Pearl Harbor attack awakened Greatest Generation

Published 1:00 am Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Seventy-four years ago Monday, the Japanese launched an attack on the Pacific fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and residents at Florala Health and Rehab gathered together to remember those who lost their lives and those who would go on to serve in World War II.

Probate Judge Ben Bowden, an Air Force colonel, spoke to the group.

Probate Judge  Ben Bowden.

Probate Judge Ben Bowden.

“President (Franklin) Roosevelt could not have been more accurate to refer to Dec. 7, 1941, as a ‘day that will live in infamy,’” he said. “In what can only be described as a sucker punch, the Japanese, without provocation, attacked the United States Pacific Fleet in an effort to knock us out of the war.”

Bowden called the attack a “dastardly act” because the U.S. was not at war with Japan.

“And while now, looking back, it may seem like war was inevitable, a tremendous effort was under way to avoid war in the Pacific,” he said. “Yet, while we were still negotiating peace, a Japanese carrier strike force secretly made its way across the Pacific to within striking range of the Hawaiian Islands and unleashed wave after wave of bombers and fighters on an unsuspecting garrison at Pearl Harbor.”

Bowden said the death toll was frightening.

“Our Pacific fleet was seemingly crippled,” he said. “And while we know the end of the story today, the future was so uncertain for America. Should we immediately sue for peace and let the more traditional world powers sort it out? It is so important to remember that in the previous 75 years leading up to Pearl Harbor, the United States had almost torn itself apart in the carnage of the American Civil War and had suffered tremendous causalities in Europe in World War I. Our country had barely started to shake off the devastating effects of the Great Depression. It was not a given that we would strike back and if we did, that we would be successful.”

Bowden said that 74 years later, citizens know the outcome.

“We took the fight to the Japanese and completely destroyed the military forces of Japan, eventually occupying that country and enforcing our will on its people to stop this warring nature,” he said. “We honor those who gave their lives at Pearl Harbor that horrible day. We honor those who valiantly fought back. We must never forget that day, not only for what the Japanese did to our country, but also to remember and re-ignite the feelings of patriotism and love of country that poured out of that harbor that day that not only swept our country, but the entire world. For while, we specifically gather on Pearl Harbor day to honor its participants, we stand in awe of those who rose up and defeated tyranny – known simply today as “The Greatest Generation.”

Bowden cited Roosevelt’s 1936 speech on the Greatest Generation.

“There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations, much is given. Of other generations, much is expected. This generation of American has a rendezvous with destiny.”

Bowden said their destiny involved throwing off the hopelessness of the Great Depression, when it seemed as if the American Dream was simply that, a dream.

“Hardened by that experience, these Americans refused to let tyranny rule the world,” Bowden said. “With ferocity and persistence, they attacked beaches and towns, mile by mile, foot by foot, driving the enemy back into eventual destruction.”

Bowden said the generation, won the war and came home to work.

“Having secured victory in Europe and the Pacific, they threw themselves into securing peace,” he said. “The result was the most vibrant and productive economy the world has ever known. The relative peace and great prosperity we have enjoyed for almost three-quarters of a century is the direct result of these men and women who sacrificed in great numbers for the cause of liberty and freedom.”

Bowden referenced the movie, “Tora, Tora, Tora,” when the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto is congratulated on his great victory at Pearl Harbor.

“His response is well known and prophetic, for he said that he feared that all they had done was awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with terrible resolve,” Bowden said. “That sleeping giant was the Greatest Generation. All of the subsequent generations owe you for your sacrifice. Hear me now: On behalf of a grateful nation, we thank you.”