Paul Greenberg

"The demand for news was so intense that we stayed out in the streets until late into the night selling papers. As the demand for papers in the city of Hartford subsided, we went back to our local neighborhoods and our established routes to deliver the news to our neighbors. These are just the memories of a 13-year-old paperboy who barely understood the significance of a Day That Will Live in Infamy."

To those who lived through that time, and still remember the Americans who didn't, that day and that war still lives. Seared into memory. Not enough of us today will think of those Americans who gave their lives in the jungles of the Pacific or in the skies above Europe, who fought in North Africa or on the beaches of Sicily and Normandy or wherever they were sent to defend not only their country but the cause of freedom around the world. Cut down before their time, they never grew old. Still young in their fresh soldier boy's uniforms or coats of Navy blue, their pictures still stand somewhere almost lost among all the others atop crowded mantles and chifferobes across the country, their gazes fixed on us from the past. If we would only look. And learn.

The now aged veterans who survived that terrible conflict might have been with Jimmy Doolittle for 30 minutes over Tokyo, a daring raid that revived American spirits in the midst of initial defeat after defeat and retreat after retreat. Or they might have made it to the victorious end aboard the battleship Missouri, where the unconditional surrender was signed after those blinding flashes that destroyed the populations of whole cities. Wherever they are, they will remember this day -- as we should remember them.

The country would experience another Day That Will Live in Infamy on September 11, 2001, and once again resolve to see the struggle through to the inevitable victory, so help us God. Yet the memory of that day, too, like the country's resolve, already fades. Appeasement comes back into fashion if by more polite names. Once again Western statesmen draft diplomatic deals and issue press releases proclaiming peace in our time. Once again, defense budgets are cut as America withdraws from the world stage. With the usual results: Aggression goes unchecked, a bloody civil war rages in Syria as it once did in Spain, fanaticism prospers, and the next Day of Infamy is invited while America sleeps.

Today the memories indelibly etched in a young paperboy's mind on December 7th, 1941, and now part of his family's heritage, come back strong, if only for a passing day. Those memories need to be kept alive, powerful and vivid, from generation to generation, and their lesson remembered.

There are many other Robert Cunninghams in this still great country, this sleeping giant more than one vainglorious aggressor has made the mistake of awakening, and their stories need to be told and preserved, too. Which is another reason why the veterans of that terrible war, the diminishing number of them we still have with us, should record their memories for posterity. Because they're all part of your heritage, America.

Pass it on.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.