"The World into Which I was Born was a World of Hero Soldiers and Patriotism - by Chuck Stilwell"

The World into which I was born was a world of hero soldiers and patriotism. On December 7, 1941, in a devastating surprise attack, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, a U.S. naval base on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Just before 8 a.m. on that Sunday morning, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes descended on the base, and destroyed or severely damaged at least 19 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, and over 300 planes. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, including civilians. At least another 1,000 people were wounded that day. My cousin, Jim Stilwell, had shore duty or shore leave at the time and so escaped the tragedy of the sinking of the USS Arizona to which he was assigned. Of the 2400 known dead during the strike, 1177 of them died on the USS Arizona, many of whom are still encased in the vessel, which is now a United States Memorial site. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. The attack on our territory and navy awakened the American sleeping giant. Patriotism was foremost in the hearts of the “brave and the free”. “Don’t tread on me”, a cry from our American Revolution, took on current meaning. I was born October 29, 1942. America and our allies were in the middle of World War II. The enemies were Nazi Germany and Japan, two destructive autocracies determined to control their world. In our own country many Germans and Japanese Americans living in the United States were placed in interment camps. When I was in my late 20’s, a friend of mine at work shared how that still affected her parents and others in her family who were Americans, but with a Japanese background. The Automobile manufacturers had turned to making military vehicles and tanks and other armaments. Women were called upon to prepare uniforms and war materials. The military draft age became 18 rather than 21 to draft enough fighting men for war. American families had already survived the Great Depression not too long before. ”Victory Gardens” had already been a part of many homes. Now they were rejuvenated across the country. The Victory Gardens were so called because to have victory in this war the country needed to grow its own food as much as possible. It was rumored at the time that Japan was going to bomb the west coast. Our family was living in Southern California, where often there were blackouts. No lights at night! My mother once told me that at those scary times, she would hide with me behind the couch for protection when the sirens would sound warnings of possible attacks. Today, I honor all the soldiers who willingly put themselves in harm’s way to not only protect our citizens, but also the innocent citizens of other countries. I honor them, too, for rebuilding and giving new hope to even those we termed once as enemies. Thankfully, we now have many organizations and businesses employing veterans. God bless them and may God continue to bless America even amid the ideological war in which we find ourselves.


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