Posts Tagged ‘Pearl Harbor’

I was thrilled by a pair of events addressing the historic Japan-United States enmity of the 1940s.

In May 2016, then-President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima, the first American commander-in-chief to do so since the US dropped an atomic bomb on the city over 70 years earlier.

While criticized by those on the left and the right, I thought it was an important gesture. “As he promised, the president did not apologize for the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, which killed an estimated 215,000 people. He laid a wreath at Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima and embraced a 91-year-old survivor of the nuclear attack.”

During his 20-minute remarks, “Obama said, ‘Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder the terrible forces unleashed in the not so distant past. We come to mourn the dead … their souls speak to us and ask us to look inward. To take stock of who we are and what we might become.’

“In the Hiroshima museum’s guest book before his speech, the President wrote that he hoped the world will ‘find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.’‎” Most of the elderly survivors, I imagine, did not foresee an American President in their midst, in that place.

Then, in December 2016, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered his condolences for his country’s attack on Pearl Harbor. “‘We must never repeat the horrors of war again, this is the solemn vow the people of Japan have taken,” he said. The Prime Minister was accompanied by President Obama, making the visit the first by the leaders of both countries.

“Mr. Abe paid tribute to the [2,400] men who lost their lives in 1941 at the naval base, many of whom remain entombed in the wreckage of the USS Arizona, sunk by the Japanese that day, and vowed reconciliation and peace.

How did this come about?

“Just as was the case when Obama visited Hiroshima earlier in the year—as the first sitting U.S. President to go to the site of the atomic bombing—the visit by Abe comes after many years of debate in the U.S., Japan and elsewhere about how the two nations should come to terms with the legacy of World War II.”

Mr. Abe never actually apologized, but as one elderly Pearl Harbor survivor noted, the Prime Minister’s presence was even more important.


JosephPHittorffJr5From the obituary, which I purloined:

“Ensign Joseph Parker Hittorff, Jr. was born in Kingston, NJ. He died 25 years later on the Oklahoma after it was bombed in Pearl Harbor… Joe (or Bud, as his older sister Marion called him) was the son of Joseph Peter Hittorff [d. in 1961 at age 84] and Ethel (Van Wagenen) Hittorff [d. 1933 when Joe was 17]…

“In June of 1936, he entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis and graduated in 1940. His initial assignment was serving on board the battleship USS Oklahoma, a 583 foot battleship attached to the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii…

“Joe sent frequent letters home. In one from November 2, 1941, he expressed concern that there were war clouds on the horizon, and he was ‘expecting the worst — and hoping for the best’. Read the rest of this entry »

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

I wasn’t born yet, but I do remember the distinctive voice of FDR in his radio address, and I remember many of the words he spoke.

I was thinking about this around 9/11 this year. Of course most Americans don’t remember Pearl Harbor, 70 years ago, directly anymore, as the population ages. But if we did, what lessons are we to glean now? Read the rest of this entry »

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