"The attack on Pearl Harbor seems to have been forgotten by the dolts who are trying to make a Disneyland-type attraction out of the railroad in Burma that caused the death of many Allied prisoners. Some local business people show a similar ignorance. Thank heaven for what the Erie County AMVETS do. And keep your calendar fight going."
The person who dropped the above message was on target. The effect of what President Franklin D. Roosevelt termed "a day of infamy" lessens too quickly. Since last December, I had heard of a matter that showed some of our younger people know nothing about the importance of the date, Dec. 7, 1941.
That involved a local restaurant whose radio commercials were obnoxious. One ad had an actor doing a version of Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech. In his version, the actor said the day the restaurant moved into Western New York was considered to be "a day of infamy" by other restaurant owners.
Another ad had an actress doing a takeoff on Tokyo Rose, the propagandist who was supposed to hassle our troops in the South Pacific. In fact, our guys laughed at her.
When the general manager of the restaurant was told that the commercials offended World War II veterans, he expressed surprise. Of course he is on the sunny side of 40, as is the person at the radio station who conceived the ads, which were quickly canceled.
A few years ago a member of the AMVETS was asked why his organization did so much to keep the memory of the Pearl Harbor attack green. He said, "The attack led to the founding of the AMVETS. The other main veterans organizations were started earlier while ours started in 1946. We would be breaking faith with lost buddies if we did not make sure the anniversary of the 'day of infamy' wasn't ignored."
That statement sure woke up some echoes. I joined an AMVETS post in Boston in 1946 and have been meaning to ask local AMVETS officer Pete Linkowski to find out if I am a charter member.
Now for an explanation of the "calendar fight."
In the early 1980s I wrote a piece in which I said that I knew two affluent Western New Yorkers who would have been retired police officers in the '80s if World War II had not happened. So many other lives were changed because of the GI Bill and yet the makers of many calendars treat Dec. 7 as just another date.
When I first complained about such calendars four years ago, more than a few people told me that The Buffalo News calendar had not remembered Pearl Harbor. That oversight was corrected. And I hope the veterans organization that put out an offending calendar in 1990 has an improved number for 1991.
Anyway, the calendar fight is still going on and the names of the companies with "good" calendars will be reprinted in this space. And the Erie County AMVETS will salute each company.
Each year the Erie County AMVETS have a Pearl Harbor Day ceremony and luncheon on the Sunday closest to but before the date of Dec. 7. The 1990 luncheon will be staged today at the AMVETS Medallion Post on Review Place in Buffalo.
Early last week, committee member Sal Pirro said, "This is early for us, but we really had no alternative. We always try to have it as close to Dec. 7 as possible, but didn't want to have it on Dec. 9, two days after the real date of the attack."
Today is a better date for another reason -- the Bills are playing at home and the telecast is blacked out. That circumstance might cause others besides the hard-core traditionalists to attend the morning Mass at St. Louis Catholic Church and/or the luncheon at the post. Dennis Chapman, the post commander, is expecting 150 people for the luncheon and that means space for unannounced arrivals is available.
The thoughts of other Pearl Harbor Day luncheons at the Medallion Post brings to mind a wish made many years ago. It is the wish that the part of the candlelight ceremony that features the local Gold Star mothers could be telecast on local stations. Shirley Popoff and Eva Rozo are two of the ladies from that group who have taught a lot of people about courage on the home front.
Archie Payne, a Western New Yorker who was at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, will be recalled today. Archie was once on the same destroyer as my brother Al, another Pearl Harbor survivor. And on Sunday I will be thinking of the day in early 1942 when I asked Al what the scene was like on Dec. 7.
His jaw tightened and he said, "Well, I won't need any songs to make me remember Pearl Harbor."
Nor will the veterans who will meet at the Medallion Post today.
Today's score. Bills 19, Eagles 17.