Tag Archives: Pearl Harbor

Cordell Hull – Peacemaker

30 Oct

Last year, I was asked to write an article about Cordell Hull for the Tennessee Baptist History Journal. During the process, I did quite a bit of research. However, the best part of the assignment was the day I spent at his birthplace. My parents joined me on the drive through the backroads of Tennessee, and we spent the day looking at the scenery and talking about all kinds of things.

The article was recently published, but I could find no online resource. Instead of sharing a link, I decided to share the article. Oh, if you have never heard of Cordell Hull, then let me introduce you to the man.

In 2013, the State of Tennessee proposed the demolition of the Cordell Hull Building, which has housed government employees since the 1950s. Uproar ensued as preservationists and citizens expressed outrage toward the plan, and, after furious debate, state officials determined that renovation of the Cordell Hull Building was the best option.

Despite the intensity of the argument, few people mentioned the person for whom the building is named. Perhaps that was because Middle Tennessee is dotted with places named in his honor: Cordell Hull Dam, Cordell Hull Lake, Cordell Hull State Park. Perhaps it was because people who argued against the demolition of the building did not realize the important role he played in the history of the United States and the history of the world. As Harold B. Hinton wrote, “There are scores of Tennesseans who have helped mightily in the building of the United States, and Cordell Hull must be numbered among them.”[1]

On October 2, 1871, Cordell Hull was born in a log cabin on a twelve-acre farm rented by his sharecropper father, Billy.[2] In his memoirs, Hull described Olympus, the nearest community, as “the only store in the entire section. This was also the post office.”[3] This was also the rural setting from which he learned the value of hard work and from which his love for learning began.

Hull’s childhood was filled with days working with his siblings in his father’s fields. They cultivated oats, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, corn and made molasses to give all of that a sweeter flavor.[4] When his father bought a larger farm and built a store, Hull continued to assist the family economically. At age eleven, he clerked at the store, and, as Hull wrote, “Sometimes a customer would come in and ask for the man in charge. I would reply proudly, ‘I am the man in charge.’”[5] His father agreed, as he once stated, “Cord was always just like a grown man, from the time he could walk.”[6]

Hull also helped his mother, Elizabeth, with spinning, weaving and milking the cows.[7] However, it was from his mother that he gained his love for learning. Hull wrote:

With all her work, however, she taught us our A B C’s and the first portion of Noah Webster’s old blue-back speller, which was current for generations in all public schools. She required us children to read the Bible as much as possible, and she herself read it constantly.[8]

Obviously, religion played an important role in the daily life of the Hull family, and Cordell Hull looked fondly upon this foundation of his faith. In his memoirs, he recounted:

The people of our section were mostly Primitive Baptists and Methodists…We had to go between one and two miles to the Primitive Baptist church on Wolf River, though sometimes services were held in private homes. The preacher was generally a farmer who tried to make a living on a farm and also undertook to preach. He was known locally as “the preacher.” Members of the church gave a little toward paying the preacher but not much.[9]

Hull continued:

Sometimes they had a preacher come from a distance and then they held splendid meetings. People went to the church from far and near. They walked or rode on horseback or in wagons and carts. There were no buggies in the ridge country at that time. Young men joined up with girl friends and went together to church. The boys wore stiff-standing paper collars, which on hot days were pretty well wilted down by the time they got to church walking or riding. I shall never forget the solemnity and fervor with which those people sand the hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.”[10]

He also remembered the important role of faith in local society when he wrote:

If a person was “skeptical,” he was promptly discovered and branded as an infidel, which rendered him somewhat unpopular and at that time deprived him of the right to testify under oath. Such persons were few and far between. The social life in the ridge country revolved largely around the church.[11]

Hull’s work ethic; thirst for knowledge; and strong faith served him well as his world expanded through higher education, but, at a time when rural families often chose one son to pursue a professional career, he first had to convince his father with what Hinton called “the most important speech in his life.”[12] Local parents established a debating society because, as Hull wrote, “they were deadly earnest that their children should get the utmost from their schooling.”[13] In 1885, Hull took his turn at the podium and argued that George Washington was more important to American history than Christopher Columbus. In front of a crowded room, he won the contest, and his father decided that his son “should go away to the best school he could afford,” which was the Montvale Institute in Celina, Tennessee.[14]

