For many years after my father died, a close friend of his used to call me every December 7th and remind me to remember Pearl Harbor Day. Without any introduction or question as to whether or not I was busy, he would just start in with, “Young Ed, it’s December 7.” Then depending upon the time of day or evening he had called, or his mood in general, he would either simply ask me to put aside a few moments to remember “all our boys,” or go into more detail of the day and how stupid and naive we had been as a country to let that happen.
“Goddamnit we got lazy and took our freedom for granted,” was a common thread of his.
Whenever we had this conversation, it was like yesterday for him. I remember that he was stationed in Pearl Harbor. I remember in the predawn hours of December 7th, he came off the harbor patrol watch and would later find that a Japanese mini-sub had snuck in through the nets behind his launch. I remember on December 7th, 1941 he awoke after about an hour of sleep to what he thought was some US military exercise (“what are those dumb bastards up to at this hour of the morning?”) and then he would describe hours and a day of staying alive, trying to keep others from dying, and “cleaning up.” I remember his horror at how that evening, our troops accidentally shot down one of our own planes. I remember him being haunted by the noise, the smell, and the death of so many young boys.
“Jesus Christ, they were just kids.”
2402 US personnel were killed, and 1282 were wounded. And the US was at war. My friend would serve in almost every major naval battle in the Pacific. He would go on to earn the Silver Star for heroism and survive having 3 ships sink under him. I once told him to remind me not to take any offshore sailing trips with him.
“You just remember, smart ass.” And he would go on to remind me (again) how often our generation takes our freedom for granted.
He passed away December 9, 2000 at the age 84.
I miss his calls, but I remember.