Seventy-five years is a long time, but not long enough to erase the memories of those who lived it. Facebook is filled today with posts about Pearl Harbor Day, when Japanese carrier-based planes attacked the US Naval base there without provocation. Although some of the figures vary, somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,343 men were killed, 1,272 were wounded and 960 missing. It was the greatest loss of life in an attack on US soil till September 11, 2001, when 2977 people were killed and more than 6,000 injured. US response was quite different seventy five years ago, when the next day, President Roosevelt called it a day that would live in infamy, and the US declared war on Japan. Our response following the 9/11 attacks which resulted in greater loss of life has been somewhat less decisive. Our world has changed considerably in those intervening years.
What has remained unchanged is the human cost of war. It is reported that during one battle of the American Civil War, General Robert E. Lee remarked to one of his generals that "it is good that war is so terrible, else we should come to love it too much." In spite of our declared hatred of war, it seems we are stuck with it as long as there are aggressors in this world. Even the Prince of Peace declared that wars would continue to the very end.
The Twentieth Century, a century of progress in technology, science, and education, has overwhelmingly demonstrated the failure of these blessings to improve the lot of humanity. Hundreds of millions were killed in wars and often by their own governments. We can hardly claim moral superiority over past generations. In our own United States, we have killed more babies through abortion than have died in all the wars we have ever fought.
More than twenty years ago, my parents were visiting. My father was a WWII vet who for medical reasons, remained stateside while many of his bootcamp buddies shipped out, and many never returned. This particular Sunday afternoon, we were sitting on the couch watching an old WWII movie entitled "The Battling Sullivans," based on the true story of the five Sullivan brothers who served together on the same ship which was torpedoed and sunk. All five brothers died. When it came to the part where the officer brought notice to the parents that their sons had been killed, I heard some snorting off to one side. I glanced over and saw my father in tears. Fifty years had not dimmed the memory of friends lost in that conflict.
We pray for that day when the lion shall lie down with the lamb, but prepare for the day when the lion attacks. I am grateful tonight for those who have, and those who continue to serve in harm's way, as well as for the hope we have in Christ that the day will come when the proclamation of the angels over the Bethlehem fields will become a reality: "Peace on earth, goodwill towards men."