Posted by: Jim E | December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941…Christmas Eve 1941…

It was only 17 days between the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7th, 1941 and Christmas Eve, December 24th, 1941…even for someone who loves history, it becomes difficult to comprehend how close those two dates were…and to think about how people in the United States were feeling about that time, it was so close to Christmas…I was born February 3, 1942…that was a little over a month later…my brother had been born in 1939…(here is a picture of our family taken in 1944)…my Mom and Dad were very young parents, struggling through the depression that still held a tight grip on this country…in fact the world…so it was a hard time anyway, and then comes the attack on Pearl Harbor and over night this country was in the middle of the Second World War, and so was our family…not only at war with Japan but Germany also declared war on America…this country was not ready to defend itself, let alone attack our enemies…it was a dark time…

I don’t know how to put it so we might have a perspective of how Americans felt at the time…the closest thing that comes to it would be “9/11″…if you remember how numb you were and how we didn’t really know what was going to happen…I remember that night, after all planes where ordered out of the skies over America…and a number of military helicopters flew over our house…I really wondered where things were and if we would be attacked again…it was a helpless feeling…one full of possible danger and questions…

If that was our feeling, how must it felt for those living in 1941…many people didn’t even know where Pearl Harbor was…and thought our oceans that surrounded us would keep us out of war…it was a very difficult, frightening and dark time…

Today is December 7th…it is always a time for me to remember as well as do many other Americans…it is one date that we should remember and be thankful for those who served in that war…and it is because of them that we are still free…

About two months ago I found a book that connects those two dates…it is really a Christmas book…but it is also about two songs of that time as well as our time…”O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”…the book is, “In The Dark Streets Shineth”…it is written by David McCullough, who wrote “Truman”…”John Adams” and many others…he is one of my favorites…because of what he writes about and how he writes…his books are compelling…this one is no different…it comes with a DVD which shows McCullough with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at their Christmas concert…I will add a portion of his presentation of his book on YouTube…the rest you will have to get the book to see the rest of the DVD…the book is only a little over 50 pages but it is very good…it also has pictures of people of that time…both at home and also overseas…the book is unusual because the DVD and the book are the same…when you see the DVD you are hearing the book in its entirety…the book has many more pictures and it has the speeches of both Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt…both are worth the read…

Churchill came, as McCullough says, “at considerable personal risk”…across the Atlantic “in great secrecy” to meet with Roosevelt…and then he would speak to the combined Congress before he returned to England…but before that would happen, they appeared together at the White House, Christmas Eve, to light the Christmas tree…both would speak…before 20,000 people gathered there…it would have been an unusual night…the world at war, raging all over the world, with no end in sight…with things going very badly for both Britain and America…and it would be that way for a couple of years yet…no victories on the battle field or at sea for a long time…everyday bad news…

But their messages both referred to the idea of “light”…our faith, our freedom…and as Churchill said, “amid all the tumult, we have tonight the peace of the spirit in each cottage home and in every generous heart…Here, then, for one night only, each home…should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness and peace.”…the next day, Christmas Day, Churchill and Roosevelt went to church…”where with the congregation they joined in singing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ which Churchill had never heard before.”…this American Christmas carol written in the late 1800’s has a line in the first stanza “Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.”…McCullough then tells how that line in particular must have stood out to Churchill and Roosevelt…after his comments the night before of every home being a “brightly lighted island” in the dark…here I will add part of the DVD…it is only about 3 minutes of the over 10 minutes…but will give you a feeling of the rest of the book…

McCullough then goes to the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”…written in 1943 by two New Yorkers…by 1942 there were one million Americans serving overseas…and that would grow…”when recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943, the song became the most popular song of the era, even more than ‘White Christmas’…”…this song expressed the longing for home and a light in the darkness felt by so many of those away from home for so long… click here for the song…06 – I’ll Be Home for Christmas …and who can now listen to this without understanding the longing for home by our troops who are overseas right now…the feeling is palpable…

So please, as you enjoy your Christmas season with family and friends…don’t forget how “History can be a great source of strength and affirmation, and especially in difficult, dangerous times.”…and the music we love can give us more than just something to listen to…

And how about this Christmas photo nostalgia…two young kids, oh, about 1949 or 1950…that’s me and my younger brother…just after WWII…seeing Santa…Jerry looks a little wary…me?…just as good-looking as usual…

Okay, okay…but let me wish you a Merry Christmas…we all need to remember…because that’s when life really begins…and will give us strength to bear whatever comes…memories are powerful reminders and give us courage to go on…remember our troops and do some good things for people you don’t know this Christmas…it will leave memories for you to remember…

And as this book does and as the two leaders of that day did…they “delivered a powerful message of hope that still resonates today.”…lets do the same…may joy, hope and peace be a part of your Christmas season…

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Responses

  1. this really blessed me and spoke to me…we need to not forget. We need to remember and thank God daily for our freedom. It cost so much.
    Challenged me to remember also that God is always there in the midst of whatever we are experiencing.


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