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A date that will live in infamy

December 7, 2012

When I was a kid, a guy down the street used to tell stories about being trapped in the Utah the morning of December 7. To people my age (old) and older, that sentence makes perfect sense. To my son, and even to some of the people I work with, they’d have no clue what that means. But they would know about someone trapped in building number 7 on September 11.

For those who don’t know, the USS Utah was part of battleship row on the Sunday morning, December 7, 1941. In the Japanese aerial attack that early Sunday morning, the Utah was hit and capsized. She was 30 years old in 1941, and 54 men were trapped inside. The Utah was never removed from its resting place. Like the Arizona, it has its own permanent memorial.

The USS Utah Memorial.

If you ask me what December 7 is, I will answer without hesitation that it’s Pearl Harbor Day. If you ask my son, he might get the answer, but not instantly.

It’s a reasonable evolution. I had people like the guy down the street and my grandparents who remembered Pearl Harbor Day. They remembered being as afraid as we all were a little more than 11 years ago, and thinking for the first part of the War that we might not win. The country had been through a lot at that point–an decade-plus economic Depression that makes fiscal cliff like like a baby step, then the growing fear of the Axis powers and the potential that this country might not survive.

But no one exists to pass those stories down first-hand any more, in the same way the stories of the War To End All Wars (World War I) and the evil Huns weren’t handed down to me. No one talked to me about the Espionage and Sedition Acts.

Today’s stories aren’t of a war against evil, but of evil wars. Vietnam and the efforts of the last decade have changed the way we look at wars.  Most immediately, the stories of the Persian Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan aren’t of valor and courage in the face of a serious threat, but of corruption, political betrayal, and the real meaning of patriotism.

It’s important to hand down the stories. It’s important to help coming generations know not only immediate history, but more distant history, as well. You can’t understand today’s world without understanding its past.

And that’s a major role for writers–passing down the stories so they aren’t forgotten. Today’s a good day to remember that.



  1. Carol Anderson permalink
    December 7, 2012 11:11 am

    Chris, I read your blog every day…well done.

    Interesting aside: I was visiting in Hawaii a few years ago. In a shop in Lahina, Maui the conversation turned to 9/11/2001. The shop owners, a lovely elderly Japanese/American couple, told us that though the 9/11 events happened in the middle of the night Hawaii time, phone calls travelled across the Islands. They got up in the middle of the night and rushed to ATM machines to withddraw CASH.

    They were very clear about their worries….”You know what happened LAST TIME,” they said to one another.

    Last time being 12/7/1941!

  2. Chris Hamilton permalink
    December 7, 2012 12:51 pm

    Not many people who remember that any more.

  3. December 7, 2012 7:55 pm

    As a science fiction writer and amature historian, sometimes I have hun with time travel, trying to bring alive the past..

    Perhaps that’s why I enjoy time travel movies, and old movies in general.

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