Opinion

Why the Pearl Harbor attack shook an entire generation to its core

To the editor: Each generation seems to suffer its own shock, an incident that knocks us back on our heels, so much so that we must sit down to take it all in. Our collective consciousness is seared, our individual psyches forever changed, whether we realize it or not. (“At Pearl Harbor's 75th anniversary, a reminder of how America proved its greatness — and why it is still great,” Dec. 5)

Then there’s another incident about 20 years later affecting the next generation much the same way. But curiously, the older generation does not experience the same kind of instant paralysis. 

For the generation of war babies, it was President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. For the generation immediately before them, it was what happened exactly 75 years ago, when the silence of a quiet Honolulu Sunday morning was shattered by attacking dive and torpedo bombers from offshore aircraft carriers of imperial Japan. Thus the name war babies.

The saying goes, “Forgive, but don’t forget.” Eternal vigilance is the watchword.

Stuart Kern, Rancho Palos Verdes

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To the editor: Today marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Columnist George Skelton writes that it marks “the passing of an era — from ‘Remember where you were?’ to ‘It’s on the History Channel,’” the implication being there aren’t very many people still alive who can recall firsthand experiences of World War II. 

Having a 92-year-old survivor from Berlin as my mother, I know her civilian experience is jaw-dropping and should be shared so others may learn from them. I am more than a little frustrated by indifference to the stories of survival that are not just educational, but also life-affirming. 

Craig Carr, West Hills

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To the editor: Skelton’s reminiscence about life on the California homefront on Dec. 7, 1941, brought back memories of those frightening days. We knew we were headed to war; the only surprise was the direction from which it came. 

Despite this surprise, even children knew about Japanese atrocities in China. Madame Chiang and T.V. Soong were quite effective in marshaling pro-Chinese feelings here. Even children were aware of the Rape of Nanking, thanks to the “Horrors of War” bubblegum cards.

Today, when we indulge in self-criticism over the unjustified internment of Japanese Americans, we do so without acknowledging the context in which it occurred. Before Pearl Harbor, many Japanese Americans gathered once a year in full regalia to celebrate the emperor’s birthday. 

The fear of a Japanese invasion of the West Coast was palpable after Dec. 7. The night of Feb. 24, 1942, is especially memorable. Although the Great Los Angeles Air Raid was the raid that wasn’t, it seemed real at the time. I recall sitting at the top of the stairs holding my single-shot rifle with a handful of bullets at my side. 

I had, just 26 days before, turned 12.

John M. Glenn, West Covina

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