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68 Years Ago Today…

7th December 2009

pearl harborthe American naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan, spurring America’s involvement in World War II. Millions of Americans went on to serve in the war, fighting abroad in Europe and in the Pacific against what was then known as the “Axis of Evil.” Fordham’s Letters to Lee gives us a deeply personal look into the life of a soldier, Lt. General James V. Edmundson, through his letters home to his beloved wife, Lee, and also through his meticulous vignettes describing the conditions in Hawaii (where he was stationed from 1940-1942) and in the Pacific, written following Lee’s death in 2000.

Here are a few links from around the web to learn more about Pearl Harbor on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day:

Yesterday, the NY Times published an interesting op-ed chronicling how Theodore Roosevelt’s diplomacy regarding the Russo-Japanese War had effects that reverberated all the way to Pearl Harbor and beyond.

USA Today examines the memorial at the USS Arizona and talks with a survivor of the attacks.

The Los Angeles Times uncovers the mystery of a Japanese mini-sub present at Pearl Harbor.

The Boston Globe follows a survivor as he returns to the scene for the first time since the attack.

Here’s an excerpt from Letters to Lee, describing how Lt. Gen. Edmundson first met his bride on the island of Hawaii:

I had only been in Hawaii a few days when Ercell had a party for me to meet a few people. He was established with three other Navy ensigns in a lovely cottage on the beach, right behind the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, on Waikiki. Ercell got me a date with a nurse who worked at Queen’s Hospital and there were half a dozen of Ercell’s Navy buddies there with their dates. The moon was full, the waves were lapping on the beach, and the wind was in the palm trees. What a night!

Introductions were casual. It was a nice group of young people, and the men were all Navy pilots, which gave us much in common. My blind date was a pleasant gal who already knew most of the people and I felt right at home. I met everyone in due course, and I found myself repeatedly zeroing in on a beautiful little lady who was the date of one of Ercell’s Navy buddies. My nurse would drift off on her own with friends and, whenever I could, I would join the cluster around the little beauty who had caught my eye and seemed to have me hypnotized. I found out that her name was Lee, she had been in Hawaii about a year, and she lived in Waikiki, just off of the Ala Wai with two other girls and she was head of a ladies-wear department at Liberty House, the biggest department store in Honolulu.

I didn’t learn much else. She was always busy and surrounded by guys; her date was beginning to get suspicious of me. She was pleasant enough to me but totally without interest, and I had my own date to be politely attentive to. I did ask Lee if I could drive her home from work some time, if I happened to be in Liberty House around 5 o’clock some evening. She didn’t say yes, but she didn’t say no, either. She kind of shrugged her shoulders and said, “We’ll see.”

That was enough. The door was open just a crack and I intended to make the most of it. The party wound on to a finish. I took my nurse back to where I had found her and never did see her again. To this day, I can’t remember what her name was or what she looked like. But I had been harpooned. I couldn’t get Lee out of my mind. The next day, I asked Ercell about her. He didn’t know her well, but said she was quite popular and seemed to date this guy she was with at the party fairly regularly. Ercell told me that this guy was the great operator in his squadron. He rode a motorcycle and had a lot of wahinis, but that Lee seemed to be his favorite. It wasn’t an awful lot to go on, but it was enough. I was fascinated by Lee. Now, of course, I realize that I had already fallen head over heels in love with her and wasn’t smart enough to know it at the time.

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