"December the seventh, 1941, a Day Which Will Live in Infamy..."
If you're a bit like me, you may have only just glanced at the calendar a day late. I can remember no news on television that remarked of the anniversary of Pearl Hrbor's attack by the Japenese, so dastardly and sneaking!
Now I'm into the wee hours of December 8, 2008.
But I recall vividly from history books and films, the stigma of the previous day, December the seventh.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt branded it the "day which will live in infamy."
As well it willl!
The date upon which any t wo powerful nations go to war certainly ought not to be forgotten.
But it's difficult to imagine it how, with the Japanese now our familiar allies and trading partners, they could have come to be interred as American citizens as thousands upon thousands lost their lives in the Pacific War.
When we laid foot once again on another shore - this time in Iraq - I couldn't help but shudder, as I had been told so many tales of World War II as a child.
Internment, new means of destruction and torture, it seems, refused to take leave of the American and international psyche upon this sad globe of ours.
My ex-father-in-law, proudly named "William Henry" Wesp, for the sister of his ancestor, President William Henry Harrison, had some unique insights into World War II.
We often discussed politics and that war extensively.
When it came to cleaning up the mess in the post-war Philipines, he was a naval officer assigned to that task, and found the conditions he found not just deplorable, but inhumane and unforgivable.
So,one might well ask: "What, if anything, has changed at all?"
Further,in his cups, he would shake his head, intimating to me that Patton was right, and that we should have gone on to Moscow after Berlin to avoid the complications of a long cold war.
Furthermore, he'd readily assert that with the atomic bomb our nation had loosed upon the world a horrible phenomenon.
Now I reflect that Alamogordo might as well have been the similar sounding Armageddon!
With that particular feat of science, he intimated to me, his generation had truly passed on an indescribable and unforgivably dangerous legacy to the world.
And who can disagree with that? Nuclear profliferation is still a great problem.
I come from Pueblo, Colorado, which President Dwight Eisenhower dubbed the "City of Heroes," because of the extraordinary number of Purple Heart winners per capita in our city during the mid-twentieth century conflagration.
An uncle, Louis Leo (born Luigi Elía) Riccillo was among those fallen.
He gave up his long awaited pass home just before the Battle of the Bulge, for a Italian-American friend, who was particularly homesick, and missing his Pueblo best girl.
A sniper cut my uncle's life short when that he casually ambled out for mail call one morning.
His armored tank and artillery division, in which he served as a Corporal operating the powerful Sherman tank of the era, was assigned to General Patton at the time a bullet found him.
So it is that certain dates trigger certain memories, as surely as if a mental trigger was squeezed.
He became the uncle whom I would never know, and the relative I was told repeatedly that I resembled.
So, it haunts me to this very day. Three years younger than my father (who lived to age eighty nine, until three days before my birthday, August tenth of 2008) Louis might otherwise be living still, as is my mother of ninety years. But a piece of lead found him, in a forest near a German river, long before I was born.
Now we have seen far more ingenuity by way of destruction! IEDs,"improvised explosive devices", have brought us to yet more egregious means of carnage--as if enough was not enough already.
Sadly, it seems that we human beings, ever inhumane, manage to come up with infinite means of assailing and killing one another.
During the Viet Nam War, while at the Univeristy of Colorado, in 1971, I rejoiced with one shot of whiskey after another among other students, as the lottery numbers were called out.
I slowed down enough, however, until I got to my number announced as 365!
I would have loved to go to the military, especially the Air Force, where I could, with my high math scores and adequate size, have learned to fly jet planes. But that would have meant dropping bombs on innocent children in Viet Nam and Cambodia.
I still cherish the idea of learning to fly a plane.
But, remembering that December the seventh a day late, I consider it's given too little attention, and that the greatest war by perhaps the greatest of American generations, is given much too little attention and short shrift.
I harken back to the nineteen forties, trying to imagine what it would have been like then!
Probably,my uncle Louis would have been much like me, with some dreams of a lovely young woman back home--maybe a summer love like one I once had.
Probably, he never had a chance as a leaden missile pierced his body, to reflect at all upon man's inhumanity to its own, and any concept so grand as "infamy."
But "infamy' it was.
And "infamy," my friends, it still is!
Charles L. Riccillo