Monday, December 07, 2009

Pearl Harbor to Ft. Hood: Never Forget

By William Cole, The Honolulu Advertiser

PEARL HARBOR — Harold O'Connor, 88, was a Navy Fireman First Class on the USS Thornton, a destroyer seaplane tender, in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked.

"All the torpedo planes were coming right off our fantail," O'Connor recalls. "I watched the West Virginia go up from two torpedoes that were dropped. All hell was breaking loose. I saw the bombs that hit the Arizona."

That's just one of O'Connor's World War II stories from the Pacific. The Hawaii man was again on the Thornton in 1942 taking Marines to Palmyra Atoll, when the ship ran aground on New Year's Eve. There he saw two torpedoes streaming toward where he stood.

"I said, 'Goodbye world,' and I hit the deck," O'Connor said. "Nothing happened. I got up, and here come two more torpedoes. They came right under where I was standing."

O'Connor's recollections go beyond Japan's 1941 attack on Oahu and so will the new $58 million Pearl Harbor center under construction for the USS Arizona Memorial here, says Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the emerging World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

President George W. Bush set that change in motion last year when he proclaimed the Arizona Memorial and visitor center part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which includes nine sites: five in Hawaii, three in Alaska, and one in California at the Tule Lake Segregation Center, which was where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II.

The challenge for the National Park Service, which runs the Arizona Memorial, is to expand its exhibits to incorporate the new Pacific mandate, Martinez says.

"We're at the beginning of trying to interpret how we're going to carry this out," Martinez said. "There are other ways to communicate this story besides traditional exhibits, so we're looking at ways to do it on the Web, we're looking at ways to do it through interpretive programs, we're looking at ways to do it through education."
This date, December 7, 1941 which killed 2,390 people, along with September 11, 2001, when 3000 people needlessly perished after terrorists hijacked three commercial planes and flew them into the World Trade Centers in NYC, the Pentagon and one crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to thwart the hijackers from flying another plane into another building, possibly the White House, should NEVER be forgotten. 

In addition, another more recent attack on our citizens should also never be forgotten and that is the Ft. Hood terrorist attack, that lives in most of our recent memories and occurred last month on November 5, 2009, which killed 14 and injured up to 30 others.  Whether our government decides to label it a terrorist attack or not, it is my belief and that of millions of other American's, Ft. Hood will be remembered as a terrorist attack on unarmed citizens by another military member. Regardless of why he did it, he betrayed his country and his oath to protect and serve his country, which makes him a traitor as well; which could be punishable by death. Finally, our government and military leaders needs to respond to such instances with determination and harsh action or our enemies will not take us as seriously as they did in WWII.

Today and every day, let's honor and remember all those who serve and have served in the military, for without them we would not enjoy the freedoms we have today. I am also honored, as a daughter to a former WWII vet, granddaughter to a WWI vet and niece of Korean and Vietnam vets,to share how vital it is we keep our patriotic spirit alive. Never let anyone rewrite history, make sure your children know the truth about what happened on these dates and that they grow up knowing that freedom isn't free. People in countries such as Iran are dying in the streets today, while their dictatorial leaders ignore their cries for freedom after a stolen election in June 2009. Never forget and never let anyone take our freedoms away! May God continue to bless America.

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