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H72273kIt’s December 7th, the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Tomorrow will be the 70th anniversary of FDR’s speech to Congress, in which the President said:

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

It is a “date which will live in infamy” as Roosevelt said, but not much longer in living memory:

The 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack will be the last one marked by the survivors’ association. With a concession to the reality of time — of age, of deteriorating health and death — the association will disband on Dec. 31…Harry R. Kerr, the director of the Southeast chapter, said there weren’t enough survivors left to keep the organization running. “We just ran out of gas, that’s what it amounted to,” he said from his home in Atlanta, after deciding not to come this year. “We felt we ran a good course for 70 years. Fought a good fight. We have no place to recruit people anymore: Dec. 7 only happened on one day in 1941.”

This is not unusual: wars, spectacular events, and catastrophes bring the survivors together to bond, frequently in organizations devoted to the memory of the event. Those survivors have finite lifespans, however, and when they pass, so too do the organizations. The Boxer Rebellion (obligatory self-aggrandizement) witnessed the creation of the Military Order of the Dragon, an association of those veterans–from a range of western countries–who had fought in China in 1900. They had reunions and a newsletter throughout the first half of the 20th century. The order published a book in 1912. But by the 1950s, the membership was dying off, and the newsletter put out the following in 1952:

Activity…has taken a drop the past few years. The average age of Mandarins [the title they gave veterans] is between 75-78 years….Before long, though, the Hereditary ‘Chinos’–sons, daughters, and down the line–will have to take over.[1]

They didn’t, not having the connection to the events that their spouses and parents did. Thus, too, with the Pearl Harbor veterans, and so December 7th, its memories fading, is handed finally over to history for care and safekeeping.

[A good article on a similar theme, sent in by my co-blogger Eric Rauchway, who must now recuse himself from discussing the UC-Davis pepper spray incident]

[1] Military History Institute, Spanish American War Veterans Survey 42/12, McKinney, Lewis.

Dear White House: if you want to be compared to TR, you should know your TR. And for starters, TR didn’t like being called “Teddy.”

Live from Osawatomie High School in Osawatomie, Kansas President Obama gives remarks on the Economy in the same town President Teddy Roosevelt visited just over one hundred years ago.

This link might work better.

Why do we always refer to the GI “Bill”?

Overheard at the swim meet today.

Kid 1: “When Matt Damon is elected president, the country’s going communist. Seriously, wait and see.”

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Life among the 1%:

Mr. Lolli-Ghetti has one of the world’s most expensive parking spaces, a costly talking point in a city where residents spend dearly to shelter their cars. His three-bedroom apartment at 200 11th Avenue — now on the market for $7 million — includes a 300-square-foot “en suite sky garage” that would be valued at more than $800,000 if priced at the same rate per square foot as the rest of the apartment…“Obviously, when you have a nice car, at least now you know you’re the only one touching it — it’s safe,” Mr. Lolli-Ghetti said. “I don’t think it needs views like this, but it does need heating and it wants to be inside.”

Don’t we all.

is up at Cliopatria

[Editor’s Note: Bob Reinhardt, a PhD candidate in our department, submitted this TDIH before the late unpleasantness on our campus. He then asked if I would hold off on posting for a bit. Well, a bit has passed, and it’s time to talk about smallpox. Really, though, when isn’t it the right time to talk about smallpox? Thanksgiving dinner, I suppose. Anyway, thanks, Bob, for doing this.]

23 November

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson declared all-out war on a universally despised enemy. The announcement didn’t concern Vietnam — Johnson had escalated that police action months before — nor poverty, against which the US had allegedly been fighting an “unconditional war.” This particular declaration targeted a different enemy, older and perhaps more loathsome than any ideological or socioeconomic affliction: smallpox. As the White House Press Release explained, the US Agency for International Development and the US Public Health Service (specifically, the Communicable Disease Center, now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) had launched an ambitious campaign to eradicate smallpox (and control measles) in 18 West African countries.* That program would eventually lead to the first and only human-sponsored eradication of a disease, and would also demonstrate the possibilities — and limits — of liberal technocratic expertise.

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Speaking of Charles Forsman as I was yesterday (he of the brilliant Raiders of the Lost Ark/Popeye mashup) I realized that the timing of the hiatus prevented my sharing with you my own Forsman original sketch.

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This is officially an award-winning blog

HNN, Best group blog: "Witty and insightful, the Edge of the American West puts the group in group blog, with frequent contributions from an irreverent band.... Always entertaining, often enlightening, the blog features snazzy visuals—graphs, photos, videos—and zippy writing...."