From Montvale, Cordell Hull matriculated to a normal school in Bowling Green, Kentucky and, after a few semesters, transferred to the National Normal University in Lebanon, Ohio.[15] Normal schools specialized in training students to become teachers. Despite this training, Hull wanted to study law, and his father rented an office in Celina where his son could begin reading the law.[16] Lawyers had been learning in this fashion for decades, however, in last decades of the 19th Century, the American Bar Association asserted that more rigorous training was needed.[17]

In 1891, Hull enrolled in the law school at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, an institution with the reputation of developing some of the nation’s best legal minds.[18] As Hinton wrote in his biography of Cordell Hull, “Ever since the Civil War many of the greatest figures in Tennessee’s legal and political life have had their principal training at Cumberland.”[19] Hull recalled, “When I went to Congress sixteen years later I found in Washington four or five Senators, one Justice of the Supreme Court and twelve to fifteen Congressmen who were graduates of Cumberland University.”[20]

In addition to his academic growth, Hull gained experience outside the classroom that prepared him for the future. At age fourteen, he attended his first court session and first became interested in law. At age seventeen, he read his first newspaper, the Nashville American and listened to the ideas of men who gathered at the general store. From them he learned that “a person can’t ever amount to something unless he stands for something.”[21]

When Hull traveled to Bowling Green, he rode a train for the first time, and, when he attended school in Lebanon, Ohio, he first experienced life outside of the South.[22] However, his political career began back home when he was asked to speak at a rally. The organizers ran out of speakers but remembered his previous debate performance. At age sixteen, Hull spoke in support of Grover Cleveland for president of the United States. Cleveland lost, but, a few years later, Hull was elected Chairman of the Clay County Democratic Committee.[23]

In 1892, Hull ran for the State Legislature. While not yet old enough to hold office, his birthday would come before the general election. Until that time, he had to face a formidable opponent for the Democratic nomination. Realizing that he could not win in a party convention, Hull maneuvered his opponent into a primary election. He bought and horse; stumped throughout four counties; and carried each one.[24] He also won the general election and served in the State House until 1897.[25]

At age thirty-one, Hull became judge of the Fifth Judicial District.[26] Despite the fact that he served for only four years, people called him “Judge” for the rest of his life. As Hinton wrote, “In talking to a considerable number of men throughout the region where he lived for thirty-five years, I heard only two call him by his first name…The rest called him judge.”[27] He continued, “Mrs. Hull learned to call her husband ‘Judge,’ which she does to this day when speaking of him.”[28]

Through his judgeship, Hull became well known throughout the region, and some Democrats believed he would be a strong candidate for Congress in the 1906 election. Facing a strong primary opponent, he traveled throughout the district and relied on his father’s vast friendships. Hull won by fifteen votes and easily carried the general election.[29] This began a twenty-four year career in the United States House of Representatives, broken only by a two year stint as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and placed him in position to impact the nation.[30]

In Cordell Hull: A Biography, Harold B. Hinton called Cordell Hull “Father of the Income Tax,” and the moniker is appropriate.[31] In 1907, Hull first introduced a comprehensive income tax bill but knew that it had little chance for passage. For years, he refined his plan and included it in as many speeches as possible. However, the Supreme Court had ruled the income tax unconstitutional.[32] Then, the political climate changed.

In 1912, Woodrow Wilson, who wanted a lower tariff and a new revenue stream in its place, won the presidency, and, a month before his inauguration, the constitutional amendment allowing an income tax was ratified. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, Hull was tasked with writing a new bill and introducing it to Congress. The income tax became law in October 1913, and, in his memoirs, Hull wrote, “Today the principle is so widely accepted that it seems difficult to visualize the need for the immense struggles that occurred before its adoption.”[33]

In 1914, the First World War began, and Hull saw an opportunity. As he later wrote, “To me, the war, disastrous as it was in all respects, offered both tragedy and a springboard for constructive legislation.”[34] This meant the introduction of his bill to tax inheritance, a revenue stream that Hull had been studying for several years. In 1916, President Wilson signed the Federal and State Inheritance Law.[35]

