Thursday, July 28, 2005

The American Race

The American race is devoted to a set of ideals that are uniquely American. We have all colors, all races, all ethnicities and all religions. All across the globe, we see sights such as a young boy in a Sub-Saharan country wearing a baseball cap backwards; we see our CD’s being sold around the corner of an Arab mosque. We see our movies and television programs playing everywhere. We see computers and television sets. We see free elections springing up where before there was only tyranny. We see women voting and gaining rights never before offered. We see our culture spreading; we see people listening to an inner voice; there is no stopping it.

Today, as I have many times before, I was drawn to watch parts of the movie, “Midway”. I have probably seen this movie 5-6 times over the years and read Gordon Prange’s book on the subject over and over. To those youngsters who don’t know their U.S. history, the battle of Midway was the greatest naval victory in American history, and it turned the tide in the Pacific campaign against the Japanese in World War II. It came at a time, right after Pearl Harbor, when we were dangling at the end of our rope, and facing one of the greatest navies of all time.

Midway represents the best of the uniquely American race, because it was won with daring, skill, courage, dogged determination and luck against an overwhelming force. We had airplanes at the time that were totally outclassed by the Japanese Zero, and wave after wave of American fighter planes, horizontal bombers, dive bombers and torpedo bombers were blasted from the skies with almost 100% loss of life of American aircrews. The sacrifices of these brave men exhausted the air defense resources of the Japanese aircraft carriers and made it possible for a series of good decisions by American naval officers and questionable decisions by Japanese naval officers to combine, late in the day, with the lucky coming together of two groups of our dive bombers at one of those unique moments in history.

The result was the complete loss of all four Japanese aircraft carriers, the heart and soul of the Japanese navy, to one American carrier, the original Yorktown. This happened in the spring of 1942, and although there were very tough battles to come, incredible suffering to endure, and much trepidation over the eventual outcome; historians have been able to look back and declare that this was the turning point. Every other Pacific campaign was part of a mopping-up inevitability.

I have never been able to get through this movie without choking up a bit and wondering again where we get such men as those who participated in this great battle. It seems that throughout American history, from before the Revolution to the present day in Afghanistan and Iraq, we keep coming up with men whose courage, initiative and determination win the day.

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