Thursday, December 07, 2006

Remembering The Day Of Infamy

For those who lived through the attack on Pearl Harbor 65 years ago, their numbers are dwindling. It's hard to believe that the "greatest generation" is fading away like a beautiful sunset on a Hawaiian shore.

For those who survived the Japanese assault, this is the last year they will be going to Pearl Harbor to pay their respects to their fallen brothers and to share memories, according to an Associated Press story today.

"We're like the dodo bird. We're almost extinct," Mal Middlesworth, president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, puts it. The 83-year-old was a young marine of only 18 on the USS San Francisco, a New Orleans-class heavy cruiser, when the attacks happened.

That attacked forced an invitation into American hands to join World War II that day and unintentionally, it probably saved the world from the Nazi threat because of America’s involvement.

While that horrific act touched off a series of events that no one could have possibly dreamt of, especially for Imperial Japan near the last days of the war, it has tugged on the heartstrings of many by hearing the heroic acts that took place on the 7th day of December.

Adolph D. Mortensen was a Navy Junior Officer on the USS Oklahoma, a Nevada-class battleship. He was not only a hero that day but saw a hero die.

As the Oklahoma was hit by torpedoes, Mortensen was trying to make his way off the ship when it turned upside down, as he told his story to the Web site Pearl Harbor: Remembered.

He was thrown into the dispensary with four other of his fellow officers, as they were treading water and keeping their head above it, as they were breathing in a small pocket of air, he remembers.

Using his feet, the then 25-year-old officer found a porthole. After taking in some air, he plunged down into the water and wrestled the porthole open. Two officers were able to go through with no problems but Mortensen had to push the head of an uncertain steward out of the porthole, he recalls.

The fourth man did not make it. According to Mortensen, the more than 200-pound ship's carpenter, a Mr. Austin, could not fit through the 11-inch wide porthole. He decided to remain there, as he knew that his last moments on Earth were at an end.

This is just one of many stories that have been told over the years and now, many of us can relate to them, as we witnessed the 21st century’s version of Pearl Harbor on Sept. 11, 2001.

There are many lessons that can be learned from the painful events of Dec. 7, 1941: our country is not impenetrable, that heroes are born in times of crisis. But one of the most important lessons we should always carry with us on that day is this: Yesterday’s enemies are today’s friends and allies.