The end of World War One brought victory to the United States and the Allies. However, due to disagreement in the United States over joining the League of Nations, it brought defeat to President Woodrow Wilson and the Democratic Party. For the next decade, the Republican Party dominated national politics, and Cordell Hull felt the effects of his party’s decline. He lost one election bid for the House of Representatives and, when he made a comeback, lacked the power that he once held.[36]

The opportunity for Hull’s reemergence came in the early 1930s. In 1929, the stock market crashed during the administration of President Herbert Hoover, a Republican, which provided the Democratic Party an opportunity to regain control. That same year, Tennessee Senator Lawrence Tyson passed away. Hull, who had often thought about running for the Senate, announced his candidacy for the seat.[37]

During the Democratic primary, Hull faced the Memphis-based political machine of Boss Ed Crump and accusations of being out of touch with Tennesseans. His opponents talked about his car having a Washington, D.C. license plate and about him needing a driver from Washington to take him over Tennessee roads. However, Hull’s popularity with the people and national Democratic leaders brought victory in the primary and in the general election.[38]

In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt won the presidential election, and a Democrat inhabited the White House for the first time in twelve years. Hull wrote, “At long last, my party was back in power and I felt confident that a fruitful period of work and accomplishment lay before me and those of similar views.”[39] Despite that remembrance, he could not have envisioned that he would become the longest-serving Secretary of State in the history of the United States.

According to Hinton, “Through the preconvention days of 1932 Senator Hull had probably been the closest Congressional adviser Governor Roosevelt had.”[40] This placed him in the forefront of the new president’s mind for a cabinet appointment, but Hull did not see himself as a candidate. As Hull described:

At that moment I was to experience a great surprise. Mr. Roosevelt stopped over in Washington in January on his way to Warm Springs, Georgia, and sent for me to call on him at the Mayflower Hotel. Then and there, without much introduction, he offered me the Secretaryship of State.[41]

For over a month, Hull contemplated the offer and wondered if he could accomplish more in the Senate or as a member of the president’s cabinet. In February, Hull met with Roosevelt and explained, “If I accept the Secretaryship of State, I do not have in mind the mere carrying on of correspondence with foreign governments.”[42] The president-elect agreed, and Hull accepted the offer.

On March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt took the oath of office and embarked on the longest and one of the most influential presidencies in American history.[43] On the same day, Cordell Hull took the oath for his office. Over the next decade, he faced economic decline throughout the world and the rise of dictatorships in Europe and Asia. However, he wanted to first become a good neighbor to the nations of Latin America.

The United States had a long policy of intervention in Latin America that caused feelings of resentment and distrust. Hull worked through these issues at the 1933 Pan-American Conference and laid the groundwork for Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy. He continued to strengthen this policy throughout the by working with diplomats at the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace in 1936 and at the Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics in 1940.[44]

Despite this success, turmoil and violence defined Hull’s term as Secretary of State. Fascist and dictatorial leaders bent on war gained power around the world, and he knew to observe them closely. Of Adolph Hitler, Hull wrote, “Right from the beginning we faced one problem after another in our relations with Germany.”[45] He also faced problems with Benito Mussolini of Italy, Hirohito of Japan and others as they took steps toward war.

In his memoirs, Hull wrote, “I made it clear that, if Europe and Asia took the courses which the Axis nations were charting for them, war was certain to engulf the world.”[46] On September 1, 1939, Cordell Hull was proven to be correct when Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. He spent the previous six years trying to prevent war. Now, Secretary Hull and President Roosevelt tried to steer the United States through war.

On September 5, Roosevelt declared the neutrality of the United States.[47] However, he and Hull knew that the nation must assist the fight to uphold democracy in Europe. After a political fight with isolationists, the Lend-Lease Act passed, and the administration gained the ability to ship weapons to nations fighting against the oppressive regimes.[48]

For two years, the United States assisted the Allies of Europe while watching the advances of Japan in Asia. As Hull wrote, “We considered Japan’s expansionist ambitions an eventual danger to our own safety.”[49] With that in mind, he spoke with Japanese delegates about protecting the sovereignty of Asian nations and the economic role of the United States in that part of the world. Those talks continued until December 7, 1941.

