Posts Tagged ‘pearl harbor’

Yesterday was the 69-year anniversary of the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, marking the start of the United States’ direct involvement in the Second World War.

The Pearl Harbor attack was thirty-five years before I was born, but it is still a cultural hotspot. Like the day JFK was assassinated or 9/11, it can evoke powerful memories and strong emotions. “Flashbulb memories” are memories that combine a personal event with a cultural hotspot – the recollection of where you were and what happened to you on a historic occasion.

I don’t have a “flashbulb memory” for Pearl Harbor, because I wasn’t there. But it makes me think of my grandfather, who fought in the Pacific and who was stationed in occupied Japan after the war. He hardly ever spoke about his war days, but he did tell a story about the spiciest meal he ever ate. He also talked about the day that Japan surrendered. He was in a tent when he heard gunshots outside and he thought, “this is it, I’m going to die.”

Instead, the gunshots were celebratory rounds in honor of the end of the war.

So on this anniversary of Pearl Harbor I’m thinking, not just of war, but of the end of war. My grandfather was about to be sent with the ground troops to invade Japan and he was absolutely certain that his life was almost over. “If the war hadn’t ended then,” he said, “you wouldn’t be here.”

This post is in honor of the people who still don’t know if they’re coming home, and of the granddaughters they might someday have.

What does Pearl Harbor evoke for you?


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