FROM THE RAMPARTS ... The Fourth Dispatch
You can smell Hawaii from a hundred miles out at sea. A slight scent of vegetation but it's wonderful because it is America. Home, right in the middle of the Pacific. In December of 1965 we were steaming in from the western Pacific (AKA Viet Nam) bound for Pearl Harbor for refueling. Pearl Harbor twenty four years after the attack that had made it one of the most known and venerated places in our nation.
At 25 miles out we could feel the sea change to a different swell pattern due to the massive undersea mountains that make up the islands. On a small destroyer your "sea legs" sense such changes. We stayed out off of Pearl that night- steaming slowly back & forth waiting for first light so that we could enter the harbor.
This was my first voyage to Hawaii and I made sure that I was on deck for our entrance and docking. As we moved into and up the harbor channel I was taken with how beautiful the place was. And then I saw a shipwreck off of the port side close to shore. A rusted hulk twisted and torn- left there after the attack. A visual testimony in its own right. I was not prepared for it nor for the emotion that I felt. After all, the disaster that took place here happened before I was born. The ship continued into the harbor steaming slowly past the curved white memorial which stands over the Arizona. But the Arizona is sunk...you can't see it. I kept thinking about that wreck in the channel and how powerfully it had effected me. The black & white war pictures were vividly in my thoughts but here was the reality of brown rusted metal against a lush green tropical landscape.
We are a nation of "rememberers". Most of our conflicts have had a
rallying cry; "Remember The Alamo", "Remember The Maine", "Remember The Lusitania", "Remember Pearl Harbor."
The disaster of Fort William Henry was not a sneak attack but the effect
of the MASSACRE on our people at that time was outrage and fear and then the determination to avenge the atrocity. Much like our national feeling after
the Pearl Harbor attack. The common man in both the 18th and 20th centuries realized that such behavior by the enemy compelled him to fight for home &
country. In the French war the 1758 campaign season saw a combined army of
13,000 allied British & colonial troops with 800 bateaux gathered at the head
of Lake George. And all of them saw the buried mound of Fort William Henry which had become the place of "INFAMY" in the 18th century.
A dreary rainy day still saw 300 people come out to witness the end of a tragic tale ... some 244 years later.
[Three British re-enactors attend the ceremony]
Unearthed unceremoniously by construction crews, a French & Indian War era causality finally received a proper burial and a marked grave on May 26, 2001. With Amazing Grace played on pipes, and then a lone trumpet wailing Taps, the unknown soldier was the beneficiary of the honors long overdue him.
COMMENTS FROM THE CROWD ...
How often do you see something like this?
We're able to realize they were real people with short, difficult lives, not toy soldiers.
We have to surmise this man died fighting for his beliefs ...
"Will I survive this battle? If I do not, how will I be remembered? I must be brave."
The people who gave us the country we have today went through very difficult times.
Hundreds of other brave men & women gave their lives here. The loss of one life is no less tragic than the loss of 1,000. Their sacrifice was the ultimate contribution to the birth of a nation, which has truly been the wonder of the world.
Photos courtesy of New York's "The Chronicle."
THE FORT DISPATCHES: