June 4 (42/89)

Every day, we should reflect on all sorts of things.  We do this automatically (it’s how the brain is wired), but sometimes it’s good to take the time and think a little deeper.

Off the top of your head, June 4 holds no real significance.  That’s understandable, especially if you are under 35.  If you are under 35, today is nothing but history, it wasn’t really ever ‘real life’.  Of course, for anyone under 85, you could say the same thing about today.

June 4, 1942 was the day the Great Pacific War reversed course as the Battle of Midway started.  The timing is what makes it fascinating.  When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, the Japanese naval commander, Yamamoto Isoroku, told the rest of Japan’s leaders that they had six months before the United States would fully mobilize and force Japan into a defensive war holding on to the rings of island chains it possessed (or had seized).

To that extent, Midway (named because it’s about halfway across the Pacific, the far western end of the Hawaiian island chain) was going to be one of the final steps.  Without Midway, the US would be unable to advance naval forces across the central Pacific, making it a necessary conquest for the Imperial Japanese Navy.  It didn’t work out that way.  Japan lost four of its six fleet carriers that day.  The US lost one of the three it deployed.  Japan built something like eight carriers the rest of the war.  The United States built 151.  That’s not a misprint.

Yamamoto was almost perfectly correct–he said Japan would be effectively put on to the defensive in six months.  He missed the guess by just a couple days.

But World War Two is ancient history now, a war gone from the memories of almost everyone living.  But there are many still alive who should remember June 4, 1989 and keep it in the front of their mind.  The problem is, they don’t, even if they see the iconic image from that day.  In the middle of world turmoil, the fall of the Soviet Empire, the destruction of the Berlin Wall and German reunification, Chinese citizens rose up against the communist government, seeking more freedom, changes similar to what was going on in the Soviet-bloc nations.

They didn’t get it.  They got the Tiananmen Massacre instead when mainland China’s government declared martial law and brought in infantry and armored units and squashed the uprising.  Depending on who you believe, maybe 200 people were killed, maybe 10,000 were, and that doesn’t include any of those imprisoned afterwards.

Those demonstrators were/are around my age.  I find that I admire the courage they showed more as time passes.  They knew the power of their government, that it would not stand idly by, and yet stood up and said: “This is not right and we will stand against it.”  How wonderful would it be if we all had that courage?

I think I’m going to aim for a blog every Monday, maybe a VB one on Mondays and a non-VB one on a different day.  Then again–how do you control when the thoughts pop into your head, right?



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