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Next Project: Chinese Military History

The fading memories of Pearl Harbor

Today is the 80th anniversary of the "day that will live in infamy."  In times past, presidents would go to Pearl Harbor and deliver speeches, but so few veterans survive that the ceremonies are much less lavish than they were.

When I was growing up, the World War II veterans were in late middle age, still active but feeling their years.  The Korean War vets were just a touch younger, and conscious of the fact that all most people knew about their conflict was what they saw on M*A*S*H.

The Vietnam veterans were the young guys, some in their 20s, others in their early 30s.  They didn't fit in with the rest and made a point of wearing fatigues rather than dress uniforms for their reunions. 

There were still some World War I veterans around, but they were getting up there.

All of that has now changed with the passage of time.  The WW II generation is now fading fast, heading into the twilight like their Great War predecessors.  The Korean War vets are close behind, and the Vietnam vets are like the rest of the Boomers, feeling their age at last.

There is a scattering of Gulf War veterans, but that conflict was so brief and the losses so light, it's hard to think of it in the same way as the others.

A far larger cohort is my generation, which actually went from youth to middle age over the course of the seemingly endless Global War on Terror.  I don't know what kind of reunion we will have, if we ever have one.  There are no salient events like Pearl Harbor or D-Day to call us together again.

Very soon, Pearl Harbor will be as distant as the Argonne, or Gettysburg - an event with no living participants.

I think that was the thought behind Douglas MacArthur's famous statement that "old soldiers never die, they simply fade away."  Unlike their fallen comrades, they will pass quietly, individually, without much public notice.

I would be remiss if I did not recommend Tora, Tora, Tora for viewing if one is so inclined to learn more about the attack.


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