuses for their riotous behavior by referring to “fine people … on both sides” of a riot that included Klansmen and Nazis.

That dovetails into the second profound irony of this real-time debate. Antifa has become a four-letter word. It is used in some circles as an epithet meant to demonize those who speak out against police brutality or seek justice for those who have been mistreated by rogue cops.

The root of the term Antifa, though, is what brings this irony into sharp focus for me. Let us never forget that The Greatest Generation of Americans went to war against fascism. The German Nazis who, along with their Italian partners, sought to subjugate Europe under the heavy hand of fascism. They were joined by their tyrants in Japan, who dragged this country into the world’s bloodiest war. My own father was one of those young Americans who left the comforts of their home and went to war against the fascists.

Yes, Dad was an Antifa member.

I simply cannot let this irony go without offering this comment on its hideous nature in this current political debate.

It sickens me.

Happy 100th birthday

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The sailor in this picture would be turning 100 years old today.

He is my Dad. It is a strange juxtaposition that he would be celebrating this landmark birthday on Memorial Day weekend.

To be sure, Dad did not die while fighting the tyrants who sought to destroy the world during World War II. So, the Memorial Day holiday doesn’t honor his service during that time of mortal peril. Nevertheless, I do want to call attention to the service he performed while fighting for the country he loved with a passion.

Dad didn’t make it to 60. He died more than 40 years ago in a freak boating accident.

However, he was my favorite veteran, but you know that already about him. What I have shared already, too, is that he volunteered for service to his country on the very day that Japan attacked our fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Dad was 20 years of age on Dec. 7, 1941. He was attending the University of Portland (Ore.) when he decided that his college education could wait; he had another, more pressing “education” awaiting him in Africa, Europe and then the Philippines.

I wish I could offer birthday greetings to Dad directly today. I cannot. I can honor his time on Earth by recalling the service he performed heroically during our nation’s darkest time.

So that is what I will do. I also will offer a birthday greeting to a man I miss every day.

Dad would be enraged!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

You know already that my father wasn’t a particularly political individual.

Pete Kanelis and I did not talk much about politics, or even much about current events. Dad didn’t have an attention span that would allow him to digest the complexities and nuance of public policy.

He did, though, believe deeply in this country. He loved the U.S. of A. He was a patriot’s patriot. Dad signed up to fight in World War II on the very day that the Japanese attacked our fleet in Hawaii.

Dad spent the bulk of his combat duty fighting the Germans and the Italians in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations … which brings me to what Dad would have thought had he seen the terrorists who attacked the Capitol Building on the Sixth of January.

My father would have flown into a frothing rage at the sight of the t-shirt that bellowed “Camp Auschwitz.”

Dad knew who the enemy was when he suited up for the Navy. He endured constant bombardment from Nazi fighters and bombers while serving in the Med. He also knew that Adolf Hitler was a tyrant and a demon who needed to be crushed. Dad did his level best while he was thrust in harm’s way to crush that monster.

Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi death camp, didn’t become known to Americans until nearly the end of World War II. Dad certainly knew then the nature of the beast he enlisted to fight.

I cannot help but think of the anger that would boil up inside him had he been around to witness the insurrection we all saw unfold … and the nature of the morons who ransacked the seat of our democracy while wearing an emblem that salutes Auschwitz. 

What would Dad think?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

You have seen this picture already, but I want to share it again to make a point about what is happening in our deeply divided nation.

The fellow on the left is a British Marine. The sailor is my father. They were standing guard aboard ship in the Mediterranean during World War II.

They joined their nations’ respective militaries to fight tyranny, to defeat the Nazis. I cannot speak for the Marine, but I damn sure can speak for Dad … who I am as certain as I am sitting here today that he would be appalled at the state of affairs in the country he loved dearly.

What would Dad think of the sight of rioters, some of whom were wearing Nazi paraphernalia while storming the Capitol Building in Washington? What would he say to someone who sought to justify such a thing? How might he respond to the sound of a president lie incessantly about an election outcome and, thus, fuel the rage that erupted on Capitol Hill this past week?

Dad wasn’t a particularly political man. He and I didn’t talk much about public policy or the effects of policy on our family. He didn’t identify with either major political party.

However, he was a patriot through and through. He got into fight of his life on the very day that Japan attacked our fleet in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. He loved our country and all for which it stood.

I must believe that he would be horrified to see a president desecrate our government in the manner that we have witnessed during the past four years … which he did in spades just the other day when he exhorted the mob to “take back” our government from mysterious, nefarious forces.

