The New Greatest Generation?
I am writing to you this week from the home of America’s Cold War enemy — Russia, the former Soviet Union. Callista and I are in Moscow for a few days. It’s an interesting place to be as America celebrates its independence. It’s also a unique vantage point from which to view the narrowly averted attacks in London and Glasgow.
The events that transpired in the United Kingdom last week are just further proof that America and our allies have enemies in the world, and these enemies intend to kill us.
Whatever else they were designed to do, the planned attacks were clearly meant to provoke the British people and intimidate their new government. They came during the first days in office of Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
We Know How America Would React — We’ve Seen It Before
We don’t know yet exactly how Prime Minister Brown will respond. And we don’t know how the British people will react, although they have a long history of heroic resistance to tyranny.
But we can be confident how Americans would respond to another terrorist attack — one seemingly calculated to intimidate us into submission. We’ve seen it before.
We saw it on the morning of 9/11. And before that, on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
As America celebrates its independence this week, it’s worth contemplating what it is in the character of a free people that will lead them to fight to defend their freedom when under attack.
And what it is in the soul of a nation that produces heroes.
Many Tales of Heroism, No Tales of Cowardice
I’ve talked before about my new novel with Bill Forstchen, Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8. But that morning in December 1941 seems an appropriate topic to revisit this Fourth of July.
Bill and I are historians, and we like to tell the stories that make up history. Pearl Harbor is full of stories — stories of heroes, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt on down.
Literally within seconds that morning in Hawaii, our sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines made the instant transition from a peace-time force to a fighting force. They did it under fire, with their buddies dying around them. And they did it often without orders from their commanders.
‘The Greatest Political Story Ever Told’
It’s critical that we know and study this history. My friend Bill Bennett recently wrote something on National Review Online that all of us should take the time to read.
Bennett points out that today’s school children aren’t learning history. Their textbooks are politically correct and watered down to the point of being boring. This, he writes, is a “double tragedy: a) our children no longer know their country’s history and b) the story they do not know is the greatest political story ever told.”
And Bennett raises another, sobering question: “How do we ask our children to fight, and perhaps die, for a country they do not know?”
This Fourth of July, Honor Our Fighting Men and Women
Pearl Harbor and my other novels on American history are my way of bringing history alive for a new generation of Americans.
We all know how heroic the previous generation of Americans — the Greatest Generation, the men and women of Pearl Harbor — has been.
But what of this war and this generation?
I have had much to say about the failures of implementation and execution in the war in Iraq. Despite this, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan are performing heroically.
This Fourth of July, let us honor them and the sacrifice being made by their families and loved ones.
Will Americans Today Rise to Greatness?
But what about the rest of us?
The would-be bombers in London and Glasgow should remind us all what we need to do — and who we need to be — to achieve victory in this long war against the irreconcilable wing of Islam. Americans of all ages need to once again summon the same will and determination that defined the Greatest Generation.
During the comparable length of time that this generation has been responding to the 9/11 attacks, the greatest generation of World War II rebounded from the attack on Pearl Harbor and defeated Germany, Japan and Italy, built a worldwide military and intelligence capability, built the atomic bomb, massed and organized industrial power and laid the foundation for the worldwide network of alliances that has stabilized the world for the last 60 years.
Their sacrifices and achievements are a great inspiration as this generation of Americans faces unique challenges to protect our loved ones, our country and our allies against the latest assault on human freedom.
America has defeated its enemies before. We can do so again.
Happy Birthday, America.