It was on this day in 1941that the United States suffered one of its most disastrous losses in our nation’s history. Pearl Harbor. The day that will live in infamy. The day that thrust the Greatest Generation into the role of heroes; a role that they never sought and a status they refused to accept.
2013’s December seventh was cold and icy in west Tennessee. As I drove the slick roads around the small town of Halls, I ventured onto the ice-covered, time-worn concrete aprons of the old Arnold Field on the long-gone Dyersburg Air Base. It was in response to what occurred at Pearl Harbor that soldiers and airmen came to train at this big base beside a little town along the banks of the Mississippi River.
I’ve got a pretty good imagination, so it was easy for me to see planes and pilots filling the space as far as the eye could see. But on this cold day, rolls of cotton, some grown in fields that those bombers-in-training used for targets back in the forties, were all that stood at attention in the morning rain. The only noise was the splattering of raindrops on the bright plastic wraps that protected the cotton.
In a grassy field just off the crumbling apron, stands a small concrete building, its roof and doors having long ago rotted away. At first glance, it looks like several restrooms all in a row built near the flight line for the convince of the hundreds of men working nearby. A quick look inside dispels that theory. Nothing but solid concrete. No plumbing and no access for any.
When Arnold Field was bustling with new pilots and bombing crews, this small building was one of the most carefully guarded areas. (There were other identical structures, but this is the only one that remains.) Locked inside each of these separate compartments were the top-secret Norden Bombsights. Guarded around the clock, these special sights were not permanently mounted in the plans, but the crew had to check them out prior to each training mission and then were required to bring them back and secure them when each mission was completed.
But that was decades ago. Today it’s just another crumbling piece of our history, once so vital, but now just waiting until somebody wants to do something with the land it is covering up.
I guess that’s been the story since the world began. Times change. Technology advances. The old fades away and the new takes center stage.
The men and women who filled bases like Arnold Field are mostly gone now. Those who remain are much like the bunkers that secured the Norden Bombsights. They’re worn and tired and seldom noticed by the busy folks rushing to get somewhere – never considering that their freedom to do so was made secure by those whom they have little time for.
On this Pearl Harbor day, I remember those who lost their lives on that Sunday morning long ago, and pray that God’s grace will warm the hearts and spirits of those who remain.
May you and I determine to become the Grateful Generation so that the sacrifice and deeds of the Greatest Generation will be remembered long after the last one of them has gone to his long home.
God bless America.