On that morning, Hull waited in his office for a meeting with representatives from Japan, but he first received a call from the president with news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. An hour later, the envoys arrived, and Hull admonished them for continuing talks of peace while planning an attack. He wrote, “I have seen it stated that I “cussed out” the Japanese envoys in rich Tennessee mountain language, but the fact is…no “cussing out” could have made it any stronger.”[50]

The next day, the United States declared war on Japan, and, a few days later, declared war on Germany and Italy. While Roosevelt planned for the fight, he directed Hull to plan for the peace. Thinking about Woodrow Wilson’s failure to convince the United States to join the League of Nations, Hull believed there needed to be “a viable and practical structure by which the peace of the world could be successfully maintained.”[51] He formed a committee of Democrats and Republicans to complete the task, and, in 1943, the State Department completed the “Charter of the United Nations.”[52]

Due to ill health, Hull retired and, while appointed to the American delegation, could not attend the first meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco.[53] However, President Roosevelt had already stated what everyone involved already knew. Cordell Hull was the “Father of the United Nations.”[54] In 1945, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace “in recognition of his work in the Western Hemispheres, for his international trade agreements, and for his efforts in establishing the United Nations.”[55]

On July 23, 1955, Cordell Hull passed away and left a legacy of public service that began in rural Tennessee and ended with an attempt to create everlasting peace for the world.[56] Hull must have been thinking of those days when he ended his memoirs by writing:

If we are willing from time to time to stop and appreciate our past, appraise our present and prepare for our future, I am convinced that the horizons of achievement still stretch before us like the unending Plains. And no achievement can be higher than that of working in harmony with other nations so that the lash of war may be lifted from our backs and a peace of lasting friendship descend upon us.[57]

     [1] Harold B. Hinton, Cordell Hull: A Biography (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1942), 4.

     [2] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park, Tour, July 30, 2016.

     [3] Cordell Hull, The Memoirs of Cordell Hull, vol. 1 (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1948), 3.

     [4] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [5] Hull 1948, 12.

     [6] “The Hulls of Tennessee,” LIFE, March 18, 1940, 81.

     [7] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [8] Hull 1948, 5.

     [9] Ibid., 8.

     [10] Ibid., 8.

    [11] Ibid., 8.

     [12] Hinton 1942, 25.

     [13] Hull 1948, 14.

     [14] Ibid., 15.

     [15] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [16] Hinton 1942, 29.

     [17] Albert J. Harno, Legal Education in the United States: A Report for the Survey of the Legal Profession (1953), 19.

     [18] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [19] Hinton 1942, 30.

     [20] Hull 1948, 27.

     [21] Ibid., 24.

     [22] Ibid., 23.

     [23] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [24] Hull 1948, 29.

     [25] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [26] Hull 1948, 38.

     [27] Hinton 1942, 25.

     [28] Ibid., 10.

     [29] Hull 1948, 43.

     [30] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [31] Hinton 1942, 129.

     [32] Hull 1948, 48.

     [33] Ibid., 71.

     [34] Ibid., 75.

     [35] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [36] Hinton 1942, 166.

     [37] Hull 1948, 134.

     [38] Ibid., 136.

     [39] Ibid., 154.

     [40] Hinton 1942, 203.

     [41] Hull 1948, 156.

     [42] Ibid., 158.

     [43] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [44] Ibid.

     [45] Hull 1948, 236.

     [46] Ibid., 665.

     [47] Hinton 1942, 341.

     [48] Ibid., 348.

     [49] Cordell Hull, The Memoirs of Cordell Hull, vol. 2 (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1948), 982.

     [50] Ibid., 1097.

     [51] Ibid., 1625.

     [52] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [53] Hull 1948, 1721.

     [54] Ibid., 1723.

     [55] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [56] Ibid.

     [57] Hull 1948, 1742.

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Movie Wisdom – Tom Sizemore Edition

21 May

This afternoon was a good time to watch television. It was hot and rainy outside, which is not a great combination. Flipping through channels, I found Devil in a Blue Dress, a movie that I can always watch. I will not go through the story, but, as it pertains to this post, Don Cheadle shoots Tom Sizemore.

When that movie was over, I went to the guide and found Heat, a great movie starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. It also has Tom Sizemore, and I changed the channel in time to see him get shot.

