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A Beginning, An End, A Return.

Today is the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 that launched the United States into World War II.

The Japanese plan was simple: Destroy the Pacific Fleet. That way, the Americans would not be able to fight back as Japan’s armed forces spread across the South Pacific. On December 7, after months of planning and practice, the Japanese launched their attack.

At about 8 a.m., Japanese planes filled the sky over Pearl Harbor. Bombs and bullets rained onto the vessels moored below. At 8:10, a 1,800-pound bomb smashed through the deck of the battleship USS Arizona and landed in her forward ammunition magazine. The ship exploded and sank with more than 1,000 men trapped inside.

Next, torpedoes pierced the shell of the battleship USS Oklahoma. With 400 sailors aboard, the Oklahoma lost her balance, rolled onto her side and slipped underwater.

Less than two hours later, the surprise attack was over, and every battleship in Pearl Harbor—USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS California, USS West Virginia, USS Utah, USS Maryland, USS Pennsylvania, USS Tennessee and USS Nevada—had sustained significant damage. (All but USS Arizona and USS Utah were eventually salvaged and repaired.)

In all, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor crippled or destroyed nearly 20 American ships and more than 300 airplanes. Dry docks and airfields were likewise destroyed. Most important, 2,403 sailors, soldiers and civilians were killed and about 1,000 people were wounded.

But the Japanese had failed to cripple the Pacific Fleet. By the 1940s, battleships were no longer the most important naval vessel: Aircraft carriers were, and as it happened, all of the Pacific Fleet’s carriers were away from the base on December 7. (Some had returned to the mainland and others were delivering planes to troops on Midway and Wake Islands.)

The following day, President Roosevelt asked for and was granted a declaration of war because of the attack by the Japanese on that “day of infamy.”

Today, it is distressing that many young people have no idea what happened on December 7, 1941. They cannot state the significance of the date, the nations involved, or where Pearl Harbor is.

It is a failure of the education system.

The attack that day was the beginning of the US involvement in World War II, which after four plus years of bloody and costly fighting around the world, resulted in victory for democracy and for the freedoms we hold so dear.

However, one notable person will not be a witness to the anniversary.

According to the obituary, the Jewish officer was the first member of the 101st Airborne Division to walk into Dachau — the Nazi regime’s longest-operating concentration camp — just days after the men of New York’s 42nd Infantry “Rainbow Division” had discovered it. Dachau was the third camp to be liberated by Allied forces, and at the time housed 32,000 living prisoners. Corpses were stacked everywhere, from rail cars to empty barracks rooms.

“Nothing you can put in words would adequately describe what I saw there,” Division Assistant Chaplain (Maj.) Eli Bohnen wrote in a letter to home on May 1, 1945. “The human mind refuses to believe what the eyes see. All the stories of Nazi horrors are underestimated rather than exaggerated.”

When Germany surrendered weeks later, Shames and the men of Easy Company went into Hitler’s famed Eagle’s Nest — and Shames managed to steal several bottles of cognac that had been labeled “for the Fuhrer’s use only.”

“Later, he would use the cognac to toast his oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah,” the obituary continued. “On November 6, 2021, the American Veterans Center at its annual Veterans Conference and Honors program gave a final toast to Ed and presented him with the distinguished Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Wings of Valor Award.”

We keep thinking of the quiet honor and devotion that men like Shames exhibited during the Second World War.

Their country called. They answered.

The fact that Shames was Jewish and faced horrific consequences if captured by the Germans places even more significance to his, and others’ service.

We suspect that there was a quiet satisfaction in his toast with the cognac at his son’s bar mitzvah – cognac that was meant for a monster, now being consumed in peace at a ceremony recognizing a child becoming a man.

The last surviving member of the famed “Band of Brothers” is 97-year-old Bradford Freeman, an enlisted mortarman, who served as a consultant for the HBO miniseries and now lives in Mississippi.

Shames’ passing is, in a way, the end of an era.

It should also be noted that former Senator and Presidential candidate Bob Dole passed away over the weekend.

Dole, who began treatment in February for stage 4 lung cancer, was 98.

A star athlete, he enrolled at the University of Kansas in 1941, but joined the military shortly after Pearl Harbor. As a U.S. Army officer in World War II, the Kansan lost most of the use of his right arm and hand after being wounded in 1945. Dole earned two Purple Hearts and was awarded the Bronze Star, but he was hospitalized for three years. After infections, therapy, and several operations, he finally returned home to win a seat in the Kansas legislature before successfully running for the U.S. House and then U.S. Senate.

[. . . . ]

Dole was a driving force behind the creation of the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, and he also helped start “Freedom Flights,” which bring World War II veterans to visit the Washington memorial built in their honor. As national chairman of the World War II Memorial Commission, he helped raise more than $197 million to construct a national memorial to honor the 16 million Americans who served in the armed forces during the war. Construction began in September 2001 and was completed in April 2004.

At the dedication ceremony, Dole spoke about the importance of remembering sacrifices made to uphold democracy.

“It is only fitting, when this memorial was opened to the public about a month ago, the very first visitors were school children,” Dole said. “For them, our war is ancient history and those who fought it are slightly ancient themselves.”

Finally, there is the return….

An Oregon family has turned to crowdfunding to send their 101-year-old Navy veteran dad back to Pearl Harbor — where he heroically helped fend off Japan’s surprise attack 80 years ago.

Kimberlee Heinrichs’s GoFundMe page had raised nearly $9,000 of its $10,000 goal as of early Saturday.

Her father, Ira “Ike” Schab, was a U.S. Navy musician, assigned to the destroyer USS Dobbin, on the quiet Sunday morning of Dec. 7, 1941, according to Hawaii News Now. He had planned to meet his brother, when Japanese planes began to attack.

“It’s hard what to say the feeling that runs through your mind. You’re scared. You don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Schab told the outlet. “When I realized we were under attack I got busy doing what I was told, passing ammunition and getting that sort of stuff done.”

Schab was just 21 years old on that date which lives in infamy.

[….]

Ira Schab plans on being just one of 40 Pearl Harbor survivors to attend the 80th anniversary of the attacks at the Naval Base. His GoFundMe has raised $9,000 of its $10,000 goal.

Sources confirm that the crowdsource funding was able to reach over $12,000 of the needed $10,000 to get Schab to the ceremonies at Pearl Harbor.

[Schab abd Heinrich] said they are grateful for the generosity of others, and the opportunity to have Schab there in person. On Sunday, he’s going to be conducting the PACFLEET band at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.

Schab has attended the ceremony a few times in his life and said every time he does, it brings him a sense of wonder.

“I like that when I go there are reminders of people and things from a long time ago. People I miss. It brings back memories,” he said.

Heinrichs acknowledges this could be her dad’s last time attending the ceremony, and implores this generation to get to know some veterans.

“But really that they have so much to offer people and they need to ask the questions and have them tell them their stories. This generation especially. We are losing them so often,” she said. “They have a lot to offer. Give them the time.”

Last year was the first year no survivors or eye witnesses were in attendance for the ceremony, due to the pandemic. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, only 240,329 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are still alive in 2021.

A beginning, an end, and a return.





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