December 8, 1941: President Franklin Roosevelt appears relaxed after the pressure of having just signed the declaration of war on Japan. When he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the Wilson Administration Roosevelt had overseen the construction of several of the ships sunk at Pearl Harbor. Note Sam Rayburn third from the right, who maintains a serious visage.

About a decade ago during a trip to Florida to visit friends and relatives, I brought with me some then-recent New York Times clippings about the recovery following the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was a complicated months-long operation similar in many ways to the cleanup at Ground Zero after 9/11. The reason I was carrying actual newspaper clippings, as opposed to sending links right after reading them online, was because I was bringing them for a friend’s father. This was an older fellow who like many of his generation was not plugged into the internet that much. I knew however that he would appreciate the articles. He was greatly interested in American history and was himself an Armed Service veteran who had served in the Air Force a few years after the Second World War. I gave them to him at a restaurant over dinner.

Longtime readers of the blog may remember when I used to post every year on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. As some may also remember, I said that I would stop doing that after last year’s 75th anniversary. Yesterday I waited all day for the moment when someone might finally mention Pearl Harbor. It eventually happened in a text message from my friend at about 5:00 pm. This quickly led to a back-and-forth of missives on memory and the meaning to be found in the past. As things go his father, the man for whom I had brought those clippings now a long time ago, died earlier this year. This is the first December since, well, the birth of my friend almost sixty years ago, that his father is not here for the two to commiserate on the significance of December 7, 1941. Needless to say, it made for an emotional and reflective Pearl Harbor anniversary for my friend.

(image/National Park Service)