By CAROL JOHNSON
Times-Mall Staff Writer-Bedford, IN
Soon after the tragedy of Sept. 11, broadcasters, authors and political leaders began making comparisons between the attacks and Pearl Harbor.
A deadly, surprise air attack. A complacent populace. An overconfident government.
Americans have lived to see another "Day of Infamy." For anyone who's a little shaky on modem American history, Rex Knight, a World War II author and historian from Huron, (IN) has put together a special exhibit of artifacts that tell the story of Dec. 7, 1941 - the first infamous day.
The exhibit opened Wednesday night Sept. 26, 2001 at the Mitchell, (IN) Public Library and ran through Saturday. The public was able to view the gallery in the Indiana Room. A line of viewers trickled thru the exhibit each day, many remembering out loud where they were that day and their participation later on in the effort to end that war and others commented on the astounding similarity of the latest "surprise attack". Knight created the collection to promote his new book, "Riding on Luck: The Saga of the USS Lang (DD-399)."
U.S. Army veteran Thomas E. Ray shares a story with Author Rex A. Knight as visitors to the World War II exhibit listen intently.
This is the first public viewing of Knight's collection.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the response," said Knight. "I've had some people see it here at home and they've liked it. When my daughter saw it she thought it was pretty neat and she's not easily impressed by historic material."
Knight's interest in World War 11 was sparked by his father, who fought in the war. His collection includes photographs, personal effects of sailors assigned to the USS West Virginia, a diary of a Japanese soldier, original radio recordings when Pearl Harbor was attacked and President Roosevelt's famous "Day of Infamy" speech.
Even though Knight and other authors have published volumes on the subject, most notably Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation,"
America, said Knight, forgot the lessons of Pearl Harbor. "History has a tendency of repeating itself," Knight said. "We should have seen it as a possibility." The Battle cry, "Remember Pearl Harbor," was more than a call to arms, he said.
"It remains that arrogance, complacency, ill-preparedness and overconfidence begs disaster," Knight wrote in a release about his exhibit. "These were the reasons for the Pearl Harbor disaster and the lesson it should have taught. Today we stand in the midst of another of our moments, as history is sure to record, when we have been caught with our pants down."
Even the terrorist attack aftershocks are reminiscent of Pearl Harbor - anger toward Arabs and Muslims - 60 years ago Japanese Americans were scorned. Patriotism and emotions are running high. A nation with class and racial divisions has united to fight terrorism.
The similarities end there. The early-morning air raid on Pearl Harbor was motivated by power, not hatred. About 2,500 lives were lost in Pearl Harbor. Of those, 1,177 were on one ship -the USS Arizona. The number of people missing at the World Trade Center stands at more than 6,400 at the time of this reporting.
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