I was working on an article about how Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity did not seem applicable to our cat, Cooney, when my mind drifted to the Solomon Islands. I wanted to complete this article as quickly as possible this past Monday. It was Memorial Day and my son and his family were visiting.
The idea was to explain how nothing is relative when it comes to cats. They are a breed that beats to a drummer that even a guy as smart as Einstein couldn’t hear…
The Solomon Islands were tantamount to the Japanese expansion plans in 1942. Guadalcanal was the location they picked in the southern Solomons to build an airstrip.
We were not ready to start an offensive of any kind in August of 1942, especially one located so far from home and in a jungle environment which we knew little to nothing about. But the most novice guy in our war office of strategic planning knew the consequences if that airstrip was completed.
I was in the third paragraph about Cooney’s complete disdain for anything I said or did. It was like she was in charge and I could accept it…or I could accept it….and there was nothing “relative” that I could do.
We sent the Marines in. Green as they could be! With 1901 Springfield rifles left over from World War I. We gave them a ten day supply of food and ammunition. The battle lasted six months!
The Japanese killed them by the hundreds. And then by the thousands! I’m telling you, the fighting was hand to hand, face to face, day and night, week in-week out. It was the first combat we were to see in World War II.
And it was ferocious!
But those young Marines didn’t quit. They didn’t run. They didn’t blink. They hunkered down like American soldiers had been doing since 1775. And they fought back. Oh brother, how they fought back! It was a costly victory for sure.
But it was the beginning of the end for the Rising Sun. It was as far as their influence would ever spread.
We lost over seven thousand Americans in the jungles of Guadalcanal.
There is nothing natural, fitting or relative about that.
I forgot where I was in the cat story.
My mind jumped to 1944. D-day. We dropped the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions in behind the enemy lines on a cold, damp, pitch dark, pre-dawn morning. Cooney just celebrated her 13th birthday. The average age of those brave young men was barely six years older than that cat.
For many of them, it was their last morning.
As Cooney came over to see why I had quit writing, I thought long and hard on what those young Americans had given up.
The 1st Division (Big Red One) stormed ashore at a fortified Omaha Beach. The 4th and 90th Infantry Divisions were doing the same at Utah Beach. The fighting again was fast and furious as the Germans defended the high ground behind both beaches.
I can’t imagine the courage and fortitude it took to charge into those guns. And we sent wave after wave ashore. History records that before America sat down to breakfast “back home” that June 6th morning, some 2500 young men had given their last full measure.
Iwo Jima is noted for a famous “flag raising” picture. And rightfully so, as it is as much of an inspiration as any you will ever see. But what the picture doesn’t show is that three of those six men were killed soon afterwards. Their names were Harlon Block, Mike Strank and Franklin Sousley.
And yes, they matter to me. As do the six thousand others who surrendered forever their futures on that tiny lava rock island.
It is said that President Roosevelt cried when he read the casualty report—the cost in lives to secure one small airstrip that we might not have needed in the first place. It makes you understand a little bit of the human side of sending men into harm’s way.
Listen, I’ve remembered just a snippet from one war. If you start back over the entire history of America, you’ll see we’ve never had a shortage of heroes. We are certainly a blessed nation. We somehow have always managed to send off the very best we have to do our fighting for us.
And to do the dying for us!
We can’t salute that enough. We can’t appreciate it enough. We can’t remember them too often. We can’t honor them high enough.
My visiting grandkids asked for “something about” Cooney. A real story of everlasting love, sacrifice, duty and bravery above and beyond….broke out in the middle of it.
We need to make sure our grandkids understand. They are also reaping the benefits of those sacrifices…..