Advertisement

Archive for Monday, December 5, 2011

Historians find Pearl Harbor fading from younger generations’ memories

Pearl Harbor visitors enter the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, which is built over the sunken remains of the battleship, to experience and pay their respects, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. Of the 2,400 Americans who died in the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, 1,177 were killed on board the Arizona. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the attack, which escalated the United State's involvement into World War II.

Pearl Harbor visitors enter the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, which is built over the sunken remains of the battleship, to experience and pay their respects, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. Of the 2,400 Americans who died in the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, 1,177 were killed on board the Arizona. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the attack, which escalated the United State's involvement into World War II.

December 5, 2011

Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series marking the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which occurred on Dec. 7, 1941.

Advertisement

The 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago today changed the United States. It also changed the lives of three men. Vincent Muirhead, Lawrence, and Dorwin Lamkin, Mission, both served aboard ships at Pearl Harbor. Lawrence artist Roger Shimomura spent part of his youth in internment camps. Our special project includes their stories, archived newspaper and audio reports, and a photo gallery of the events of Dec. 7, 1941.

Audio Clips
Audio reports of the Pearl Harbor attacks

Seventy years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, scholars of history say the event shaped the lives of many who lived through it, long after the Dec. 7, 1941, date that lived in infamy. But that influence may be waning with younger generations.

From 1969 to 2006, Ted Wilson, a Kansas University history professor, taught a course on World War II. As part of the course, he required his undergraduate students to conduct oral histories of people from the time period. It didn’t have to be someone who served in the military, Wilson said, but it certainly could have been. Though the course was an introductory history course with large numbers of students, Wilson graded all the oral history papers himself.

He estimates he read about 8,500 of them over the years, and he’s kept about 3,500 of them in the basement of his home.

Wilson said several major themes emerged for the people who remembered the event firsthand.

Only a small number of them knew about Pearl Harbor or where it was before the attack, Wilson said. And, as it represented the beginning of America’s entry into World War II, it also represented the beginning of many changes for people all across the country.

Women, in particular, often found jobs and opportunity. Women whose husbands were serving suddenly found themselves working for the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant and living in tiny cabins in De Soto. Men, both inside and outside of the military, were able to learn new skills that prepared them for new careers.

“There are several seminal events that, at least in terms of perception, change the way the population and the people think about issues,” Wilson said. Pearl Harbor, he said, was one of a relatively few of those moments.

Hal Wert was a graduate student teaching assistant for Wilson’s class and has since gone on to his own career as a World War II historian. He currently teaches history at the Kansas City Art Institute and serves as an adjunct faculty member at KU in its international studies program.

He’s noticed that the attack is slipping from the minds of his students more and more.

“If you ask me what it means to my students, it’s nothing,” he said. “The war in Vietnam is ancient history.”

This is nothing new, though, Wert said. History has a natural tendency to fade. And with more and more members of the World War II generation dying each day, Pearl Harbor will likely continue to slip from the national consciousness, he said.

“Before Pearl Harbor, the patriotic rallying cry was ‘Remember the Maine,’” Wert said, referring to an ill-fated battleship in the Spanish-American War, in 1898. “I would guess not too many people today remember the Maine.”

Still, for many older Americans, the parallels between Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks are obvious, Wert said. Both were surprise attacks that profoundly affected the nation’s people.

“The same issues persisted afterward,” he said. “Should we have known and could you connect the dots?”

Grant Goodman, an 87-year-old retired KU Japanese historian, gave a presentation on Pearl Harbor last year with Wilson from the point of view of the Japanese.

“People today have no idea what the people in Japan suffered” after the war, Goodman said.

The booming economy of Japan today bears little reflection of the difficult post-war times. But the world’s technology is advancing at a far greater pace.

“Seventy years in today’s world is like hundreds of years, years ago,” Goodman said. “You talk about World War II, you may as well be talking about the Trojan War.”

Comments

Loki 2 years, 4 months ago

I fear with the loss of our older generations that the true horrors of such a grand war will be lost also. A great war today would be drastically different from that of WWI or WWII and probably more horrific with WMDs that are out there.