Therefore, this has been a Tom Sizemore day. I saw him get shot in two movies, and, coincidentally, both movies were released in 1995. Tom had a killer year.

Figuring that all of this was fate, I decided to look for wisdom in the movies of Tom Sizemore.

From Born on the Fourth of July

Thou shalt not kill.

From Point Break

Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true.

From Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man

Never chase buses or women. You’ll always be left behind.

The right woman can make you, and the wrong woman can break you.

From Passenger 57

Always bet on black.

Trust your instincts.

From Wyatt Earp

I think the secret old Mr. Death is holding is that it’s better for some of us on the other side.

Nothing counts so much as blood. The rest are just strangers.

From Natural Born Killers

Nobody can stop fate.

The media is like the weather, only it’s man-made weather.

You can’t hide from your shadow.

From Devil in a Blue Dress

You step out of your door in the morning, and you are already in trouble. The only question is are you on top of that trouble or not?

All you got is your friends.

From Saving Private Ryan

FUBAR

From Pearl Harbor

There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.

A brilliant man would find a way not to fight a war.

 

Dates and Jams

3 Sep

My friend over at Serendipity created a great post, and I, like any good blogger, am going to copy it. She found a site called Birthday Jams that will tell you what was at the top of the charts on the day that you were born.

On my day of birth, The Supremes had “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” hanging out in the Number One spot. However, it gets better. In the United Kingdom, Hugo Montenegro and His Orchestra hit big with the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I knew I liked that movie for some reason.

As I fiddled with the site, I started to wonder about what people were jamming to when big events happened. For example, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon on July 20, 1969. Do you know what song was tops in the land on that day? “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans

On August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon became the first president to resign from office. As he flew off in his helicopter, somebody was listening to “Feel Like Makin’ Love” by Roberta Flack. Nixon also posed in one of the greatest photographs of all time with Elvis Presley.Elvis Nixon

A few years later, the nation was saddened by the death of Elvis, who had a ton of Number One hits. On August 16, 1977, the day he passed away, “Best of My Love” by The Emotions was playing on radios everywhere.

Elvis’ career began when he walked into Sun Studios. He struggled for a while but finally got into a groove on July 5, 1954 when he recorded “That’s All Right.” The nation did not know what was about to hit them. All they knew was that Kitty Kallen had a huge hit with “Little Things Mean a Lot.”

Obviously, December 7, 1941 is a huge date in American history. The Japanese attacked the island of Oahu and our base at Pearl Harbor. The nation was about to enter a war that had been raging for a couple of years. It was also the day that people were listening to “Chattanooga Choo Choo” by Glenn Miller.

On December 15, 1944, Miller’s plane disappeared somewhere over the English Channel. On that day, Ella Fitzgerald and the Ink Spots hit with “I’m Making Believe.”

On September 10 1993, a television show debuted that asked us to believe. As The X-Files started its rise to popularity, “Dreamlover” by Mariah Carey hit the peak of the charts.

Of course, that was a few years after Larry Hagman first dreamed of Jeannie. That show went on the air on September 18, 1965, which was the same time that The Beatles did not need any “Help!”

Of course, The Beatles would break up and go on to solo careers. Tragically, John Lennon’s life was cut short on December 8, 1980. On that day, “Lady” by Kenny Rogers was sitting at Number One.

Rogers used his popularity to transition into movies. None of them were very good, but Six Pack was one of the worst. It hit the screens on July 16, 1982. Listening to “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League had to be better than watching that film.

I reckon this exercise needs to eventually come to an end, and that will happen with one more date.

I am not going to release the date of my wife’s birth, but that event turned out to be important in my life. In other words, it needs to be recognized. One way to do that is to tell you that Neil Diamond’s “Cracklin’ Rosie” was the big hit of the day. By the way, her name is not Rosie.

Movie Wisdom – Angelina Jol…Wait, Jon Voight Edition

21 Nov

Today, I read that Angelina Jolie is thinking about retiring. Certainly, she has many items on her plate. There is her new marriage to Brad Pitt along with her role as one of Hollywood’s ambassadors to the world. As soon as I read the news, I thought that there must be some wisdom within her works.

