Looking Forward by Knowing the Past
January 2020 — Looking Forward by Knowing the Past
…Remembering the Rest of the Story
“Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” (Winston Churchill, 1948 and George Santayana, 1905)
For absolute certainty, there will be no shortage of articles and messages this time of year about “20-20 vision” and that sort of thing! But I ask you to invest a few moments right now and look at my little offering, because it just might be super-significant for you in this uncertain world, and industry we find ourselves. Stuff always happens, but you need to hang in there because ‘the rest of the story’ might just be right around the corner… to the part where the cavalry arrives and the good guys win.
That’s the theme for the New Year because that’s my hope and expectation. Check it out.
For the past 20+ years now I have been meeting for breakfast with the same group of guys the first Saturday of each month. It is amazing to me the amount of wisdom coming from them, on all sorts of subjects and ideas, and I hope you have the same kind of people in your life. They are among my most important mentors— my coaches.
“Coach Mark” approached me and said that our group of guys would be meeting on December 7th next, and wondered if I might want to share something about the significance of that day. I agreed, provided we could go into the lessons learned and the leadership attached to that significant day. What does it all mean–for that time, and for ours, going forward?
President Franklin D. Roosevelt summed up things this way: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan…I regret to tell you that many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu…”
Pretty bad stuff, right? But let’s not miss “the rest of the story.” Is the cavalry on its way? Is there going to be a “rest of the story”? Let’s take a look.
Those two sentences from FDR were the facts, and they are terrible. But those facts are only part of the story, which is far more profound, much larger, and more significant. The story does not end there. In fact, it doesn’t even begin there! Because where it actually begins has everything to do with — not where it ends, but where it is heading. You knowing what that heading is, has everything to do with how your business, community, and family grow,
We’re talking about the history of our country because it is the driving force of your legacies, be it business, community or family going forward. Do not miss this!
In your experience, you know that things often go wrong, “unsolvable” problems present themselves, and seemingly impossible issues arise. Things are going along well and then, out of the blue, bad stuff happens. In this case, Pearl Harbor is attacked “out of the blue,” the enemy seeking to destroy the US Pacific Fleet.
In fact, on that Sunday morning, 9 US battleships were in port. The enemy thought it had accomplished its mission, but it miscalculated — you’ll learn why in a moment. But the lesson here is that life situations, which might cripple the unwitting, will not take you down— provided you understand your legacy, and how critical it is to pass this along to others and that they might do the same.
So, let’s go to the beginning of the story. What is this uniquely American legacy that redeems us from the bad and gets us to the good? Let’s start here.
America was settled by people seeking freedom of religion, the press, for the right to own property, and a desire to be governed by the rule of law— not ruled according to the dictations and might of kings. In this country, for the first time ever in the history of the world, we solemnly believed and resolved that the king was no longer to be the law. But that law, itself, was to be king. This turned civilization on its head!
To make this happen, Americans picked a fight with the mightiest nation on earth at the time, to instill into its people and install into its government, the sanctity that these rights, held by most people, were ‘God-given.’ A formal Declaration of Independence was written and then signed by 57 men, who each pledged, “Our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” It would cost many of them exactly that. In 1776 this Revolution, tenuous at first and unlikely to succeed, overcame the impossible and the miraculous came to pass. Tens of thousands of lives were taken, wounded, or captured to make this a reality. Never forget: this is our legacy.
In 1861, a great Civil War was fought to decide the issue of slavery. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, freeing— on paper, at least the slaves in rebelling states.
April 9, 1865, the south surrendered. April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated. Over four years, more than 620,000 soldiers from both sides cast ‘the ultimate vote,” as did President Lincoln. The law was settled. At great cost, the nation moved on. Our legacy of freedom was preserved.
Fast-forward to 1941 and the specter of world war. The US and Japan had ongoing diplomatic negotiations and peace talks up through December 6, in Washington DC. With talks scheduled to continue the following week. Sunday was supposed to be an off day.
This now brings us back to the events of December 7th, 1941:
7:55 a.m. the first wave of 183 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo bombers attacked Pearl Harbor.
8:10 a.m. a 1,800-pound bomb lands in the USS Arizona’s forward ammunition magazine. The ship explodes and sinks with 1,000+ men trapped inside.
Torpedoes hit the USS Oklahoma with about 400 sailors aboard; she loses balance, rolls to her side and sinks.
8:54 a.m. the second wave of 170 planes attacked. The battle was over before 10:00 a.m.
In its wake, 2,403 service members were killed, 1,178 wounded, 169 US Army Air Corps and Navy planes destroyed. 19 vessels were damaged, nearly half of which were sunk, fully or partially. Every battleship in Pearl Harbor had sustained significant damage: the USS Arizona, Oklahoma, California, West Virginia, Utah, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Nevada. Pretty bad stuff, right? Do things get better?
