I once asked a man who had been in the Army when Pearl Harbor happened what it felt like to be attacked and lose most of our fleet in the mud. I imagined it was harrowing. I imagined that America was scared to its core. I was wrong.
This man would fight in the war in Italy — through two hard winters — carrying an M1 until he was “asked” to run a battery of 105mm guns in support of his infantry regiment and was ultimately to receive a battlefield commission ending the war capturing a German railway construction battalion which he oversaw as POWs.
“So, how did that feel?” I asked him, meaning how did that feel the day of and after Pearl Harbor.
He looked at me with the wise look that men who have lived hard lives like him, who have put his ass on the line for our country, who have killed our enemies in close combat, who have shot it out in direct eyeball-to-eyeball fire with Kraut 88s across Italian valleys, and he said, “I knew we were going to put an ass whipping on those Japs like they never imagined.”
I was incredulous because I had read west coast newspapers of that time and they had the Japs landing in California any day now. The Japs took the Philippines and a bunch of other places. The Germans had already invaded Poland two years earlier. The Germans declared war against us and we had fewer than 200,000 men in the Army and they had 6,000,000 plus great tanks and those damn 88s.