December 07, 2004

Pearl Harbor Digest

Michelle Malkin has a knack for publishing mini-digests of vital links on major holidays and other important days . Her annual Thanksgiving articles are always founts of inspiration.

Today, Pearl Harbor Day, is no exception. She quotes the White House:

Today, we honor those who fought and died at Pearl Harbor, and we pay special tribute to the veterans of World War II. These heroes hold a cherished place in our history. Through their courage, sacrifice, and selfless dedication, they saved our country and preserved freedom. As we fight the war on terror, their patriotism continues to inspire a new generation of Americans who have been called to defend the blessings of liberty.
Read the linked articles - they are all great.

If you know any World War II veterans - and they're passing way too quickly - thank them.

UPDATE: My parents were both far too young for World War II - Dad was five when the war started, Mom just one year old. My grandparents were all too old, I guess - my paternal grandfather was nearly 50, while my maternal grandfather (so the family legend has it) taught science at an Army Air Corps ground school.

My ex father-in-law, however, was 20 years old and had been married to my ex-mother-in-law - for one week. He and some large number of his brothers (Al was one of ) went to their various recruiting stations the next morning, and signed up. My ex-FIL, Al Schirmers (who passed away about four years ago) joined the Navy.

After going to cook school, he was sent (with the sort of logic one associates with the military) to the USS Iowa as a Gunner's Mate. He was involved in the mission that took FDR to Casablanca - and, on the way home, managed to break his back when a recoil spring on a 20mm Oerlikon antiaircraft cannon jumped loose during cleaning, throwing him off one deck to a lower deck.

Sometime during that period, his older brother Chet - who'd joined the Navy during the Depression - was killed when his destroyer, the USS Porter, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Solomon Islands.

When he got out of the hospital, he was assigned as a "Plankholder" - a member of the commissioning crew - for a brand new destroyer, the USS Collette. And it was on the Collette that he served the rest of the war, as a gun captain on a 40mm Bofors gun mount.

He never talked much about the war - but one year, in 1990, I built a model of the Collette for Christmas for him. I did a bunch of research, and learned an awful lot about Al's time at sea. The Collette shot down a number of planes, wiggled its way out of some impossible jams. Once, on picket duty, four Japanese "Betty" torpedo bombers approached from all four points of the compass - a nearly impossible predicament. Nonetheless, the Collette got out of the jam, shooting down two of the Japanese bombers and dodging the others' torpedoes. On the way among these adventures, Al spent 18 months without setting foot on dry land; the ship refuelled and reprovisioned at sea continuously. The Collette was involved in the first destroyer sweep of Tokyo Bay, and was present at the signing of the surrender.

After the war, Al came home, learned cabinetmaking on the GI Bill, built one of the first houses in Crystal, then helped build St. Rafael's Church as well as most of the cabinets and countertops in the northwest suburbs (if you have a house built between 1950 and about 1970 anywhere north of 394 and west of the River, and have old cabinets that weigh more than your car, it's probably a Schirmers job), and had five kids, including my ex-wife.

I think about him when I realize that he spent the better part of four years on one ship or another; I get bored and restless if I'm in the same cubicle for more than nine months.

Posted by Mitch at December 7, 2004 07:31 AM | TrackBack

OT - did you read about Malkin's run-in with the moonbats at Atrios? They're simultaneously ridiculing her filipino heritage and accusing her (falsely) (of course) of denying that heritage.

I'm starting to fear for the mental health of these poor people.

I found the link at

Posted by: Brian Jones at December 7, 2004 08:37 AM

I read the bit on Ollie Willis' site, but decided not to play along.

Atrios is in on it? May just check that out.

Posted by: mitch at December 7, 2004 08:56 AM

Hi Mitchell, Since I am not deeply into politics
I don't usually read the local blogs, but I was
urged to read this one by Lisa. I never realized
you knew as much as you apparently do about Al's
time in the service. I very much appreciate your
reference to him and all the WW2 veterans in your
article. By the way, I wondered if you knew that
the captain of the USS Collett was a brother to
the man the destroyer was named for.Thanks for the
kind words ! Vivian S.

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