Tuesday, September 1, 2009

70 Years Ago Today...


At approximately 0445 on September 1, 1939, the world changed forever. A change that continues to reverberate even now.
Years of blind, blissful, indifferent apathy, inept diplomacy, wasted chances and useless appeasement, saw the beginning of what would become 6 years of a world at war, the bloodiest war in human history, even 64 years after the fact. Over 50,000,000 men, women and children, world-wide, would perish before it was over.
It began as German forces invaded neighboring Poland, with Soviet Russia's complicity, and despite warnings from England and France. On September 3, Britain and France declared themselves at war with Germany.
From there, it would grow to a world conflagration.
It was a war that, in 1939, didn't include America. A good thing it was, too: in 1939, America wasn't ready. The regular American Army stood at 200,000 men. The American Air Force was part of the Army, and wasn't much of a force at all, hopelessly outdated and unready for war, against more experienced German and Japanese aggressors. The American Navy was also outdated and outnumbered.
American public sentiment was largely "it doesn't concern us" when it came to war in Europe and Asia; some politicians were more concerned with the possibilities and the threat posed to this constitutional republic by the forces of national socialist fascism and Japanese imperialism; but most of the politicians were largely in tune with the American public.
A little over two years later, a decision by a foreign government, and the indisputable "day of infamy" that their decision resulted in, changed America's world, too. That change would result in a nation shocked, outraged, and united in a common cause, and a just crusade.
A crusade that, when it was over, would cost over 400,000 American lives, in almost 4 years.
By 1945, it would result in America having about 16,000,000 men and women in uniform, and the largest air and naval forces the Earth had ever born witness to, and would never see in such incredible and formidable multitudes again. It would also result in the advent of the Atomic Age, and a decision to employ the new age to end a brutal, bloody conflict in the Pacific.
At the same time, that use provided a possible preview of -- if Man's wisdom didn't catch up to technology -- a tightrope walk toward, perhaps, a future Armageddon. A tightrope the world has narrowly, gingerly walked ever since, and probably will beyond my lifetime.
As the Greatest Generation passes beyond us, the memories of what they did, and what they sacrificed, cannot and must not depart with them, even as the lessons they so painfully learned, seem to have to be relearned by generations not interested or educated in the words of Santayana: those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.
And those words proved prophetic, a little less than five years after the end of World War II, as the United States would be forced to relearn painful lessons all over again, after a "bring the boys home" rush to forget, meets a need to remember, in a foreign land called Korea.

8 Comments:

Blogger Sandee said...

This is so very true. It seems we all have such short memories. Well, some of us that is.

Have a terrific day. :)

01 September, 2009 10:40  
Blogger The Things We Carried said...

As the Greatest Generation passes beyond us, the memories of what they did, and what they sacrificed, cannot and must not depart with them, even as the lessons they so painfully learned, seem to have to be relearned by generations not interested or educated in the words of Santayana: those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.

Well said.

The numbers here are staggering.

I hate to admit that only recently did I learn the American Air Force was part of the army in those days. So much history I should, but do not, know.

01 September, 2009 10:46  
Blogger Debbie said...

We saw the movie "Flags of our Fathers" at the theater, after that I bought the DVD for hubby. He opened it up this morning and started watching it before work. It's amazing what our men went through. They were like sitting ducks, but they moved forward until they got the job done.

We should never, ever forget. However, it seems we have a really short memory, because so many people no longer give September 11, 2001 a second thought, other than the bickering in Washington about trying to prosecute those who keep us safe.

Deborah F. Hamilton
Right Truth
http://www.righttruth.typepad.com

01 September, 2009 11:16  
Blogger Jack K. said...

Shortly before I joined the US Air Force after graduating from high school it had been formed as a separate organization.

It has come a long way since then.

I spent the four years I signed up for and then enrolled in the Army ROTC program for the options they offered at the time. The folks who built the Berlin wall are a contributing factor to my making the Army a career. It was a decision I would question from time to time. In the long run, it was a great decision. Later this month Maryann and I will travel to Ft. Lauderdale to go to the 34th annual reunion of Retired Military Police Officers. It is always a good time to get back together with colleagues and comrades in arms.

Life is good.

01 September, 2009 13:44  
Blogger A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

Nicely written, Skunk.

01 September, 2009 14:30  
Blogger Serena said...

Beautifully written, and certainly makes one think.

01 September, 2009 19:41  
Blogger Seane-Anna said...

On September 11, 2001 more Americans died at the hands of foreign attackers than died at Pearl Harbor. Less than 5 years after Pearl Harbor this country had ground Pearl's attackers and their allies into dust. Nearly 8 years after 9-11 we're on the verge of prosecuting the very people who kept us safe from another hideous attack. I can't believe the world we're now living in. I bet the Greatest Generation is profoundly sorry it sacrificed so much just so the country could end up like this.

01 September, 2009 21:45  
Blogger The Dental Maven said...

*applause*
Let's all take a moment to remember.

02 September, 2009 06:40  

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