The Most Important Day of My Life: December 7, 1941

From our All History is Personal Dept.: I have said this before, but it cannot be said too often: All History is Personal.  Thus, I am able to identify December 7, 1941, as the most important day in my life, although on the calendar it occurred thirteen years before I was born.  The events of that day happened to me! They are the proximate cause of who and what I became.

In “macro-history,” on December 7, 1941, an ancient imperial power attacked a late-adolescent of a nation, sending the world spinning out of control.  In “meta-history,” everything that might otherwise have occurred did not occur, and a chain of events destined to occur, did.

Obviously, I was not killed or wounded or traumatized by World War II.  I was not held in a concentration camp by a demented dictator, nor was I interned by the frightened prejudices of my own democratically elected government.  Yet I am a product of the historical forces unleashed that Sunday in December 1941.  I am a “baby boomer” who grew up during the Jet Age, the Atomic Age, and the Space Age, watching television, and attending racially integrated schools.   I lived on or near military bases in a country that theretofore had eschewed a large standing military establishment.  Later, I myself served in the Strategic Air Command, the single most lethal combat force in human history.  I could be a Cold Warrior only because of December 7, 1941.

On this Pearl Harbor Day, do these things, especially if you are a “Baby Boomer” (born between 1946 and 1964): (1) remember and honor the members of the Greatest Generation who fought the war, and who are just about all gone; (2) think about how that day, December 7, 1941, changed your life, even though it occurred before you were born; (3) think about whether we as a generation about to be ushered out of the spotlight of history have used our December 7, 1941 birthright in  the best way we could.  That is, what sort of historical legacy do we leave, given where we started?  Because, make no mistake about it, the bells are beginning to  toll for us.

Craig

9 Responses to “The Most Important Day of My Life: December 7, 1941”

  • What a searing and insightful post, Craig. Thank you for it.

    Doc M and I are sitting here, reflecting on your words. He (born ’55) says, yes (his parents got together b/c of the war, met at USO dance, Dad served in Navy stateside during WW2 and got his education from GI bill). My dad served in the Navy also, but during Korean war.

    The large standing military establishment thing also hits home. Have been reading elsewhere, in non genea-land, about the recently-passed Chalmers Johnson, who spoke and wrote much about Asia, foreign relations, and the American Empire– our perpetually large standing military establishment. I wish to read his work. But from what I perused when I read the obituaries and tributes from his friends, that perpetually large standing military establishment, I fear, lies at the heart of our historical legacy as a generation of this nation — what supporting a huuuge military does for our nation and our priorities, and what we do with our collective tax dollars.

  • Craig,

    I wanted to let you know, I’ve shared the Ancestor Approved award with you. Your blog is very thought-provoking (especially this post on Pearl Harbor). Thanks for deep and meaningful things you post here.
    http://brandtgibson.blogspot.com/2010/12/brandts-rants-is-officially-ancestor.html

  • Susan says:

    You’ve given me much to mull over. I wish I had a better feeling about what we as a generation are contributing, but I fear we had such a prolonged adolescence that we’ve not done what we could given our numbers.

    I shall think of December 7th differently going forward.

  • Greta Koehl says:

    You’ve really caught the attention of another 50s kid and made me think; my father was in the Air Force from before the time he met my mother until I was about 3-4 years old. I suppose I could say that I owe my existence to the way history played out. I agree with Susan – I wish the influence we have exerted due to our numbers had been more positive.

  • Your post is right on target, as usual, and presents such a good reminder of what made us who we are. While the events of Dec 7 ’41 seem far away and long ago, you’ve brought them closer.

    Thanks, Craig.

  • Martin says:

    Actually the most important day of your life (according to your own identification of being part of the Cold War) was January 22, 1869. That was the day Rasputin was born. Without him, Tsar Nicholas II very likely would have granted a constitutional monarchy and Russia would have been a democratic country. Instead the March Revolution of 1917 led to the communist October Revolution 1917 which led to Lenin and then Stalin. Without Stalin, Russia would have been a democracy allied to the U.S. and there would have been no Cold War at the end of WWII.

    You can play this game all day long. The true day that changed your life the most, you can’t even begin to realize. Some person did something to cause something that led your parents to meet or be together. That’s the day that really changed your life because it enabled you to actually have a life.

  • I didn’t think the way you did when I wrote my post for Pearl Harbor Day, but what you brought up is so important! My husband grew up to be an aero space engineer, an occupation that would not exist without the space race and the technology that followed. I became a teacher of technology in 1982, before Windows, computer mice and email- but not before schools were seeing the value of using computers in education. You and I wouldn’t be conversing this way via the internet without the boom in scientific advances brought on by the international pressures and competition following WWII. You’ve really made me think!

  • How very interesting and thought provoking! I’m going to have to think about this a bit more.

  • arianna says:

    I didn’t think the way you did when I wrote my post for Pearl Harbor Day, but what you brought up is so important! My husband grew up to be an aero space engineer, an occupation that would not exist without the space race and the technology that followed. I became a teacher of technology in 1982, before Windows, computer mice and email- but not before schools were seeing the value of using computers in education. You and I wouldn’t be conversing this way via the internet without the boom in scientific advances brought on by the international pressures and competition following WWII. You’ve really made me think! Actually the most important day of your life (according to your own identification of being part of the Cold War) was January 22, 1869. That was the day Rasputin was born. Without him, Tsar Nicholas II very likely would have granted a constitutional monarchy and Russia would have been a democratic country. Instead the March Revolution of 1917 led to the communist October Revolution 1917 which led to Lenin and then Stalin. Without Stalin, Russia would have been a democracy allied to the U.S. and there would have been no Cold War at the end of WWII.

    You can play this game all day long. The true day that changed your life the most, you can’t even begin to realize. Some person did something to cause something that led your parents to meet or be together. That’s the day that really changed your life because it enabled you to actually have a life.
    What a searing and insightful post, Craig. Thank you for it.

    Doc M and I are sitting here, reflecting on your words. He (born ’55) says, yes (his parents got together b/c of the war, met at USO dance, Dad served in Navy stateside during WW2 and got his education from GI bill). My dad served in the Navy also, but during Korean war.

    The large standing military establishment thing also hits home. Have been reading elsewhere, in non genea-land, about the recently-passed Chalmers Johnson, who spoke and wrote much about Asia, foreign relations, and the American Empire– our perpetually large standing military establishment. I wish to read his work. But from what I perused when I read the obituaries and tributes from his friends, that perpetually large standing military establishment, I fear, lies at the heart of our historical legacy as a generation of this nation — what supporting a huuuge military does for our nation and our priorities, and what we do with our collective tax dollars.


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