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Looking Back on December 7, 1941 With Different Eyes

by Michael Pollack
on 2015-12-07

With the benefit of hindsight three-quarters of a century later, we can examine the Japanese attacks at the U.S. Naval Base in Pearl Harbor in a new light.

Today, we see where Japan’s tactical blunders and myopic thinking led to consequences on a global scale. But while we solemnly paused yesterday, December 7, we also see living proof that the attacks had a galvanizing effect on this country and forged a truly unique American spirit.

The line attributed to Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto from the film Tora! Tora! Tora! – “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant.” – proved prophetic.

The attacks roused the United States, with President Roosevelt declaring war on the Japanese the following day. Soon, the “Greatest Generation” would be born, embodying the selfless sentiment of Americans who put their civilian lives on hold to fight for their country.

The father of Caliper Senior Account Advisor Heidi Ankeny served as an aircraft mechanic during World War II. Now 87 years old, he grew up during the Great Depression.

“[In his day], you worked hard to get were you wanted to go,” Ms. Ankeny said. “You had respect. There was a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie…We need to recognize our veterans. They really made commitment and sacrificed for this country.”

Ms. Ankeny, who served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years, said what many people do not realize is that each military base is a “self-sustaining city.” In it, there are hospitals, stores, and medical practices, and servicemen and servicewomen “take care of their own.”

For her part, she said her transition to civilian life went smoothly, noting that “you are better equipped to deal with an array of difficulties. You become a jack-of-all trades.”

Fellow Caliper Account Advisor Jim Preston, who served in the U.S. Navy, echoed the feelings of Ms. Ankeny, saying, “I know that when I went back into civilian life, I was not the same person who had left four years previously…I was now a much more mature person and much readier to go into the workforce and take on responsibility.”

As we stop for a moment to remember the events of Pearl Harbor, it allows us to consider if we have lost perspective since that time.

Mr. Preston, whose father also served in World War II, noted, “The Greatest Generation came through an awful lot, and as a population, they came together and were really the creators of the American way of doing things. But I do think we have lost that spirit.”

Mr. Preston’s advice on how to regain perspective:

  • “Think unselfishly about what’s in the best interests of the country.”
  • “Respect differences and learn to accept them…What makes this country so great is its diversity.”
  • “Looking back is great, but we’re looking back with our eyes. We have to look back with their