I was wrong. Well, I was not completely wrong. There was some wisdom in a few of her movies, but I could not find enough to make a decent blog post. Then, the decision was made to go with a backup plan.

We will look into the movies of her father, Jon Voight, and see what wisdom can be discovered.Jon Voight

From Midnight Cowboy

Well, if it’s free, then I ain’t stealin’.

It just ain’t right cheatin’ from a pregnant lady.

Make your old grandma proud.

The two basic items necessary to sustain life, are sunshine and coconut milk.

From Deliverance

Sometimes you have to lose yourself ‘fore you can find anything.

 From The Champ

You don’t have to live with someone to love them.

From Heat

I say what I mean, and I do what I say.

From Mission: Impossible

Anonymity is like a warm blanket.

Computers are a bitch.

From Anaconda

There’s a devil inside everyone.

From Pearl Harbor

There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.

A brilliant man would find a way not to fight a war.

From Ali

Free ain’t easy.

From National Treasure

Those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action.

Cooperation only lasts as long as the status quo is unchanged.

You know the key to running a convincing bluff? Every once in a while you got to be holding all the cards.

From Glory Road

Nobody can take something away from you that you don’t give them.

From National Treasure: Book of Secrets

A man has only one life time. But history can remember you forever.

Yep, there is a bit of wisdom within the works of Jon Voight. He should speak to his daughter about doing the same thing.

A Man in Georgia Passed Away

2 Aug

A few days ago, a 93-year old man passed away in Georgia. The widower was retired from the DuPont Corporation and left behind a loving family. When the news of his death came over the Associated Press Twitter feed, I read the article and read the replies by people in the Twitterverse. I hardly ever do that. Everyone has opinions about the news of the world, and Twitter provides a platform for sharing. However, something told me that I needed to read these.

Some examples:

“Good”

“Rot in Hell”

“Mass Murderer”

What could lead to such hatred toward an elderly man who had just passed away?

Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk was the last surviving crew member of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and introduced the world to nuclear weapons. Tens of thousands of people died instantly and more died from the radioactive effects. In the years that followed, more destructive weapons were developed, and two Super Powers pointed them at each other during the Cold War. People lived under the shadow of the bomb, and little kids learned to “Duck and Cover” at school.Duck and Cover

It was a momentous event in history and, obviously, was not humanity’s finest hour. However, I was taken aback by the hatred aimed at “Dutch” Van Kirk, who was a 24-year old navigator following orders.

Each May, a few other teachers and I lead a field trip class to New Mexico and, as part of the trip, visit Los Alamos, the place where the atomic bombs were built. We sit outside of a museum housed in one of the original buildings and discuss the Manhattan Project. During this discussion, we talk about the bombings of Japan and their aftermath. At some point, I ask them what they would have done if they were part of the decision-making process. Undoubtedly, they say that they would not have done it.

Then, I ask them to put themselves in the places of the people involved. Take away 70 years of hindsight and make a decision. When I read the Twitter responses, I tried to put myself in the place of Van Kirk.

World War II began in 1939 when he was 18 years old. He probably heard news reports of the war in Europe where Germany was bombarding London, invading Russia and killing civilians. He may also been reading about the Japanese advances in Asia and their killing of civilians. He could not have known about the Holocaust.

In 1941, Japan attacked the Pearl Harbor, but it was not only an attack of the naval base. It was an attack of the island of Oahu, which probably killed civilians. Van Kirk was 20-years old. Did he volunteer? Did he get drafted? I do not know, but I know he was trained as a navigator for bombers.

During his time in uniform, Van Kirk flew 25 bombing missions over Europe and North Africa. Undoubtedly, these were harrowing missions. I have no idea of his targets, but I know that the Allies bombed German cities. Dresden was bombed into oblivion, and over 100,000 people were killed. That is more than were killed at Hiroshima.

What does all of this mean? By 1945, Van Kirk had spent 25% of his life with the world fighting the largest war in history. It was a war where the killing of civilians became military practice for all sides. It was a war that every side tried to win at all costs.

At some point, Van Kirk found himself training in the Pacific and being told that the mission being planned could end this war – a war that had cost millions of lives and people wanted to bring to an end. In August of 1945, the orders came through to complete the mission. The man who had given the order was President Harry Truman.Harry Truman

What was Truman thinking?

