World War II - The Sea Remembers its Own
During WW II in the South Pacific, my fathers had written regularly to my grandmother in North Dakota, who then passed on leaving the letters to a their fate, entombed in a shoebox-coffin in a musty attic. The endurance of paper and cardboard cannot be underestimated when you think of the decades that have passed since they were penned. Much of what said is just as telling as what was not said. We do not feel the trauma, instead much of what is conveyed is relief of having survived the ordeal for so long. We unwitting recipients have to fill in the gaps of what was censored, both by the Navy and the mind. We are spared much of the horror and only bear witness to past vetted by the fog of war and recounted in movies, documentaries, cable series and books that continue to remind us that we must never forget. And we must not forget. We must not forget the horrors of war - but I suppose we do; otherwise we wouldn't continue to have them.
Shortly after my father's death in 1996 I inherited the shoebox-coffin. Amongst the letters were artifacts such as service medals and old 2x2 film negatives. Thanks to the advent of technology, such as scanners, we can bring to life these precious commodities. We humans do forget, but the spirits don't, and they have come calling, taunting me through revelations and coincidences that coin together a history, a realization that this ship can sail once again.
Pearl Harbor, Midway, Doolittle, Iwo Jima, and Tokyo Bay. All familiar to historians and part of the DNA of the offspring whose fathers survived to tell the tales of the South Pacific.
December 7 1941 came like a sneaker wave, camouflaged by the bucolic tropical breezes, tiki bars and hula skirts. What terror would possibly cast its shadow on such a paradise?
On that day, Wilbur Arnold Bender, Musician Second-class, was on board the USS Enterprise, out at sea. He was 23-years-old.
The one story he would recount over-the-years was the destruction he saw when the Enterprise steamed into Pearl Harbor.
Waikiki Beach - 1941
From there came the Doolittle Raid and then Midway.
It wasn't until July of 1942 that he was able to speak about Pearl Harbor - up to that point he could only write and say he was O.K. He never wrote about or spoke about Midway.
My father was surrounded by war, watching as his fellow seamen and their ships were destroyed. Pilots launched from the deck of the Enterprise, most never returning. The mighty Enterprise sailed on, earning her place in history as the "Ghost Ship." She had become the sneaker wave the Japanese feared most.
In the summer of 1943 we was transferred to