Know that all but the Arizona, Oklahoma, and Utah were eventually salvaged and repaired so that six battleships were returned to service.
The Japanese ambassadors left town on December 8th!
December 9, 1941. Americans begin to enlist in record numbers. During the course of the war, over 16 million Americans served, from a US population of 140 million — 11% of all Americans fought in WW2. (By comparison, 1% during the Iraq war.) Every family had a stake in this fight, either in the military or in support of it. (My mom and at least one of my aunts became welders in an aircraft plant!)
February 19, 1942. President Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9066, and 110,000 Japanese-Americans are forced to leave their homes and are interred in 10 detention camps until December 1944.
April 2, 1942. USS Hornet steams from San Francisco with 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers lashed to her flight deck. The 80-crew members aboard had trained on land-based runways to get airborne within 467 ft. (length of the Hornet flight deck). All were volunteers. It was considered to be a suicide mission.
April 8, 1942. All 16 bombers, led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle, successfully launched from the Hornet for a surprise air attack on Tokyo by US bombers. All hit targets, doing little damage, but proving to the Japanese that their island was not invulnerable to attack by the U.S. — a huge, much needed psychological boost to the Allies, as the war was going badly. One plane landed in Russia, 15 toward Nationalist China. All ran short on fuel and either crash-landed or crew bailed out. Three crewmen killed, 8 captured, tortured and starved. This bravery is a part of the DNA in our legacy.
April 19, 2019. Lt. Richard Cole, last surviving member of this raid, dies at age 103! 77 years plus one day.
May 1942. War is going well for Japan, which wanted to get US into a fight for Midway Island in order to lure US aircraft carriers and defeat them, ultimately destroying the US Pacific Fleet. (Carriers were much more important to the Fleet than battleships.)
May 28, 1942. The largest Japanese fleet in history leaves their bases and heads to sea, commanded by Admiral Yamamoto, who is confident of victory. However, he does not know that the US has cracked their intelligence code and is aware of their plans of possible attack on Midway.
June 1942. US Admiral Chester Nimitz puts a task force together. Desperately in need of carriers, has to allow USS Yorktown to go to Pearl Harbor for two+ weeks of emergency repairs. But Nimitz has a plan: 1400 shipyard workers move onto the ship, en masse, work around the clock and complete the repairs in 72 hours. She rejoins the task force!
The Battle of Midway rages four days, June 4-June 7, 1942. Japan had 4 carriers, 3 cruisers, 12 destroyers, 248 carrier aircraft, and 16 floatplanes. The US had 3 carriers, 8 cruisers, 15 destroyers, 233 carrier aircraft, 127 land-based aircraft, and 16 subs.
Japan— 4 carriers sunk; 1 cruiser sunk and 1 damaged; 248 aircraft destroyed, 3,057 KIA, 37 captured
US— 1 carrier sunk (Yorktown); 1 destroyer sunk (Hammann), 150 aircraft destroyed; 307 service members KIA.
Midway was widely considered the turning point of the war and the largest naval battle in history. Japan was unable to replenish its war materials easily, while the US industrial might could supply our needs.
February 1, 1943. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was composed entirely of Japanese-Americans, some of who had family members in detention camps. Serving in Italy, France, and Germany, its motto was “Go for Broke.” By April 1943, it had a fighting complement of 4,000 men, with some 14,000 men total serving overall. In less than two years, its members were awarded 9,486 purple hearts, 4,000 Bronze Stars, and 21 of its members were awarded the Medal of Honor. It is the most decorated unit in US military history. A family friend of mine had a brother KIA while she and the rest of her family remained in a camp. Amazing. Sad, but true, and part of our legacy as Americans of all stripes.
While all of this is going on in the Pacific, the Allies simultaneously and successfully launch the largest amphibious landing in the history of warfare: Operation Overlord, also known as D-Day, the landing at Normandy (June 6-August 30, 1944). A few months later, the Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944 to Jan 25, 1945).
May 8, 1945. VE Day (Victory in Europe)
August 6, 1945. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Pres. Truman calls for Japan to surrender, warning of further destruction. Japan rejects.
August 9, 1945. The atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.
August 15, 1945. Emperor Hirohito announced surrender.
September 2, 1945. (VJ Day— Victory over Japan) Japan signs unconditional surrenders aboard USS Missouri.
This is who we are. This is why, when you get down, you know you’re going to get back up. It’s in our DNA. It is the legacy of our country. More than that: it is your legacy, and that’s ‘the rest of the story!’
Copyright 2020 Gary Micheloni