I wrote the following article in December 2001 in which I quoted Theodore George Sharpe who had joined the Navy as a teen-ager in 1940, an election year. In spite of a less than perfect record of behavior, the young Sailor Sharpe responded with courage, quick-thinking, concern for others and love of his country as a teenage sailor the day Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. Recently I received an e-mail from one of his grandsons, Craig Sharpe, expressing his appreciation for my article and informing me that his grandfather died this year. His e-mail made me remember the great debt we owe men like his grandfather.
I was 12 years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed and I still remember it very vividly. More people died on American soil on September 11, 2001, as the result of a more recent sneak attack yet, it seems few people remember it. It has hardly been mentioned in the current political campaign. In less than three weeks we Americans will again choose our leaders for the next two to four years. The issues today, as our sailors and soldiers are at war on two continents, are remarkably similar to those of 1940 when Theodore George Sharpe joined the Navy. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat, was running for an unprecedented third term when it was becoming obvious his "New Deal" solution of massive government spending and high taxation was not working. When Roosevelt entered the White House in March of 1933, the Dow Jones average was 50, having dropped from 281 in 1929. Unemployment in March 1933 was 25%.
During the election year of 1936, due to the billions spent in Roosevelt's deficit spending to curb capitalism and re-distribute wealth, Roosevelt chose to create government jobs such as WPA, while increasing taxes on private industry that created jobs. As a result, unemployment that temporarily had dropped from 25% in 1933 to 14.3%, during Roosevelt's second term shot back up to 19.3% in just two months in 1937. The Dow Jones dropped from a high of 187 in February 1937 to 121 by December 1937.
Basically, we are watching a rerun of 1930s politics in the 2008 election. Barack Obama, like FDR, blames capitalism and Wall Street for the current economic challenge and advocates more government spending and government control of private enterprise to solve the problem. Under FDR this nation did not recover its 1929 Stock Market high for 25 years, until Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican, was president in 1954. Freedom produces men like Theodore George Sharpe who are able to make rapid, personal decisions in an emergency situation. Freedom, not government, also produces real jobs and new products and services. Today there are still courageous, patriotic and caring young men, like my grandson Dean, who are in the military in hot-spots like Afghanistan and Iraq to preserve our freedom. There are many other young people inventing new technology, new medical products, new businesses and new jobs who are the targets of the "wealth redistribution" and higher tax "changes" we are hearing so much about these days.
This article is dedicated to those who in the past and the present understand that it is freedom, not government bondage and higher taxes on the nation's producers and inventors that is really the foundation of change that produces America's wealth and successes.
Why Freedom Makes a Nation Strong, and Government Control Makes a Nation Weak
December 12, 2001
On December 7th, the 60th anniversary of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor which killed 2,403 Americans one sunny Sunday Morning in Hawaii, I was visiting Pearl Harbor, talking with several survivors of that attack. President George W. Bush was aboard the USS Enterprise, speaking to a new generation facing a very similar kind of sneak attack by a group of terrorists who launched a sneak attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The President said of those terrorists: "We've seen their kind before. The terrorists are the heirs to fascism. They have the same will to power, the same disdain for the individual, the same mad global ambitions. And they will be dealt with in just the same way. (Applause.) Like all fascists, the terrorists cannot be appeased: they must be defeated. This struggle will not end in a truce or treaty. It will end in victory for the United States, our friends and the cause of freedom."
Why, do you suppose, is it that tyrants believe free societies are weak societies? And they do think just that. In fact, before September 11th, there were a whole lot of people who believed that the rising generation in America are weaklings who could not possibly respond to a threat the way that "greatest of all generations" responded to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Back in the 1930s Adolf Hitler and the militarists of Japan had every reason to believe that America was too weak and too cowardly to ever put up a fight. In fact, an estimated 40% of the college youth of America in 1941 had signed the American version of the "Oxford Pledge," which stated that they would refuse to go to war if their governments drafted them and sent them to war.
Then, when Pearl Harbor was attacked the nation, young and old, instantly united and thousands of young signers of the Oxford Pledge were down early Monday morning waiting for their local recruiting station to open so they could enlist in the Army or Navy. Those already in the Army or Navy in Hawaii, suddenly were confronted with a situation that no one expected to ever happen. Often, there was no commanding officer around to tell them what to do. President Bush recalled: "There were acts of great heroism amongst those who survived, and those who did not. Nine who fell that day had Navy ships named after them. In two hours' time, for bravery above and beyond the call of duty, 15 men earned the Medal of Honor. And 10 of them did not live to wear it."
Many survivors made the trip to Pearl Harbor for the 60th anniversary of the attack and I was able to talk with several of them. One of them was Theodore George Sharpe, of Claremont, Florida, who retired from the Army as a major. However, as a teen-aged soldier, who had joined the army about a year before Pearl Harbor, he did not have an auspicious beginning. In fact, he told me, he'd done something he was court-martialed for a couple of months before Pearl Harbor and had just gotten out of the stockade on December 5th and was returned to base to find his unit had divided and he was in the 24th Division.
"It was Friday," he said, "and I didn't know what to do. They told me to 'go upstairs and we'll talk to you on Monday. On Saturday I was free to do what I wanted, but I was only making $21 a month and two-thirds of that was forfeiture of pay."
Early Sunday morning, December 7th, Sharpe and others were standing in the chow line, waiting for it to open at 8:00 AM. He recalled: "At ten minutes to eight the Japanese flew over our heads. We could almost reach up and touch them. I was in the last quadrangle of Schofield Towers which was adjacent to Wheeler Field. When they came in they were very low and the strafed Wheeler Field. We didn't know what was going on until some people from Wheeler Field came out bleeding and calling 'Hospital! Hospital!"
"So, we all ran to the barracks, got our uniforms on, and our rifles and our gas masks and I ran over to the motor pool. I was in a truck company. I asked, 'What can I do? What can I do?'" About that time a call came in for someone to pick up a man and drive him to Pearl Harbor. Sharpe was sent. He'd never been to Pearl Harbor, although he'd been on the Island for six months. Sharpe said: "I took him down to Pearl, but I didn't want to leave him there because he looked Japanese! But, we did get in and he went to work and he said, 'Wait for me.' So, I waited and waited and I'm dodging bullets meant for the Navy."
Someone finally asked him what he was doing there and when he told him who he was waiting for he was told that 'You are never going to see him again because that outfit moved out - how about helping me." For the next two and a half hours, Sharpe said, "I picked up bodies and injured."
Because we were a free people, we all, old and young, male and female, black and white and ethnic minorities - including Japanese-Americans who joined the armed services from relocation camps - did what we could to defeat those who would take away our freedom. And, now we are watching our grandchildren, that group of young people who, we were told, only want to waste their time playing video games, do everything we did and more. In fact, they may actually be better prepared for the horrors of war than we were because of those gory video games. Many of the rising generation were brought up in homes where their fathers had refused to fight in Vietnam and where parents rebelled against their World War II parents' moral codes.
Our grandchildren are ready to assist wherever they can, wherever they are needed. They are an independent lot who, it seems, understand and value their freedom far more than they were given credit for. And, because they value their freedom and are able to think for themselves without waiting to be told what to do, they make an invincible force, as Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban are discovering.