I have been reading the letters back and forth about the military training, and would like to point out that our military is trying to be ready.
To be ready we have to train. Our army was not ready, and lacked skilled leadership when the Civil War started, many of the good officers had gone to the other side, which was far from ready also, and the next years were spent blundering against each other until the strongest got ready learning from its many mistakes and finally overpowered the other side.
We attacked the Spanish in Cuba and we were not ready. The Spanish and disease killed many of our young men because we had not entered the war with modern gunpowder. We used black powder, which told the enemy where we were; the Spanish used smokeless. Disease killed many of the rest. Our fleet sailed off to Manila and Cuba not knowing that Germany was considering helping out their friends, the Spaniards, and the German Diplomatic staff was checking out places in New England for places to land troops while our army was away. Fortunately, it never came to that as we would have been really unready.
Then World War I came, and we had spent so much time watching everyone else and trying to keep out that when it came, we were not ready — not enough artillery, not enough guns not enough uniforms. We had to get artillery and uniforms from our allies. We had to make stop-gap weapons, sending revolvers because of our shortage of automatic pistols. A rifle we had been making for England had to be rushed into production in our caliber. No warplanes had been made, we bought them from our allies, and our fleet was lacking in warships. When Woodrow Wilson was told we needed warplanes for a group of pilots he suggested just making a couple and leting the pilots take turns flying them. When you look at our meager list of aces, all were flying planes of our allies.
One reader went so far as to suggest the reason Japan attacked us was because we stuck our nose into its business. At that time, they had killed millions of Chinese and committed other countless atrocities. We merely told them we would sell them no more steel or oil if they did not stop killing and raping the Chinese people, and destroying their country and culture.
China was not ready to defend itself.
Then she wrote we should be like Finland, Sweden, Canada and other nations, which never go to war. I wonder where she ever came up with that notion. What was she doing in history class? Sweden conquered most of the Baltic, huge parts of Russia and Norway. But when Germany took Norway, it left Sweden alone because it knew Sweden would destroy the steel making capabilities and Germany needed steel. By the time Germany decided it might take Sweden, it realized it had waited too long because Sweden was ready for it. Finland, sitting alongside Russia, lived in constant fear of the Russian Bear. It was small, but it trained incessantly and although it had few tanks and planes, when the Russians demanded it cede territory the Finns said "no." Russia attacked Finland, and got the territory it wanted but it cost the Russians more than one million soldiers. Finland was ready.
When the Germans attacked Russia, the Finns came in on the German side and settled more old scores. When the Russians came back they negotiated with the Finns because they didn't want a repeat of the earlier losses the Finns had given them. Canada has fought in almost every war the British Empire has been involved in. We attacked it in the War of 1812 and they kicked our fannies out. They were trained and ready. They fought in World War I, Word War II, Korea, and are presently in Afghanistan.
The Swiss have had their forays into battle with their neighbors, and then settled into a come-and-get-us mode. Germany did not attack Switzerland because they could have only taken the lowlands, and the cost would have been too high. Herman Goering once said to a Swiss military attaché, "I hear you can put so many thousand troops into the field in 24 hours." The Swiss officer told him that was correct. "What would you do if I crossed your border with double that amount of troops?" The Swiss officer replied, "I guess my troops would each have to shoot twice." The Swiss were ready, and they still are.
World War II came, and, as usual, we were not ready. We lost Guam, the Philippines, Wake Island, and the British and Dutch who were fighting in Europe lost territory also. Thousands of Europeans and Americans civilians and military who were captured suffered rape, murder, and starvation at the hands of the conqueror.
I see the pictures of the emaciated people who survived and went through unfathomable hell and I wondered why we were not ready. I read Hugo Von Platen Luder's description of the attack and relive the fear and anxiety our populace went through. I had friends on ships in Pearl Harbor. We had blackouts, and Japanese submarines were shelling coastal areas in California and Oregon. I watched as older cousins and Uncles trundled off to war and wondered if I would ever see them again.
Korea — we were not ready again, we had to go out to the jungles of the Pacific islands to get equipment we had abandoned to get enough trucks. We had to buy back bombs we had sold to German farmers for fertilizer because our stockpile of bombs was so low.
I hear the jet planes and I think of security. Jet planes kept the Russians away, and, in fact, the Soviet Union went broke trying to keep up with our aircraft manufacturing.
If you live by an airport you can hear aircraft, it is a matter of fact.
We are complacent, we don't know our history, we are bound to repeat the same mistakes.
I wonder how someone can sit in history class and not catch the fact that most nations get involved in war.
We must be vigilant, as our island is very strategic and always will be. Maybe not to some of us, but it will always be to others.
But I do remember my history teacher teaching a more socialistic version of history, so maybe the other writer had a similar one. I don't believe the letter writer's Marine father could have been brainwashed though, he was probably more dedicated and just "gung ho."
"Those who beat their swords into plowshares shall end up plowing for those that did not," Benjamin Franklin.
Ronald A. Cole is a Kona resident and vice president of the West Hawaii Korean War Veterans Association.