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Patriotism Then and Now

by Sam Petriello, Times Herald of Montgomery County, PA, 11 November 2012

Sam Petriello with his grandson Joe, 2015

To watch and see this country come together when war broke out was something to behold. There was a certain amount of war profiteering and draft dodging, but as a rule, it was amazing. Farm boys, factory hands and students were drafted or enlisted, trained for a few months and were transformed intro patriotic American warriors – 15 million of them. Women were taken out of the kitchen, and in a few months, were welding ships and running machine shops and transporting panes. The war Department went to Henry Ford and told him we needed planes and tanks, and he built Willow Run and began to produce thousands of them. They went to Henry Kaiser for ships, and in several weeks, he was producing liberty ships and transports. Navy yards were making war ships every week.

We always said the cream rises to the top. Our country had Admirals Nimitz and Halsey. Generals like Marshall, MacArthur, Bradley, Patton, LeMay, Arnold, Shepherd and Smith and the greatest of them all, in my opinion, General Leslie Groves, who never left the U.S. or fired a gun but was a brilliant engineer. He built the Pentagon in 18 months. He put together egotistical, self-centered scientists and physicists and built a city, Los Alamos, and produced an atomic bomb, tested it successfully, and produced two more dropping them on Japan, effectively ending the war. And while that move may be criticized by revisionist historians, there is no doubt that the Japanese had 2000 kamikaze planes waiting for our invasion. Our troop transports were their first objectives. And by our own count, the move prevented over one million casualties.

I fought in the last battle of Okinawa, participating in the first landing in japan, and the surrender of Japanese forces in North China. My regiment of the Sixth Marine Division was picked to represent the Marine Corps. And was part of that initial landing at the Yokosuka Naval Base, and our duties were to secure the base and accept the surrender of outlying army bases and secure the coastal guns.

I was recently speaking to my daughter, Nancy, who is a high school teacher, about how high American pride was during World War II, and how I feel that our nation may never come together quite like it did at that time in the 1940s. As I said, it wasn’t just overseas or on the battlefield that patriotism was evident. The entire country worked together rationing, buying war bonds, and helping each other during the tough times. It was a time when democracy triumphed over tyranny, and a time that truly shoed American pride, work ethic, and patriotism at its finest.

There was no doubt or wavering. There was a tremendous respect for the leaders of this country, and the nation stood unified. I have great memories of that time – and although some are sad and mournful of those who lost their lives for the cause, I will forever treasure that harmony and that love of country. Our country has become more partisan and more disjointed than ever. I hope that those who will now carry on the traditions of honor and patriotism for our country, and those who will lead our country in the future will remember what we fought for and died for in World War II. As World War II fades into the distant past, it is my strongest hope that our country’s sense of patriotism, service, and loyalty does not.

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