Pearl Harbor: Retrieving Lost Lessons of the Greatest Generation

An entire generation is about to pass — a generation that knows sacrifice; a generation that has confronted and defeated terror; a generation that has beaten back tyranny; a generation from whom we should have taken copious notes. Some of us did take note, but many of us didn’t, and the rest refuse to participate either way.

Today is the 65th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the rest of America. As the dwindling number of survivors gathered, perhaps for the final time before age takes its toll, we find ourselves at a similar crossroads.

For many people, Pearl Harbor exists only in a movie – a film that taught the unaware that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in order to get Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett to stop banging Kate Beckinsale with irresponsible abandon.

The reason it’s important that the real lesson of Pearl Harbor be passed down through succeeding generations encompasses more than Pearl Harbor itself. It’s about victory in the face of daunting challenges and unflinching decision-making despite comparatively ugly choices.

When you reflect on Pearl Harbor, what’s the first thing you think of? Chances are, “losing” wasn’t among your first thoughts. Though the attack was a temporary and overwhelming victory for the Japanese empire, the ultimate lesson is that tyranny was put down in the course of the years following the attack. When we think of Pearl Harbor, we should think “victory,” not “defeat.”

Then vs. now

Fast-forward the tape to 2006. Remember how you felt on 9/11/01? Much the same as Americans felt when they heard the news from Hawaii 65 years ago today. The enemy has changed and isn’t as definable as being able to point at one nation and yell “they did it,” but the ultimate goal should be the same: Victory.

After the Japanese launched the attack on Pearl Harbor, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is reported to have said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

I fear that American politicians today are filling that giant, which was temporarily re-awakened on 9/11, not with resolve, but with Sominex.

For many, victory isn’t the goal. If The Greatest Generation, as Tom Brokaw dubbed them (click here for some debate on the Brokaw label), would have hemmed and hawed like some of our politicians are doing today in the years immediately following 1941, what would have happened? If America in 1941 had the Congressional class of 2006 and 2007, the only item to remain open to speculation is if we’d be speaking German or Japanese.

When our children, their children, and their children, are sitting around on the 65th anniversary of 9/11, will that date remind them of victory, or defeat? Will America as we know it even exist? Will our children, their children, and their children even be alive?

If pondering those questions gives you a moment of unsure pause, then you’ve already answered them. We should be very concerned about the course that is being set by our politicians and those for whom American defeat and resignation is the only way to ensure a “fair” world.


Note: If you’re seeing only this post, the entire blog can be accessed at

Author: Doug Powers

Doug Powers is a writer, editor and commentator covering news of the day from a conservative viewpoint with an occasional shot of irreverence and a chaser of snark. Townhall Media writer/editor. alum. Bowling novice. Long-suffering Detroit Lions fan. Contact: