Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Pearl Harbor and FDR

photo from Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library
December 7, 1941, is a day that will live in infamy, and a large part of its living on in the American memory is due to the spectacular war time leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Though my parents changed early on from Democrat to conservative Republican, they still revere Franklin Roosevelt. Not for his domestic policies but for his ability to galvanize and lead the country in time of war.

My dad served in the Pacific theater in World War II. America lost over 400,000 men with another 600,000 wounded in World War II. My mom, on the home front, suffered not only the anxiety of her young husband going off to war but a stiff rationing program endured by the entire nation for more than four years.

Yet from December 7, 1941, to his death on April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt rallied the country to overcome economic and military obstacles in pursuit not only of military victory, but an "unconditional surrender" victory in a two front war in which military service was not for a fixed time period but for the duration plus six months.

The nation also peacefully accepted the "relocation" of nearly 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese to internment camps by executive order--with no civil or political rebellion. Though this proved an unnecessary precaution, it is a token of Roosevelt's ability to unite the nation to all out war at whatever cost.

The national unity and resolve that Roosevelt inspired is breathtaking in light of the civil and political opposition against every significant U.S. war since World War II, especially the war in Vietnam. This despite the fact that none of the succeeding wars have incurred anywhere near the losses in terms of military casualties and home front sacrifices of World War II.

Franklin Roosevelt, like Winston Churchill, was an extraordinary war time leader. Churchill gave the British spine to resist and fight when their homeland was daily under attack. Roosevelt gave Americans a resolve to fight, sacrifice and die in the hundreds of thousands even when their homeland was not under attack after Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor, a surprise attack American loss matched only by 9/11, stands as a monument to the greatness of the American people to turn an unprovoked attack into a complete military victory in African, European and Pacific theaters of war and as a monument to the outstanding war time leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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