On December 7 each year, even those of us who were not yet born on that day in 1941 remember it was the day Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor killing more than 2300 Americans and triggering this country’s entry into World War II. We’ve watched the awful films of devastation. We’re still moved by President Roosevelt’s stirring words, “…a date which will live in infamy.” As the daughter of a WWII fighter pilot, I was taught to think of this day as one of rousing patriotism and fervent action. Everyone wanted to do their part.
But for many, that patriotic fervor must surely have been mixed with dread and foreboding. I’m thinking of my two grandmothers and how they must have felt when they heard the news. They both had sons who were the right age to fight, and their maternal instincts must have been on high alert, terrified for their sons’ safety. Their instincts were justified since Dad and my two uncles soon left to go to war and were all gone for several years. Dad—Jim Herbert—flew P-38s and P51s in the Army Air Corps, mostly out of England.
Dad’s brother Beverley Herbert was an underwater demolition expert in the Navy and was one of the first Americans to land on Japanese soil after the surrender. My mother’s brother H. Bruce Thomson, Jr. served in the United States Air Force in Europe. The picture below was taken of their family right before Uncle Bruce went overseas, and he is the only one who could manage even the slightest smile. My mother (seated, left) always remembered how sad and scared they all were, fearing it might be the last time they’d see him alive.
I’m happy to report that all my uncles — and all my husband’s uncles — got home safely from their WWII service, but so many didn’t, and it’s fitting that we pay tribute on this day for the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.
But let’s not forget the sacrifice made by their families and the families of our service men and women today. In the preservation of our freedom in this country, we owe so much to so many, and they don’t all wear a uniform.