BOCA RATON, FL – I’m writing this in the waning hours of December 7th, 2020: The 79th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Not too many now living in America know much about that day. I remember it well. Clearly. The year was 1941. I was a Brooklyn eight year old and awaiting The Shadow radio program that was broadcast every Sunday at 3PM and sponsored by Blue Coal. An announcer broke in to report that our base at Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, had just been attacked by Japanese aircraft. My mother screamed out loud. My Dad yelled at us to grab all the crap stuff we had around the apartment that was made in Japan. Cursing, he threw it all out the window to smash on the backyard concrete.
The next morning my lifelong buddy, Alfred Fischer, who passed away last year, and I walked the four blocks to PS 97 and we discussed the situation. We knew about the wars in Asia and Europe. We watched Movietone News every Saturday at the Highway Theater, we read the Daily News and Daily Mirror, listened to the radio and collected War Cards that came in gum wrappers. They pictured Jap soldiers bayoneting Chinese babies and burning down their homes. We were scared.
That morning at school, Ms. Rauch, the principal, calmly addressed us in the auditorium. She explained that yes, President Roosevelt had declared war on Japan but that we were to be patriotic, proud Americans and that we would eventually win. We knew we would. After all, our comic book heroes, Bulletman, Batman, Captain Marvel and Superman were on our side. We were eight-year-olds. And we loved to stand by our seats and pledge to the flag every morning in class. Our neighborhood quickly changed. All the older boys disappeared, either enlisted or were drafted. Joey Pinto, my stickball role model, who lived across the street died somewhere in the Pacific. Six of my cousins fought in Europe. One came home with the Silver Star. We rallied each and every patriotic holiday at Archie C. Ketchum Square on Kings Highway and West 9th Street, where a WWI cannon had been in place since I could remember. Guys in uniform, probably veterans, fired off volleys as the flag was raised on these occasions with crowds of people saluting, applauding, crying and singing the National Anthem. There were no gatherings where we were lectured about how we caused the war and why we were responsible for the hatred of our enemies. This was then.
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December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, is not a holiday to be celebrated. It’s a day to bless the greatness of our nation. It is a day of reflection. It’s a day to recall the sacrifices our boys made to win that war which was foisted upon us. Of the fragility of our freedoms that we ordinarily take for granted. I think back to those days when we were truly a UNITED States. We were not divided. During that War, Democrats and Republicans fought on the battlefields, side by side as buddies and local and national politics were merely inconsequential side issues to be discussed. Not too important then, when our kids were being killed thousands of miles away. The years have eroded our history. It’s being shredded. That saddens me this day. Joey should not have died in vain.