The Epiphany of Pearl Harbor

January 23, 2017
USS Arizona

There was a time when my brain was swift with knowledge. We were happy together. I kept it in my hip pocket. We had a nice symbiotic relationship. I kept it safe and warm and fed its ego by using it to communicate things when needed at work or otherwise.

Well, that was pre-mama. Somewhere in the midst of my happy and prego-plump-self reading, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, the appearance of those pregnancy induced hemorrhoids and wiping little rear ends for going on eight years those microbes of information fled. They had no interest in participating in what I had going on and frankly I didn’t have time to feed their egos by dropping out tidbits of them in conversation.

They were uncaring in their departure methodology. Some of them ran for the hills hoping to find a more suitable host. I surrendered the more stubborn pieces of information in the wee hours of mornings when I stumbled to crib rails and in the mid-afternoon while I dozed to Caillou. (I swear that bald boy alone depleted my IQ by at least ten points). The skid marks they left behind as they sped away mapped a new territory:

A mama brain. You may know the one: unable to recall simple facts, complex facts. Things previously learned turned to dust.

I want to bring my pre-mama brain back. I am embarking on a submersion into the lost and found and maybe I will adopt some new-to-me information along the way. This mama brain needs a refresh of Literature, History, Science, Art, Math…I mean when my very own seven year old knows more about the attack on Pearl Harbor than I do – something has to change.

That was it. Pearl Harbor was my epiphany. My seven year-old watched a little cartoon retell of the events of Pearl Harbor at school this past December and came home reciting all that occurred on December 7, 1941. Well, when I couldn’t answer whatever question about it the following Saturday morning at the breakfast table, he told me, “Mommy, I know more than you do.” Silence. Even the crickets didn’t chirp. Birds quit singing. I swear.

Imagine a big empty cartoon bubble over my head that’s supposed to have my response.

Well, he was right in this particular instance, as I did not know answers to his questions.

But sheesh!

For argument’s sake, he did not take into consideration his bottom that I wiped for five-plus years and the time I almost passed out while changing his diaper because of mastitis, or the fact that I still had an almost full cup of coffee. None-the-less, my sweet husband swooped in, as I contemplated intravenous coffee consumption, with a half-hearted comment referencing in some way that mommy at one point in her life knew some stuff, but that it had been a while since she had learned that…. And then his words just faded into the mid-mod Formica kitchen table where I retreated to my own thoughts amongst the faux wood grains.

Yes, mommy doesn’t know anything anymore. I cannot keep up with my seven-year old. Why isn’t someone bringing me a cocktail on this Saturday morning to go with my pancakes? Why?!!

No one ever brought me a cocktail and then it got worse the following Monday. A question, launched by my seven-year old, hit me in the back of the head as I drove him to school: “Mom. When are you going to go back to school to learn all that stuff you forgot?” True story. Lord help me.

So, then and there (or maybe like the few days before and after that ride to school) I decided that no longer would these young whipper snappers circle me like lions with their knowledge. No. I’d form a circle of knowledge (not life…sorry Lion King) and I’d let other lionesses in (that’s where you come in) and then there we would be in the grasses, creeping up on our prey, wielding our facts fearlessly and feeling strong in the brain! Take that pregnancy, child birth, motherhood! This Mama Brain is now full throttle ahead on the road to knowledge.

The Attack on Pearl Harbor

Since it got me here in the first place, my first stop is a refresh of facts about Pearl Harbor.  If your second grader comes home with questions like mine did perhaps this will help you sail through it unlike me:

Pearl Harbor USS Arizona

The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941 was declared “a date that will live in infamy” by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Under the Japanese code name “Operation Hawaii,” which was later changed to “Operation Z” airplanes and submarines attacked the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii at 7:55 in the morning of December 7th. The Japanese intentionally chose a Sunday morning thinking Americans would be more-relaxed and planned the surprise to dishearten the American people and keep the United States out of World War II. Many soldiers were still eating their breakfast and according to my son, they thought the gun fire they heard was U.S. soldiers shooting at target practice. The next day, the United States declared war on Japan.

Japan intended to target aircraft carriers, but all were out to sea, so instead they focused on the eight battleships at Pearl Harbor that day (only 1 of the Pacific fleet was not present – the Colorado). All eight of the battleships were lined up in “Battleship Row” and were either sunk or damaged during the attack. Amazingly six of the eight ships returned to active duty. Even the USS West Virginia and the USS California, which sank completely were raised, repaired and reused. The USS Oklahoma and the USS Arizona did not return to duty.

Counter attacks by U.S. soldiers were difficult. Many of the airplanes were lined up wingtip to wingtip in order to avoid sabotage, making them easy targets for the Japanese attackers. Because only a handful of planes were able to get in the air, U.S. servicemen tried to shoot down the Japanese planes from the ground. To further aid the attack on the ships, the Japanese sent in five midget submarines, but Americans sunk four of them and captured the fifth.

The attack lasted just under 2 hours resulting in the loss of life of 2,335 U.S. servicemen and the wounding of 1,143 others. Sixty-eight civilians were killed and 35 were wounded. The Japanese lost 65 men. Almost half of the casualties occurred on the USS Arizona, which was hit four times by Japanese bombers and exploded when a bomb breached its forward magazine. It subsequently sank and rests in less than 40 feet of water in Pearl Harbor. World War II lasted until September 2, 1945.

Seventy years later the Arizona continues to spill oil into the harbor each day, referred to by many as “the tears of the Arizona” or “black tears.” In 1958 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation to create a national memorial. Funds came from the public and private sector including Elvis Presley who performed a benefit concert at Pearl Harbor and raised over $50,000. The monument was dedicated on May 30, 1962.

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