The Thanksgiving turkey has been boiled into savory soup, the family photo taken for the Christmas cards, and each evening finds more lights sparkling in the neighborhood, but in the midst of the happy holiday season comes a somber day of remembrance—Pearl Harbor Day. Next Friday, many older Americans will pause to think back to the shock of fear and perhaps anger they felt upon hearing the unbelievable news…Americans attacked on their own soil! How could this happen?! And then the story began, the story that is really many stories of personal strength, perseverance, loss, hope. Do you remember? Do your parents or grandparents remember?
I have Ken Burns’ book The War on my Christmas list; my husband would like the DVD. We both enjoy learning about history, but I really like hearing the personal and cultural perspectives…how an event affected everyday life, what did people think about it, why did people act in given ways. And, I like to learn about both sides of a story. In my mother’s memoir, Cherry Blossoms in Twilight: Memories of a Japanese Girl, she barely remembers hearing about Pearl Harbor, perhaps because she was young at the time and just trying to get through daily life. Life was difficult because of the poverty Japan experienced due to fighting in China for many years, and my mother was forced to quit school after fifth grade and go to work to earn money for the family. Here is an excerpt from her book:
“I was sixteen years old then and too young to bother paying much attention to something far away. After Pearl Harbor, though, we began to listen to the radio to hear how many enemy ships sank, how many bombs were dropped, and how many airplanes were shot down. We celebrated when we heard our soldiers had won a battle. We never heard how many of our soldiers were killed or how much damage was done by the enemy.”
What many Americans do not realize is that the Japanese government and military controlled the media and therefore the civilians generally heard only what the leadership chose to divulge about the War. The people were given the “government story.” Hmmm, I think we can relate to that!
On December 8, raise your American flag in support of those who survived Pearl Harbor and in memory of those who didn’t. Ask that gem of a question, “Where were you when you heard about…” and see what kind of fascinating stories pour forth.