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  • Pearl Harbor – 67

    Posted by Jonathan on December 7th, 2008 (All posts by )

    Let’s not forget.

    If you want information, the Naval Historical Center archive that we linked in last year’s post is as good a place to start as any.

    Maybe it’s normal for cultures to lose their memories, or at least to roll them forward to more-recent events. By that logic, perhaps September 11, 2001 should serve as the current generation’s version of December 7, 1941. Does it? I don’t think so. I think we’re losing the memories, old and new, as we lose cultural self-awareness. We’re losing cultural self-awareness because we are losing cultural self-confidence. We are losing cultural self-confidence in large part because we allowed our educational system to be taken over by people who see cultural self-confidence as a crime.

    From the Naval Historical Center:

    By late November 1941, with peace negotiations clearly approaching an end, informed U.S. officials (and they were well-informed, they believed, through an ability to read Japan’s diplomatic codes) fully expected a Japanese attack into the Indies, Malaya and probably the Philippines. Completely unanticipated was the prospect that Japan would attack east, as well.

    Change the details and this story becomes generic. The most important events tend to be unanticipated, and not for anyone’s lack of trying to anticipate them. We should remember this truth even if we fail to remember specific events, though I suspect that the forgetting of events begets the forgetting of principles.

    Interesting times ahead.

    UPDATE: Via David Foster, this excellent post from Neptunus Lex.

     

    10 Responses to “Pearl Harbor – 67”

    1. david foster Says:

      See this 2006 post from Neptunus Lex.

    2. Kelly Says:

      Slight correction re educational assumptions: it’s not cultural self-confidence that’s the crime, it’s Western culture. Cultural self-esteem by any non-Western, non-mainstream group is to be nourished and celebrated. Patronizingly, of course, but celebrated.

    3. Lexington Green Says:

      The two following Prayers may be also used in ships of war:

      O ETERNAL Lord God, who alone spreadest out the heavens,and rulest the raging of the sea; who hast compassed the waters with bounds, until day and night come to an end; Be pleased to receive into thy Almighty and most gracious protection, the persons of us thy servants, and the Fleet in which we serve. Preserve us from the dangers of the sea, and from the violence of the enemy; that we may be a safeguard unto the United States of America, and a security for such as pass on the seas upon their lawful occasions; that the inhabitants of our land may in peace and quietness serve thee our God; and that we may return in safety to enjoy the blessings of the land, with the fruits of our labour; and, with a thankful remembrance of thy mercies, to praise and glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

      From the U.S. 1892 Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer.

    4. Mrs. Davis Says:

      Think of 9/11 as the invasion of Manchuria. This generation’s Pearl Harbour is yet to come.

      The absence of anyone who actually remembers Pearl Harbour is the beginning of time out of mind. We aren’t there yet, but it will come. Who really remembers Napoleon? He was as evil as Hitler to his contemporaries. And how evil will Hitler be in 100 years? Time does funny things to memory. And no one can ever really know the moment as well as someone who lived it. And how well do we know 9/11?

    5. Jay Manifold Says:

      I recall hearing the story of a 15-year-old boy* on that day, who had just served as best man at his eldest brother’s wedding. He returned home at midday with the rest of his family. A football game that he wanted to listen to was about to start. He wanted to hear as much of it as possible, so he hurried into the house and switched on the radio. As its tubes warmed, the announcer’s voice gradually became audible in the Nebraska farmhouse on a quiet Sunday afternoon, but not speaking of football.

      Both of that boy’s brothers, five and ten years older, would become career military. He would graduate from high school in ’44 and immediately be drafted. An amazing concatenation of events would delay his deployment until the following summer. On August 6th, 1945, he was on his way across the Pacific on a troopship for the invasion of Japan. That invasion was precluded by events — events well under way at the moment, three years and eight months earlier, when the great Japanese fleet, somewhere in the North Pacific, had turned southward into the wind to awaken the sleeping giant.

      I too wonder whether a clumsily-attempted criminalization of cultural self-confidence will delay our response to the all-too-likely nuclear (or other WMD) followup to 9/11. Vast numbers of people inside the US, never mind elsewhere, would say that such an attack was deserved, especially if it were to happen in a “red” state.

      But I also note that 12/7/1941 = 12/2/1941 + 5. Where, and what, will be our Chicago Pile 1?

      * Marion Keith Manifold, 7/26/1926 – 2/14/2001

    6. Chris Says:

      It was really surprising this year out here in Pearl Harbor. I live just up the hill from it and work right next to it practically. This year there was a noticable drop in the amount of commemorative activities for the anniversary.

      I commemorated it in my usual way by giving my Japanese American wife an unending and juvenile stream of crap all day. “Honey, these eggs are delicious..this breakfast will live in infamy!”

    7. Joshua Says:

      We’re losing cultural self-awareness because we are losing cultural self-confidence.

      I would add, “and because traditional notions of culture itself have become corroded by globalization and the Internet.” In our brave new world of instant global communications media, our old set of cultural ideas, memories and memes can’t avoid being swamped by a never-ending flood of new ones originating from every corner of the globe that these new media touch. This doesn’t mean our memories of Pearl Harbor are doomed to be lost outright, though; rather, its fate will be more along the lines of the Ark of the Covenant at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie – sealed into an unmarked crate and buried deep within the bowels of an enormous warehouse.

    8. Carl from Chicago Says:

      I don’t know about saying that Napoleon was as evil as Hitler… he was to his contemporaries, but that was because he was attempting to take down their monarchies (and replace them with a dictatorship, of sorts).

      In an absolute sense, Napoleon was no Hitler – he left behind the Napoleonic law codes, as opposed to Hitler, who left behind genocide.

      But agreed with all that it won’t be long before no one remembers Pearl Harbor, and that is scary.

    9. Chris Says:

      There is an old wives tale that I always got a kick out of that used to circulate around the base when I was in the Navy. I have no idea if it ever happened or not….

      There is the Pearl Harbor active naval base right next to the Pearl Harbor Memorial/Arizona Memorial and tourists used to constantly come to the base gate looking for the tourist site. American and Japanese tourists visit Hawaii in bulk and visit the Arizona memorial regularly. The story goes that one particularly surly marine sentry stopped a car full of Japanese tourists who asked him “Excuse please, where is the USS Arizona?” to which the marine supposedly replied “Right where you friggin left it!”.

      As low brow as that is I would laugh if had heard someone actually say that.

    10. Tatyana Says:

      Jay, that was a beautiful tale beautifully expressed.