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December 7.  It is a day that should, at least in my opinion, be a day of reflection and memorial.  I would be willing to wager that most people in this country couldn’t tell you what happened on December 7 anymore.  But I believe, as Winston Churchill did, that “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  And, so, though I know that the few readers of this blog are certainly of the mentality, intellect, and education to remember, I will pay tribute here at the Jungle Gym.

For on this day in 1941, the Empire of Japan staged a massive sneak attack on our Pacific fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Pearl Harbor may seem like a distant memory to some, but in many ways it was a wake up call for America.  War had been raging in Europe for two years already and the British were on their heels as one of the last remaining forces standing against the Third Reich.  A year earlier in 1940 Japan had officially signed a treaty joining the Axis powers, but they had already been violently consolidating their own power in China and other Asian states.  But, until Pearl Harbor the popular opinion of most Americans was to stay out of it.

Many voices were raised both for (Charles Lindbergh) and against (Dr. Seuss) this policy of isolationism.  For two years America watched as the Axis powers stormed practically unchecked around the world.  The America First Committee was a powerful voice.  What happened in Europe and Asia was on the other side of the world.  It was not America’s place to become involved.

Isolationism can only be viable for so long, however.

Eventually, Imperial Japan decided they couldn’t risk us entering the war and took advantage of an opportunity to strike our fleet while much of it was away from the safety of the ports in San Diego.  And thus, just before 8:00 AM on a December Sunday nearly 360 Japanese planes swarmed over the military port of Pearl Harbor.

By the time it was over 12 of our warships were destroyed or severely damaged, over 200 aircraft were destroyed, and almost 3000 Americans were either killed or wounded in a brave, but ultimately failed, effort to repulse the attack.  The Japanese lost fewer than 100 men in the assault.

History shows that many mistakes were made leading up to Pearl Harbor.  But, hindsight is 20/20.  We can second guess the men and women who were there or who had reason to believe an attack could be imminent.  We can question decisions made leading up to the attack.  But, the truth of the matter is we were taught a costly lesson.

Turning your back on the world simply leaves you vulnerable to be stabbed in the back.

Isolationism is not a valid policy in this world.  We can’t simply pretend that the suffering or tyranny of others does not have an impact on the rest of the world.  And we ignore the threat and violence done against other nations at our peril.

Do not ignore history.  Do not let all those men and women, whether American or Japanese, who died at Pearl Harbor have died in vain.  Learn from our mistakes.  Remember.  Maybe we can’t protect everyone, everywhere.  But we can certainly be aware, be vigilant, and be true to the high standard set by the men and women who founded, built, and protected this country.

Remember Pearl Harbor.  Learn it’s lessons.  Don’t doom yourself to repeat them.


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