Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day

It's Independence Day, by golly. Everybody these days breezily refers to this day as "the 4th," as if the date of this holiday were its most significant fact. Anyway, "independence" is truly its most significant association, so I'm using the old custom: Independence Day.

Some mistily-remembered folks in Philadelphia, many of them wearing silly wigs, said they no longer wanted to be, as a people, another bauble on King George's crown. The rigorous implications of this notion were probably not well-understood by many in that room, and that room had no lack of great minds. Certainly the rigorous implications of that notion are not better understood today, after two-hundred and thirty years of bickering.

A popular saying of that moment was "Don't tread on me." It was, perhaps, the essence of that people's understanding of the word "independence." It's a silly kind of saying, not stirringly patriotic. But I'll give you an example of the "Don't tread on me" spirit. The Battle of Midway, 1942.

As I understand it, the early wave of American flyers were outfitted with torpedoes (for sinking ships). These planes were required to fly low over the waves in order to drop their torpedoes. The Japanese defenders effectively battled them at these low-altitudes. Many American flyers met their death that day. But the last wave of American flyers were dive-bombers, flying at higher altitudes. The low-flying Japanese defenders were not able to regain altitude quickly in order to meet this new attack. Japanese commander Mitsuo Fuchido recalled:
The attackers had gotten in unimpeded because our fighters, which had engaged the preceding wave of torpedo planes only a few moments earlier, had not yet had time to regain altitude.

Consequently, it may be said that the American dive-bombers' success was made possible by the earlier martyrdom of their torpedo planes. Also, our carriers had no time to evade because clouds hid the enemy's approach until he dove down to the attack. We had been caught flatfooted in the most vulnerable condition possible - decks loaded with planes armed and fueled for attack.
Author David Gelertner, writing for Opinion Journal, describes it this way:
Wave after wave of heroic American flyers were destroyed. Virtually the whole air-strength of the three U.S. carriers on the scene had been used up when a lone squadron of dive bombers finally turned the battle around. Remember the "threescore young aviators who met flaming death that day," [Samuel Eliot] Morison urges, "in reversing the verdict of battle. Think of them, reader, every Fourth of June. They and their comrades who survived changed the whole course of the Pacific War."
I am deeply grateful for such men as these.

[You can read about the Battle of Midway at]


Anonymous said...

they gave up their human life
and that is why i think that we as americans must know without a doubt why we are sending our forces to fight and die.

that is our battle
and we are being taken.

Anonymous said...

then again
maybe it is not our battle