‘Unknown’ but Unforgotten

Today is the seventy-second anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In Pearl Harbor Ghosts, Thurston Clark says that “the ways in which Pearl Harbor continues to haunt the nation, and those who survived it, is a continuing and changing one.” Clark includes among the haunted Ray Emory, who was a seaman first class on the cruiser Honolulu at the time of the attack. Emory continues to lobby for adequate, accurate memorials for the 653 “Pearl Harbor Unknowns,” military personnel whose remains are missing, fragmentary and too often misidentified. “These kids gave up their lives and each of these stones costs just sixty-eight dollars,” says Emory. “That’s all they got, and you’re telling me we can’t do a better job of saying when and where they died?” After noting Emory’s belief that he is motivated by “a matter of simple justice,” Clark adds his story to those of others, most of them survivors or descendants of survivors, all of them still on the long march of memory, grief, and reconciliation:

He believed that once these graves were properly marked, then the Unknowns’ former [shipmates] might visit them to lay flowers and pay their respects. But I suspect he had also embarked on this crusade for the same reason that Sterling Cale had finally written down his Pearl Harbor experiences after fifty-nine years of silence, and that Dick Fiske later became friends with the Japanese pilots who had bombed the West Virginia: They were all trying, in their different ways, to exorcise their own Pearl Harbor ghosts.

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.