07 December, 2009
Remembrance and Honor
In 1975, when I joined the Army National Guard in Aberdeen, Washington, there were still a few World War II veterans in uniform. One of them had the opportunity to address us on the subject of survival. What did he know about survival? Just this: he fought on the deck of his navy cruiser (second in size only to a battleship for a surface warship) on that December 7th day in 1941. Pearl Harbor day.
You don't need to hear the details of it, but we listened closely to the brutality of this mechanized war nightmare that he was reliving for us. It was bloodstory and anything but pretty.
Of course, like men will do, especially in uniform, there had to be some humor to cut the sheer magnitude of war experience. Like the time his cruiser was thrice torpedoed in the Solomons, and he had to abandon ship. From the rail of the deck, it is a long way to the water, and navy training very specifically indicates that you must plug the first orifice that's going to hit the water. And the handiest and best plug is your finger - I'm not making this up. Anyway, he didn't do it, and it turned out that the navy was right - you get a load of sea water where you don't want it!
Speaking of threes, he spent 3 days in the water, with Japanese zeroes strafing him, sharks in the water, and of course you get to watch your crew mates bobbing around in all of this mess. I'm glad he made it.
Last Saturday, December 5th., the dedication ceremony for a monument honoring the service of my father's WW II army division was held near Denver, Colorado. I was pleased to be involved by providing the illustrations for the stone and marble monument. One is a depiction of the Colorado Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, where the Tenth Mountain Division trained. The other is larger, and of a soldier climbing the face of Riva Ridge, in Italy where the 15,000 man unit fought in 1945.
See my reports of the progress of this project here and here. See my artwork related to the 10th Mountain Division here and here. I'm proud that I was asked to be a small part of it, and happy to have it co-ordinate with Pearl Harbor remembrances here in 2009, sixty-eight years post the events of that infamous day.
The Smithsonian remembers PHD.
Some first person reports for you.