I remember exactly where I was, and what I was doing on December 7, 1961.
My daddy and I went to Lee Herrington’s Grocery in Little Rock. Daddy needed gas for the tractor and a couple of other items. It was also my day to have a Coke and a bag of Tom’s Toasted Peanuts and anything else I might talk Daddy in to buying. After taking care of business at the store, Daddy paid for his purchase and promised Mr. Lee he would bring my Coke bottle back and then we headed home
On the way home Daddy noticed one of the neighbors sitting on his porch. He stopped to visit, as neighbors used to take the time to do back then. They discussed the subjects farmers always discuss, the price of cows, the weather and politics. For some reason and without hesitation, the neighbor changed the subject. His demeanor changed, just as abruptly as did the subject. With a distant and painful look in his eyes, he asked my daddy, “Do you remember where you were and what you were doing twenty years ago today?”
My daddy’s demeanor and facial expression changed, just as our neighbor’s had. He replied, “I will never forget as long as I live.”
A moment of silence brought a chill to the otherwise relatively warm December day. It was somewhat unsettling to me as I witnessed the two men who seemed to be lost in time. I must have missed something. What was happening, why were they suddenly angry, what was so important about something which had occurred twenty years ago on this date? And then the conversation continued between the two lifelong friends and brother World War II veterans.
Each of them reminisced the day and the event, which occurred before I was born. It became obvious why their mood had changed as they cussed the Japanese. The passing of 20 years had not erased memories nor had it softened their anger. The event they were referring to was the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on that date. Some politically correct historians refer to it as a “surprise attack." My daddy and his friend called it a “sneak attack." Whatever you choose to call it, the attack signaled the beginning of World War II for our nation. The four year war took the lives of more than 400,000 Americans.
Daddy and his friend didn't talk about the Japanese for long. Each made his point. They changed the subject, just as abruptly as before, and then continued their conversation about the issues of the day.
Daddy and his friend fought the Japanese in the Pacific. Both men had been wounded. Neither was quite ready to forgive. I never remember my daddy enjoying a pain free day. Daddy never talked about the war much. Not many of the combat vets did. They just wanted to forget, and move on with their lives, but none of them whom I have ever talked to will ever forget where they were or what they were doing on December 7, 1941. As President Franklin Roosevelt put it, “A date which will live in infamy.”
God Bless America and the men and women who sacrificed for our freedom.
Ralph Gordon from Union is an award winning freelance writer and past President of the Mississippi Writers Guild.