70 Years Ago Today

Paul Greenberg

12/6/2011 4:16:00 PM - Paul Greenberg

There was a time when there was no need to explain what happened on December 7, 1941.

It was one of those dates every American knew, and it opened a well of hurt and rage, pride and determination, and a hundred other memories and emotions. Nothing else needed to be said.

December 7th.

That was enough.

It was one of those dates. Much like September 11th today.

A date which would live in infamy.

So said Franklin Roosevelt when he appeared before Congress the next day and asked it to declare that a state of war had existed between the United States and the Empire of Japan since its unprovoked and dastardly attack on Sunday, December 7th.

Remember Pearl Harbor, the wartime posters would say under a torn and tattered, bullet-torn American flag.

The message: Remember December 7.

That was enough.

For in that same address to Congress, FDR vowed that "always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us."

And it would.

Or so it seemed then. The wounds were still fresh, the sacrifice and heroism and doubts and fears and utter determination only beginning.

Midway and Iwo Jima and Okinawa and Hiroshima and the final ceremony aboard the USS Missouri still lay ahead.

Nothing would ever be the same.

We thought.

Always would our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

We thought.

Now we may have to be reminded. The years flow past, generation succeeds generation, memories fade. Now the flag, bright and shiny and untouched, perhaps even unnoticed, flaps in the wind. As though it had never been under attack.

Today memory is renewed. There are anniversary stories in the paper, just as there are monuments and museums dedicated to keeping the remembrance of it all fresh .

But in the end no news article, no book, no television special, no museum, not even the rows of gravestones decorated with little American flags every Memorial Day will suffice to imbue that date on the calendar with the meaning it once had. It must live in the nation's heart. From generation to generation. Lest, even remembering, we forget.