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Greg Jordan: Preserving the memory of Pearl Harbor is important for future generations

Wreckage of USS Arizona (BB 39) following the Dec. 7, 1941 attack at Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy/Released)

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Wednesday was the anniversary of a date which lives in infamy. On Dec. 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a surprise air attack against the U.S. Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

The attack brought the United States into World War II.

Today is the anniversary of the United States declaring war on Japan, and dictator Adolf Hitler of Germany obligingly declared war on the United States soon afterward.

I’ve read a lot about the attack on Pearl Harbor and watched two movies and several documentaries about it.

It seems that new books and documentaries about it come out all the time.

One of my favorite war movies is “Tora! Tora! Tora!” from 1970. That movie follows the events leading up to Pearl Harbor and the actual attack pretty well. Unlike today’s special effects using computer-generated images or CGI, the movie used real aircraft.

The movie has been called more of a documentary than action movie.

In 2001, Hollywood put the movie “Pearl Harbor” in theaters.

I had the privilege of going to a Charleston theater and seeing a special screening of that movie with Pearl Harbor veterans from across West Virginia.

Their critiques of “Pearl Harbor” were mixed. One veteran dubbed the movie “pure Hollywood” since it focused on action and made the Japanese attack look more like the one in the alien invasion flick “Independence Day.”

I later learned that the folks making “Pearl Harbor” did things like redesign World War II uniforms because they didn’t think the real ones were colorful enough for today’s movie audiences.

The veterans I spoke with also said that Pearl Harbor wasn’t exactly the tropical paradise depicted in the movie. Sailors shown in “Pearl Harbor” were enjoying a life of ease in a beach environment, but serving in the Navy was hard work, and the jobs could be nasty. One Pearl Harbor veteran told me about joys of being a night sentry.

What was like to be a soldier or sailor assigned to guard stuff at night?

Well, the veteran reminded me that while humans love warm weather, mosquitos love it, too.

He said you could reach out and grab mosquitos by the handful.

In 1941, the bug sprays and bug repellants we can buy today didn’t exist. Bug spray was developed during World War II to combat the malaria and other diseases delivered by bug bites.

Another aspect of Pearl Harbor that we overlook sometimes is how Americans back home reacted to the news.

Their reaction was a lot like the one seen across the country after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Nobody knew what was happening. Some Americans wondered if the Japanese attack was a prelude to an invasion of Hawaii or an attack on the continental United States.

My dad was in grade school when the news broke in America. Special editions of the local newspaper were suddenly on sale, and his teacher sent him outside to get one. That’s when he learned that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.

Mom was a little girl in grade school, and she remembers things like being issued a set of dog tags.

She was living in the Kanawha Valley near a big chemical plant, and authorities feared that it would be a prime target if the Germans ever managed to fly bombers across the Atlantic Ocean.

The dogs tags had her name, the names of her parents and other information.

They were designed to make reuniting children with their families easer if West Virginia was bombed by the Nazis.

Christmas is coming soon, so it’s easy to lose the Pearl Harbor anniversary in the shuffle as the years pass and make that historic event more of a distant memory, but preserving that memory is important.

Let’s all have a Merry Christmas, but let’s also take a moment to remember the sacrifices made decades ago so we would have the freedom to live our lives and enjoy the holiday.

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(c) 2022 the Bluefield Daily Telegraph

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