What would Dad think? He would be full of rage.

He joined the fight immediately

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I want to commemorate today by remembering the impact an event that occurred 79 years ago had on my family.

You know already that my father, Peter John Kanelis, is my favorite veteran. Some of you might even recall that I have written on this blog about how Dad answered the call to fight for his country on Dec. 7, 1941. I will recap here briefly.

Dad was the oldest of seven siblings living in Portland, Ore., when the Japanese attacked our naval forces in Hawaii. Two of his siblings are still living. One of them is Dad’s youngest brother, who a year ago told me of how Dad — who was listening on the radio to the horrible events of that day — left the house and went downtown to enlist in the Navy. He joined the fight that very day.

He wouldn’t suit up for a few more weeks. In early February, Dad ventured to San Diego, Calif., for his basic training. He ended up in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations where he fought the Nazis and the Italians who joined their Japanese allies in declaring war on the United States.

I want to mention this once again because Dad’s bravery and — in the words of President Roosevelt — his “righteous anger” symbolized a nation that would fight the tyrants to the bitter end.

Dad became one of 16 million Americans to join that fight. They became what we now refer to as “The Greatest Generation.” They’re all very old now. Fewer than 500,000 of them remain among us.

They were called to arms because an enemy state miscalculated the resolve of what had been referred to in real time as a “sleeping giant.”

I am proud to be the son of one of those gallant Americans who envisioned immediately his need to take up arms against tyranny and fight for the nation he loved.

That love of country is part of Dad’s enduring legacy.

Ike exuded wisdom

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The gentleman in this picture ran twice for president of the United States.

The first time was in 1952; I was a toddler. The second time occurred four years later; I was in the second grade at Harvey W. Scott Elementary School in Portland, Ore. President Eisenhower won both elections in landslides over Adlai Stevenson.

I wasn’t old enough either time to “like Ike,” as the campaign slogan suggested. I do like Ike now as we have suffered through four years of the most hideous individual ever to occupy the office that Dwight Eisenhower once graced.

The text attributed to Ike in the photo above is more profound now, it seems, than when he said it in 1956.

Yes, we have seen Ike’s beloved Republican Party become a vessel for an amoral nincompoop. The man who helped liberate the world from tyranny in World War II and then became our commander in chief just eight years after that terrible conflict would not like what has transpired in the past four years.

He would be heartened, I believe — even with a Democrat, Joe Biden, about to take over — at what we all hope is a restoration of decency and morality in the nation’s highest office.

I salute my favorite veteran

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My favorite veteran would be 99 years of age had he been given more time on this good Earth.

He died 40 years ago. Peter John Kanelis was just 59 years of age when he perished in a freak boating accident up yonder in British Columbia.

I have saluted him already on this blog as we commemorate Veterans Day. I’ll do so again simply by thanking him for imbuing in me a sense of duty to my country. He exhibited the meaning of answering the call to duty on arguably one of the darkest days in U.S. history.

Japanese warplanes attacked our fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and Dad, who was just 20 years of age then, was listening to the radio reports of what had occurred. He got up from his chair and left my grandparents’ house in Portland, Ore. Dad ventured downtown to the armed forces recruiting station. The Marine Corps office was closed that Sunday, so he walked across the hall to enlist in the Navy.

Roughly two months later, Dad reported for duty and went to war, joining 16 million Americans to fight tyranny around the world.

Dad taught me implicitly years later about duty and honor and love of country. He didn’t generally volunteer much of about what he endured in the Mediterranean Theater of operations; I would ask him and he would talk about it. He was proud of the service he delivered to his country.

I am proud of him to this day. I also am proud of all the members of the Greatest Generation who triumphed over tyranny as well as all who served — and are serving in defense of this great nation.

If you see someone you recognize as a veteran, thank him or her. I do so regularly … in honor of my favorite veteran.

Anger is palpable

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Has there ever been a presidential campaign — in the past century — that has evoked the kind of visceral anger between devotees of both major-party presidential candidates than this one?

Donald Trump’s minions are accusing Joe Biden’s fans of fomenting socialism. Biden’s side argues that Trump is unfit to serve as president. Trump’s team is suggesting that Biden’s mental acuity is slipping. Biden’s team says Trump has become unhinged.

They sides now are talking to each other. Trumpkins accuse Bidenistas of hating America. Reverse those accusations and we hear the Biden team suggesting that Trump’s side favors Russian interests over American interests.

Who is to blame for this?

Here it comes. I blame Donald John Trump fully, completely and without equivocation.