0

FlintlockRifle 2 years, 4 months ago

If you have been there it will shake your memories, just walk the ramp in the picture and your heart starts to rev up, just such a sad day in USA past, yes I guess they do not teach this in school anymore, in fact what do they teach our youngesters anymore??,

0

Agnostick 2 years, 4 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

0

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 4 months ago

Years ago, my fellow graduate student and friend, Hiroshi, used to have an annual Pearl Harbor Day party. He always made some great sushi.

0

blabber 2 years, 4 months ago

Right you are, sir. For a while there I found myself provoking a pointless argument with someone whom I will never agree with about some things. Why bother? This LJW comment thing is for folks with nothing better to do. Adios!

0

Boston_Corbett 2 years, 4 months ago

Blabber and FalseHopeNoChange

Dual trolls.

0

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 4 months ago

There was a huge cultural difference between the way the Americans and the Japanese viewed war at the time WW II was fought.

Japan was a rather small island that had a very long history of small feudal kingdoms prior to WW II. The way wars were usually ended was with a truce, which then marked the new demarcation line between the feudal kingdoms. Then, the war was over.

Many historians claim that the Japanese never really intended to march across the United States mainland and force Washington, D.C. to surrender. Instead, they expected that the war would define a new demarcation line somewhere in the Pacific Ocean that would define the areas of American and Japanese influence. Then, the war would end.

At the very top levels in Japan, at least in a very abstract way, that's the way they thought the war would probably end, somewhat by attrition.

But the Americans did not view it that way at all, instead it was to be a war that was to be ended with a total and complete surrender by Japan. Nothing short of that would be acceptable.

It was actually an East/West cultural clash in that respect.

That's the case with a lot of wars - cultural attitudes are simply very different, which leads to very large misunderstandings. If there were more sociologists studying the psychological reasons and motivations for the wars that do occur, I think there would be fewer of them, and perhaps they would be more limited in scope.

0

blabber 2 years, 4 months ago

Anyway, the Chinese are winning without firing a shot. Keep those tax breaks for the billionaires! They're the ones who create jobs! Jobs in China!

0

blabber 2 years, 4 months ago

I wouldn't call the Japanese cowardly by any means. They mistakenly, foolishly thought that they could destroy our Pacific Fleet, rendering us unable to prevent their takeover of the western Pacific.

0

puddleglum 2 years, 4 months ago

this younger generation member will NEVER forget the JAPANESE attack on pearl harbor.

It was a cowardly attack meant to force the U.S. into submission via destroying all of our air craft carriers and their supporting fleet. It was our fortune that our carriers were out of harbor, practicing excercises away from pearl.

How any american can allow themself to purchase a 'new' japanese car is beyond me. and I don't even want to hear about how your stupid toyota was built in Tennessee. that is only a sorry crowning achievement that the Japanese figured out how to manipulate the workers and the buyers, while we wallowed in the downward sprial of labor vs. RICH. All of the profits still go to Japan, and the workers jobs came from detroit-so don't even bother about 'how many jobs' these clowns say they create.

but anyway, ANY vet that drives a toyota is a traitor.

gimme a sandwich.

0

George_Braziller 2 years, 4 months ago

“Seventy years in today’s world is like hundreds of years, years ago,” Goodman said. “You talk about World War II, you may as well be talking about the Trojan War.”

I was just talking to someone about this very thing this morning. I was born in 1961 and when I was a kid the end of WWII was a relatively recent event. The evening news was still covering the rebuilding and recovery efforts in Europe and there were often film clips included with the story.

At the time I thought it was ancient history. I was in high school before it really hit me that only 15 years had passed between the end of WWII and when I was born.

Now I have shirts older than that.

0

FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 4 months ago

Big Daddy's minions and their offspring have forgotten but, I doubt the younger generations of Japanese Americans have not forgotten the Democrats putting their Grandparents and parents in squaler camps by interning them in basic prisons left to their own devices to survive after Dec 7.

