December 7th, one of so many days in infamy

Today is the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the start of World War II for the United States. When I was younger, I used to get this day mixed up with my father’s birthday, which was yesterday, the 6th.

“No dear,” my Dad would say. “I was born on the 6th, war started on the 7th.”

Point of fact, my Dad turned 93 years old yesterday, and he spent his birthday 62 years ago working as a railway engineer on a train somewhere in the Northwest. The next day when he heard about Pearl Harbor, he got off at the next city that had a military recruiter and signed up in the Army. Eventually he ended up in the 82nd Airborne, spending much of his time in Europe, with a few side trips into Northern Africa.

He had achieved the rank of Captain by the time the war was over, all through battlefield promotions. This means his leaders weren’t as lucky or perhaps as watchful as Dad. Or perhaps it means that Dad’s leaders would put themselves at risk rather than their men.

Dad spent some time in London, where he picked up his love of ‘good tea’. I have suspicions that he did more than drink tea and jump out of planes, because among his memorabilia (that ended up lost during one move), there was a photo of a beautiful woman in uniform who I’d ask Dad about, but he’d never respond with anything other than saying softly she was a ‘…woman he knew in London.”

Dad planned on staying in the Army after the war until he realized that he wouldn’t have much of a career in the military because of his age – he was in his 30’s. So he quit and eventually ended up a Washington State Trooper, which is lucky because otherwise he wouldn’t have met my mother, a beautiful, frustrated 19 year old, in 1951. Then there was Mike, and then me, and then divorce.

Eventually Dad also spent time in Vietnam, a place he said we didn’t belong. While he was there, we were invited to meet him during our summer vacation and we were given the choice of Hawaii or Japan. Being kids, we picked Hawaii, which I don’t regret, though I wish now I’d picked Japan.

When we were in Hawaii, we spent time at the USS Arizona Memorial, which just didn’t mean that much to me and my brother. We were more interested in going swimming.

Dad’s a good conservative, and Republican, but he doesn’t think we have any business in Iraq. Doesn’t think much of Dubya, but liked his Dad. He’ll still vote for Bush though, rather than that “big mouth” from the north.

This is my Dad through the years, and who he is now. But first there was a man riding a train hearing the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, and listening to the words about the …event that will live in infamy.

(National Geographic has an excellent Flash Presentation on the events surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor.)

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