Today is Pearl Harbor Day, the day which shall live in infamy:
At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.
Recently, I took Samuel over to see his grandparents – my Mimi and Papa, who just recently celebrated their seventieth anniversary.
That’s seventy. 7. 0.
Today my Mimi and Papa celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. They probably won’t see this because they’re way old and aren’t on Instagram but I thought I’d share it anyway because I think it’s really cool. When asked what it takes to make it 70 years, Papa said, “You have to live a long time.” Touché Papa.
Anyway, Papa fought in the Battle of Okinawa, the last and biggest of the Pacific island battles of World War II.
During the eighty-two days that spanned between April 1 and June 22, 1945, over 287,000 troops of the U.S. Tenth Army fought against 130,000 Japanese soldiers. My Papa was one of them. They were fighting over air bases that would be critical to the invasion of Japan. By the end of the campaign, 14,000 members of the Allied forces were killed, while suffering over 65,000 casualties.
It was the bloodiest battle in South Pacific.
I recently read Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, which is a captivating tale of the Autumn 1944… when World War II was nearly over in Europe but was escalating in the Pacific.
And my Papa was right there.
When Samuel and I were over there recently, I asked Papa about what he saw. He talked about the sheer amount of death burned into his memory.
“At night,” he told me “I’d look out into the ocean and all I saw was burning ships because the kamikaze pilots kept bombing us.”
Isn’t it interesting how war defines a person? A generation? I am so proud to be able to talk with my Papa, who has to be one of the “greatest” of the Greatest Generation. He never expected anything, he worked for what he had, he took such pride in being a Marine, and he shaped our family’s ethics and morals for generations to come.
Here’s another thought.
I can say definitively I would not be here, if not for the atom bomb. Papa’s Marine Corps unit was scheduled to be the fir wave of invaders into Japan…. America was counting for 100,000 casualties in that invasion. When the United States decided to drop nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945 instead, it most certainly save Papa’s life… and made mine possible.
Anyway, as Americans are thinking about World War II today, I was thinking about Papa — and what a legacy he’s created for every member of the Lowe family to try to honor.