0

Boston_Corbett 2 years, 4 months ago

There is a difference between 1) accusing Roosevelt of possessing advance knowledge of the attack, and 2) arguing Roosevelt should not have been totally shocked when it happened. I disagree with the former, but tend to agree with the later.

What is more clear, is that the President, the White House, and Pentagon tried to avoid all responsibility and blame. Instead they threw two mid-level military commanders under the bus, who were totally out of the loop of critical intelligence information at the time, while the Pentagon hid these key "smoking gun" intercepts and evaluations from several subsequent congressional, executive, and military investigations. Their conduct was close to criminal, if not just dishonest and dishonorable, in my personal view.

Read: Infamy: Pearl Harbor and its Aftermath, by Pulitzer wining author John Toland

0

blabber 2 years, 4 months ago

Yes, I've noticed that my memory of December 11, 1914 is beginning to fade, although I remember Gettysburg as though it were yesterday.

0

classclown 2 years, 4 months ago

I think it's a case of knowing someone that was involved in it. I think most of us here are old enough that we know/knew at least one person that fought or otherwise served during the war. That sort of kept it alive for us.

Younger people don't have that. No grandpa or uncle or someone telling about their time over there or anyone even to relate their experiences here as a result of the war such as rationing. I remember my mother showing me a book of ration stamps, the last book she had when rationing came to an end.

Stuff like that makes it real to us as opposed to being something that happened in the past and has become relegated to being a history lesson.

0

Boston_Corbett 2 years, 4 months ago

Yoeman writes: "Today we have a cadre of historical revisionists that were not alive at the time..."

Don't forget, this cadre includes our Bozo who repeatedly slants the historical record regarding Truman's use of the atomic bomb in ending the war with Japan.

0

CWGOKU 2 years, 4 months ago

Professor Wilson was my senior thesis advisor. Great man.

0

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 4 months ago

A friend of mine inherited a diary from a diseased relative that was alive during World War II. There weren't very many entries in it, but there was one that I really wanted to see. To this very day I can quote exactly and in its entirety what he wrote in his diary on the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor:

December 7, 1941: The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor today.

0

gl0ck0wn3r 2 years, 4 months ago

Ted Wilson is a great professor. His WWII class was one of the best classes I ever took at KU.

0

patkindle 2 years, 4 months ago

most younger people dont remember or care about the alamo , wwi, wwii, korean or vietman wars plus 9-11 was just a political fluke and was not done by muslim terrorists they love everyone except the people live lived, worked, and died for them so they could live off the rest of us

0

beatrice 2 years, 4 months ago

I blame the collective lack of awareness of Pearl Harbor on the bad movie of the same name. Director Michael Bay and actor Ben Affleck needed to do a better job.

While I kid, I'm not wrong. How many young people do you know who aren't aware of the tragedy of the Titanic?

0

75x55 2 years, 4 months ago

Well, they're going to get a LOT more aware if they don't get that environmental disaster known as the USS Arizona cleaned up.

With an estimated 1/2 million gallons of fuel oil on board, just waiting for the natural process of corrosion to the hull and tank walls to finally weaken them enough that they rupture, dumping the contents and whatever else is loose in the ship into Pearl Harbor.

The 'war graves' designation for this ship is maudlin and unnecessary - it needs to be cleaned up like all the other ships were.

0

Kirk Larson 2 years, 4 months ago

It happens. I remember GHW Bush commemorating the sacrifice our soldiers made on September 7th.

0

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 years, 4 months ago

You are correct, bozo, but that is pretty much the way that historical perception is. Today we have a cadre of historical revisionists that were not alive at the time who will glom on to the notion that Roosevelt (a Democrat) knew about the attack and failed to act. There are those who will cry and bleat that we should appologise to the Imperial Japanese Navy for the irritation to their piliots from the noise of the exploding battleships and bombs. And there are probably those who will blame Obama, since he was born in Hawaii, but not yet alive at that time. Isn't modern perspective on history great??

0

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 4 months ago

"Awareness" would be a more appropriate term for this than "memory." The great majority of people alive right now weren't alive in 1941, so there is no way they can have a memory of the attack.

For that matter, unless you were there at the time, you also can't have a memory of it.

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.