Of Infamy and Sleeping Giants

December 7, 1941- a day that will live in infamy.

USS Arizona
I was born in 1963, just 20 years after World War 2. Growing up, a lot of my mother’s friends were WW2 veterans. One in particular stood out for me, because of his huge forearms and gorgeous dark green anchor tattoo. His entire finished basement was decorated in all things naval. He would tell some of the best stories, but my favorite was his Pearl Harbor story.

You see, this man was a boatswain’s mate. They work in the bowels of a ship. The men who do these jobs are amazingly tough and dedicated to seeing a task through. His huge forearms were the result of pulling on massive cables and ropes all day long for many years- years that he almost didn’t have.
He was on one of the ships that was bombed on Pearl Harbor day; one that would sink to the bottom of the ocean... and he was in the bowels of a battleship when it started to go down. His pupils would dilate when he spoke of the booming concussive sounds that resounded throughout the ship as the first waves of bombs connected with their targets. They were all caught by surprise, and the scramble to determine what was going on delayed actions that could have saved lives.

USS West Virginia

The trauma would surface in his countenance as he spoke of pulling friends out of the boiler room who had lost sensory organs and limbs. One man carried out two of his dead buddies, because you don’t leave a shipmate behind. They got to the top deck just minutes before their home-away-from-home would plummet to the depths of the ocean. Many of their shipmates were not so fortunate.

The confusion and cacophony onshore slapped them out of their stupor, and they immediately fell back on their training. The devastation was overwhelming for them all. The United States had never experienced an attack like this prior to December 7, and my mother’s friend would say on many occasions that, “our arrogance cost us lives that day. The day you think it can’t happen to you is the day it probably will.” To my fellow veterans and anyone whose parents or grandparents or great-grandparents served in Pearl Harbor on this day in 1941, I salute you.

 As Franklin Roosevelt said in his speech, it was a “day that will live in infamy.” Japanese Admiral Isaroku Yamamoto is attributed to having said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” I don’t know if he said it or not, but the giant awakened that day, and has been on a rampage ever since.

May we all remember and forget, and sing our songs of peace, so that the giant may return to quiet slumber.


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