On Dec. 7,1941, the Japanese celebrated what they believed was a great victory in destroying the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. Yes, they destroyed some of our great battleships. But, they didn’t destroy our entire fleet. Our aircraft carriers and aircraft eventually made up for more than the loss at Pearl Harbor.
Three years, eight months and seven days later, Japan capitulated. Sixteen days after that, one of our remaining battleships, the U.S.S. Missouri, steamed into Tokyo Bay to be the ceremonial platform for Japan’s formal surrender on Sept. 2, 1945. Talk about adding insult to injury.
This is the 73rd anniversary of that date.
Can we take a “victory lap” for that accomplishment? You bet we can. Victory in World War II was accomplished by the combined effort of our civilian community and our great armed forces. The united people of the United States put forth an effort that was never duplicated before or since.
From the soldier on the front line, to the men and women in the factories, to the farmers in the fields, to the children collecting tin cans and newspapers, Americans were united in this effort. The wartime economy accompanied by the rationing and shortages impacted us all. It was the greatest thing I ever witnessed and I am proud of my people and proud of the small part I had in it.
We are a nation born and grown by the sweat of peasants and immigrants. Yet, of all the noble nations in the history of the world, we are the noblest. We are not conquerors. We are liberators. It may seem odd, but the people of Germany and Japan, whose countries were vanquished, did become beneficiaries of our victory. We liberated those people from the oppression imposed on them by their own leaders. In Germany, our occupation forces and The Marshall Plan helped to restore the economy and return the government to civilian control.
In Japan, General Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander of the Allied powers, almost in a position as co-emperor, took control of the restoration of that country. While allowing some old traditions to remain, other parts of the feudal system of old Japan were erased. He oversaw the rise of a new Japan from the ashes of the old.
On this anniversary maybe we could think about our country. What elements on the road to victory in World War II are we missing today, if any? Can we employ any of those elements to polish our stars? Remember the last four letters of American are “I CAN”.
Richard Pender is the senior vice commander of American Legion Post 459 in North Brunswick. He writes the occasional historical column for Newspaper Media Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.