Trump has fomented this kind of anger with his own fiery rhetoric. His campaign launch in 2015 with a blistering attack on Latin American immigrants and continued with a call to ban all travel into the country from those who live in mostly Muslim countries.

It has hurtled downhill from there.

The nadir of Trump’s presidency might have been when he called Ku Klux Klansmen and Nazis “good people.” Hmm. My dear old Dad would have come totally unglued were he around to hear that one, given that he went to war in 1942 to fight those very Nazis.

The litany of divisive rhetoric is too lengthy to recount here. You know what I’m talking about. The consequence has been anger that has filtered into the ranks of those who adore Donald Trump and those who loathe him.

Joe Biden Jr. promises to heal the nation. He wants to restore our national “soul.” I pray that the American soul isn’t permanently damaged by the battering it has received during the tenure of the Donald Trump’s time as president.

Ignorance isn’t bliss, Mr. POTUS

I hereby declare it to be a semi-official recognition that Donald J. Trump can be labeled the Ignoramus in Chief.

I say that understanding fully that other presidents have misspoken or misstated certain facts, such as when Barack Obama once boasted of having visited “all 57 states.”

Still, to hear Donald Trump make a declaration about how the 1917 flu pandemic likely ended World War II makes my head spin 360 degrees.

World War II commenced in 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The flu pandemic occurred two decades earlier.  Was Trump referring to World War I, the War to End All Wars, the Great War? Who knows? The Ignoramus in Chief won’t say what he meant.

Such hideous misstatements of well-chronicled history, though, does reveal how utterly uniformed and uneducated this individual truly is, even though he keeps boasting about how he attended the “best schools,” how he knows “the best words,” and how he surrounds himself with “the best people.”

He does none of the above.

Trump has boasted about being a self-made business tycoon. He isn’t. Trump has bragged about his fabulous wealth. He refuses to release for public review his financial records, which previous presidents all have done. He couldn’t pronounce properly the name of an iconic American national park, Yosemite.

Trump has become damn near legendary in his lack of knowledge of basic American history. He recently declined to cite a single aspect of the late Rep. John Lewis’s iconic civil rights struggle. Why? Because he detested Lewis over the fighter’s refusal to attend his inaugural and because he has no understanding or appreciation for the struggle that Lewis embodied.

Trump keeps placing his ignorance on public display. It’s one thing to misspeak. I wouldn’t object one little bit if Trump ever would offer a simple “my bad” were he to be caught misspeaking. He doesn’t do that. Trump’s refusal to own his goofs and gaffes only tells me he believes that the wrongheadedness he blurts out to be the truth.

Sickening and weird.

Nothing to celebrate

The world changed forever 75 years ago to this very day.

That was when a B-29 bomber took off from Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean and dropped a single explosive device on Hiroshima, Japan. In an instant, tens of thousands of people were vaporized; many thousands more would die from the effects of that nuclear blast.

The nation was involved in a world war with Japan. Another airplane would take off three days later and inflict the same level of destruction on Nagasaki, Japan. A week after that second blast, the Japanese surrendered. World War II was over.

They danced in the streets of this country. A few days after surrendering, Japanese and Allied officials met in Tokyo harbor to sign the documents.

We look back on this day with grimness. It’s not a moment to celebrate. It is an event to commemorate with somber reflection. I am not particularly proud to have been born in the only nation on Earth to have used nuclear weapons in war. Indeed, it is a grim reminder of the path we took to reach that moment.

We had been fighting Japan, Nazi Germany and (until 1943) fascist Italy since 1941. Then in April 1945, our commander in chief, President Roosevelt, died in Georgia and suddenly, a modest man from Missouri, Harry Truman, was thrust into the role of president.

He didn’t know about the atomic weapon being developed in New Mexico until someone from the Joint Chiefs of Staff told him about this new weapon that could end the war quickly. President Truman weighed the cost of unleashing this device against the cost of invading Japan; he chose to use the bomb.

I have long embraced President Truman’s decision. Why? I had skin in that game. You see, my father was in the Philippines when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were incinerated. He was a proud Navy sailor who might have taken part in that invasion of Japan had the order been given and, yes, he could have died in that effort. He had survived intense combat in The Med and likely figured he was living on borrowed time.

So, you must understand that President Truman’s decision allowed me to be born into this world.

Do I celebrate those twin events? Do I perform a happy dance just knowing a wartime president’s resolve allowed me to enter this world? I do none of that.

I merely want to echo the refrain we have heard in the decades since that fateful event: Never again.