On November 11th we celebrate Veteran’s Day to honor those men and women who served in our armed forces. Here I pay special tribute to those who answered their country’s call during a time of great travail.
The first six months of 1942 were very difficult for the American nation. In December 1941 our navy had been devastated at Pearl Harbor. All of the Pacific fleet’s great battleships had been either sunk or badly damaged, and at that point the Japanese armed forces were unleashed to begin a series of conquests in the eastern Pacific. For a full half-year it appeared that they were unstoppable. Hong Kong, Guam, Wake Island quickly fell to the Japanese, and these conquests were soon followed by the loss of British Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines. The fall of the Philippines was particularly hard for Americans to accept. It was demoralizing to hear reports of the heroic stand of American and Filipino soldiers and wonder why no relief could be provided to them.
At the same time, in the Atlantic, German submarines were playing havoc with shipping. The German submariners called it “the happy time,” but for members of the merchant marine it was a time of great hazard and ever-present death. I lived less than a quarter mile from the ocean shore, and on a few occasions I and my young friends thought we saw flames from burning ships during the night. A strict blackout was imposed to prevent merchant ships from being silhouetted against the coastal lights; nevertheless, the losses remained severe, and the carnage continued until late in the war.
Those were bitter months Thousands of American lives were lost in losing battles against a vicious foe. The first great sigh of relief came with the defeat of the Japanese navy at the Battle of Midway in early June 1942. Slowly, the wheel began to turn.
Let us honor the memory of those who fought against sometimes impossible odds in that fateful year of 1942. We must never forget the heroic efforts of our beleaguered soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and merchant mariners who served during those difficult times.
Free men must always be on guard against those who wish to enslave us. Sometimes the threat is external, at other times it may come from within.
In Flanders Field the poppies still blow among the crosses, row on row, that honor the sacred dead. Elsewhere, on land and in sea, the bones of millions lie as a mute sacrifice to the hideous god of war. May the dear Lord preserve mankind from such folly.