He had become president a few months before and around the same time Germany had surrendered. It was then that he learned of the Manhattan Project and the weapons that it had created. As the war in the Pacific went on, the American people were getting restless. Germany had been defeated. When is the same thing going to happen to Japan?

Allied forces were getting closer to the Japanese mainland, and Truman’s advisers were telling him that an invasion could lead to a million casualties. A man that I know said that he was training for that invasion, and he, along with everyone training with him, knew that they were training to die. He never liked Truman, but, when he heard about the bombing, he loved Truman.

Truman had a decision to make. He could ask the American people to sacrifice more men in a battle like the world had never seen, or he could use a weapon that tax dollars had been spent to build.

What would happen if he agreed to the invasion, and Americans later learned that it could have been avoided?

He chose to use the atomic bomb.

Van Kirk and the rest of the Enola Gay completed their mission by dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A few days later, another plane, Bock’s Car, dropped another bomb on Nagasaki. With that, World War II came to an end, and the Cold War began.

Did Harry Truman make the right decision? I have no idea. I am not trying to justify it. I am saying that we should put ourselves in the past before judging decisions with hindsight.

Should Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk be vilified on Twitter for the actions of his crew? I do not believe he should. He came to age during the worst war in human history and was told that he had the chance to end it. For 69 years, he lived with the memory of that mission. I have no idea what he thought about when he looked back. He was in that place at that time and did was he was ordered to do.

Maybe the people on Twitter would have done it differently, but they do not know that for a fact.

There Is Not Much Quite Like

27 Feb

While walking on the treadmill, I started thinking about how lucky I have been. That luck has come in numerous ways, but I was specifically thinking about travel. My mind went to some of the great places I have visited and the great sights I have seen.

There is not much quite like…

drinking wine in the chateau of Inglenook Vineyards.Honeymoon 016

catching the sun set over the buttes of Monument Valley.West 2010 232

hearing the water break on the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

leaving an offering at the grave of Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood, South Dakota.

watching the Potomac River flow behind George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon.

feeling the power of water rushing over Niagara Falls.

zip-lining through the trees of north Georgia.

climbing the mesa at Ghost Ranch and looking the landscape often painted by Georgia O’Keefe.SONY DSC

sitting on the porch of the Old Faithful Lodge and watching buffalo roam through the geysers.

lying in the grass of Jackson Square and eating a beignet from Cafe Du Monde.

floating down the Rhine River and looking at the castle ruins passing by.

staring at the presidential faces of Mount Rushmore.

playing Blackjack at a Las Vegas table and watching the chips come and go.

touring Graceland and seeing The Outlaw Josey Wales playing in the TV Room.

hanging out on a beach in Cancun and watching my stepdaughter play volleyball.Cancun - Volleyball

strolling through the Vatican and trying to get a glimpse of the pope.

reading a book by a pool in Costa Rica.

climbing a waterfall in Jamaica.

being mesmerized by the killer whales and bald eagles in Glacier Bay.

dancing to “Me and Mrs. Jones” in a nightclub in Chicago.

standing in silence at the bombing memorial in Oklahoma City.SONY DSC

trying to see the tops of the Giant Sequoia in California.

driving through Hereford, Texas and passing thousands of head of cattle.

betting on Jai Alai in Florida.

lounging on the couch and watching television with my wife.

A Few Days in December 1941

7 Dec

December 7, 1941 was a Sunday. It was also the day that the Japanese fleet attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor.Pearl Attack

Actually, that is not accurate. It was an attack on various locations around the island of Oahu. Most people know the story and have seen the footage of the attack. However, something else was taking place thousands of miles away.

In Washington, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, who graduated from Cumberland University, was preparing to meet with the ambassador of Japan when word of the attack got to his office.Cordell Hull

Hull greeted the ambassador, who did not know the attack had already taken place, and read documents stating that negotiations between the two nations were ending. The Secretary of State exploded with angered while the ambassador quickly left. Hull uttered a few other choice words while realizing that the United States had just entered the World War.

On December 8, Franklin Roosevelt convened a joint meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives to request a declaration of war against Japan. On that day, he said:

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 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.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.