Pearls of wisdom - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Pearls of wisdom

Lakes middle school to pay tribute to the 'Greatest Generation'

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Posted: Sunday, December 5, 2010 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - Never forget what happened.

That is a lesson Bud Kirchoff, a 91-year-old World War II veteran who lives in Kootenai County, believes younger Americans should learn from the experiences of his generation.

Kirchoff's story of survival as a prisoner of the Japanese from 1942 to 1945 will be part of a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day event Tuesday at Lakes Magnet Middle School.

"If we forget history, we're fated to repeat it," Kirchoff said during one of many interviews conducted during the past month by Lakes staff and students in preparation for the 69th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Tuesday's program is free and open to the public. It begins at 8 a.m. at the middle school, 930 N. 15th St.

The event will pay tribute to the local men and women belonging to the "Greatest Generation," a term journalist Tom Brokaw coined in his 1998 book of the same name. They grew up during the Great Depression and came of age during World War II, many of them fighting in the military, the rest at home supporting the war effort through hard work and endurance.

"It is a generation that, by and large, made no demands of homage from those who followed and prospered economically, politically, and culturally because of its sacrifices," Brokaw wrote. "It is a generation of towering achievement and modest demeanor, a legacy of their formative years when they were participants in and witness to sacrifices of the highest order."

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a defining moment for the nation and that generation. It signaled the United States' entry into the world war.

The Lakes middle school program has captured the voices of local men and women who recall the events of Dec. 7, 1941, and the years before and after.

Kirchoff was serving with a U.S. Army tank company in the Phillipines at the time.

"We were bombed just about an hour after Pearl Harbor," he said.

The attack was less extensive, he recalls, but just as deadly.

"It blew all our planes off the field," he said.

When the United States surrendered the Phillipines to the Japanese in 1942, Kirchoff survived the Bataan Death March, and was then subjected to several years of work in Japanese mines.

He was just 40 miles from Nagasaki when the second atomic bomb was dropped.

The sacrifices of Americans back in the states were great as well.

Pat Lund was 9 years old on Dec. 7, 1941.

He recalls laying on the floor in a room in Spokane playing marbles and listening to Gene Autry on the radio as his grandfather sat nearby.

"They broke in during the radio show and announced that Pearl Harbor had been attacked," Lund said.

Lund's father was serving in the Phillipines at the time, and he remembers his grandfather breaking into tears upon hearing the news.

"I kept playing marbles," he said.

At 9, Lund said the extent of what was happening didn't quite register with him right away.

Later, while living with his mother and sister in California, he felt his own personal loss - how lonely it was without his father.

Lund recalls supporting the war effort as an elementary school student: buying war bonds, collecting aluminum, rubber bands and grease.

They traded grease, he said, for food stamps to buy meat and sugar, but those items were usually hard to come by.

"We ate a lot of rabbit," he said.

Ed Nealand was on the USS New Orleans, a heavy Navy cruiser docked in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, not far from the USS Arizona.

He heard the machine gun fire, the chaos: "It was almost like sitting here, and all of a sudden this whole building is blowing up and you're not expecting it."

Nealand ran to his position when he saw "red things" coming at him. They were tracer bullets.

He made a split-second decision to try to jump from the ship, but landed on the deck below.

Injuries to his back, neck and legs didn't stop Nealand from crawling around until he found a machine gun and used it. He had never operated a machine gun before that day.

Nealand believes his generation's status as the "greatest" stems from what they accomplished, saving the U.S. from the tyranny of its World War II enemies.

There are a host of other local members of that generation who have shared their memories with the students at Lakes Middle School, and their stories will be told during the event on Tuesday.

"It's going to be sensational," said Lakes teacher Dave Eubanks.

Capturing their recollections is important, said Eubanks, because the number of living members of the "Greatest Generation" is dwindling.

"This is one of the last opportunities for us to do this," he said.

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  • idabilly posted at 8:27 pm on Sun, Dec 5, 2010.

    idabilly Posts: 390

    @KayEllen.... did I say round'em up? No, I said it is time to profile. Read my post again and stop trying to spin what I said into another uber lib rant. And btw, Oblahma blows. Period.

  • KayEllen48 posted at 4:25 pm on Sun, Dec 5, 2010.

    KayEllen48 Posts: 89

    So, Idabilly, are you saying that since those who attacked us were Muslim, all Muslims are our enemies? After Pearl Harbor Japanese in the western US were rounded up and interned in relocation camps just because they were Japanese. In hindsight, do your parents think that was the right thing to do? I think it is you to whom this lesson is lost, not the Obama Administration.

  • Nutter Watch posted at 8:55 am on Sun, Dec 5, 2010.

    Nutter Watch Posts: 476

    ""It is a generation that, by and large, made no demands of homage from those who followed and prospered economically, politically, and culturally because of its sacrifices," Brokaw wrote."...........................

    Brokaw obviously can't see beyond his own paternity, but I digress.

    Forgive me for saying something politically incorrect here. This generation prospered as no other generation ever did in American history for their sacrifices largely because of Social Security, Medicare and the GI bill(worthwhile programs all). All were passed by succeeding administrations in response to needs made manifest by the damages caused by unchecked greed on Wall Street and unwise actions and failed diplomacy on the part of their own government. They returned home to an intact nation while the rest of the advanced world lay in ruins. Contrast this "greatest generation" with those that survived the Revolution itself then finding themselves in a twenty year depression with a heavy debt burden and nearly worthless money. Consider also the generation that survived a Civil War. some returning to ruined homes and lives, others migrating westward out of desperation and in doing so secured a continent for their posterity. This means you reading this.

    Now here in the 21st century, the same scenarios once again appear to be setting up and it's likely the present generation will get its opportunity to prove its mettle and grit.

  • gggggg posted at 8:09 am on Sun, Dec 5, 2010.

    gggggg Posts: 206

    "Those Who Forget History Are Doomed to Repeat It"

    Stand-by for a repeat!

  • idabilly posted at 7:44 am on Sun, Dec 5, 2010.

    idabilly Posts: 390

    Unfortunately this lesson has been lost and continues to fall on deaf ears in the Oblahma administration.
    More people were killed on 9/11 than in the attack on Pearl however "profiling," is still not "PC." Guess what,
    the vast majority of bombers (yes I know Tim was white) are/were/will continue to be Muslim men between the ages of 18 and 50. My parents, who belong to the Greatest Generation would likely be handling our current situation a little differently...I don't think being "PC," would be very high on their list of priorities nor do I think it would offend their sensibilities.....

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