Tomorrow marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The “New York World-Telegram” headline on the morning of December 8, 1941 read, “1500 DEAD IN HAWAII.” As they were reading that headline and others like it, Americans knew that their way of life would never be the same.
Most of the Pearl Harbor bombing survivors have passed on, and their children will leave us also. The importance of remembering Pearl Harbor and those who lost their lives on that December morning will fade in time. This is regrettable, but true.
How will the 70th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on America be remembered? The year will be 2071. Most of the Twin Tower and Pentagon survivors will be dead, and their children not far behind. Any direct memories of 9/11 will be lost. School children in 2071 will learn about 9/11 only from pictures and videos (if those mediums still exist then). Will 9/11 just become a date on the calendar? One that’s only really acknowledged on anniversaries, such as this one for Pearl Harbor?
After the Japanese surrendered on September 2, 1945, the U.S. engaged in the rebuilding of that country. This was the 1940s version of “we broke it, we fix it.” (Of course, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki “broke” nearly 200,000 civilians, which to date, even the U.S. government has not been able to fix.) The post-World War II rebuilding of Japan (and Europe under the Marshall Plan), could be seen as a warm-up for the current U.S. efforts to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once rebuilt, Japan had many years of economic, industrial and technical growth. While at one time, “Made in Japan” denoted something of inferior quality, those three words now adorn most of the electronics sold in the U.S. Besides being a very large trading partner, Japan is also one of America’s bankers – the second largest buyer of U.S. debt by a foreign government, after China.
If past is truly prologue, does America’s tendency to destroy countries, then fix them up, extend to terrorist organizations? Will America be trading partners with groups whom are now considered terrorists? Someday, will the U.S. engage in bilateral trade talks with Hezbollah? Will America’s future finances be so damaged that Hamas will be buying American debt? Earlier generations could not conceive of America being business partners with Japan, but it happened.
Japan in 1941 was not unlike al-Qaeda today. For instance, Japan even had its own version of the suicide bomber. In World War II, these bombers were called Kamikaze pilots, and would fly a plane directly into a U.S. Navy ship. Hundreds of Kamikaze attack missions were flown, each time with the pilot intending to sink the ship and kill every sailor on board. The Kamikaze pilots willingly gave their lives to advance the war against the United States. In America, few could understand why anyone would kill themselves, hoping to kill their enemies with them.