Sunday, December 25, 2011

On the Incarnation

He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men.
It was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out his love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us. It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and for our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body.
The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone, the Image of the Father, Who could recreate man after the Image. In order to effect this re-creation, however, He had first to do away with death and corruption. Therefore He assumed a human body, in order that in it death might once for all be destroyed, and that men might be renewed according to the Image.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria

Friday, December 16, 2011

Meeting God's Samurai, Mitsuo Fuchida

One of the vivid memories I have from my childhood is personally meeting Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese commander who led the first attack wave on Pearl Harbor, and who immortalized the words, Tora, Tora, Tora. When I was about 10, my dad insisted that I go with him to a Youth for Christ meeting in San Diego, where this remarkable man and former enemy of the United States was speaking.

Over the years, Dad had conveyed many of his stories from his years serving on a couple of repair ships, first the USS Vestal and then later on the USS Hector. As a Pearl Harbor survivor, his most lucid memories were of that surprise attack on December 7, 1941. Until this evening, however, the memories he shared seemed more like  mere adventure stories told to an excitable son. And though I was always impressed with his accounts, I was not prepared for the significance of this encounter. 

That evening, Capt. Fuchida presented a little of the story of his life, with only a humble mention of the major role he played on that "date which will live in infamy."* The presentation must have been a little over this kid's head, for I don't remember much of what he said. I do remember, however, that the crowd was somewhat sparse, which was surprising, given Fuchida's strong connection to America's entry into the war in 1941. But that did allow for Dad and me, after Fuchida's talk, to make our way up to the front to meet this singular and mystifying man, the fount of Dad's most momentous memories. 

After the meeting, very few people seemed to linger around Fuchida. In fact, I only recall my Dad and me. I was apprehensive, but a little curious to see what would happen. I don't remember his exact words, but I vividly recall Dad extending his hand to Mr. Fuchida and introducing himself as a young sailor who was there on that infamous day. Fuchida was warm and gracious, his comments kind and conciliatory. I wonder now, that he must have had dozens, or hundreds, of such encounters after the war. Had each one been as friendly as tonight's? Shaking hands that night almost 50 years ago, left a deep impression: Two former enemies meeting as Christian brothers. Not a trace of animosity. Hatred transformed into brotherly love. A powerful recollection still today.

Long after the war, Fuchida wrote,
I would give anything to retract my actions of twenty-nine years ago at Pearl Harbor, but it is impossible. Instead, I now work at striking the death-blow to the basic hatred which infests the human heart and causes such tragedies. And that hatred cannot be uprooted without assistance from Jesus Christ.
And that is what I witnessed that night between my dad and his former enemy. That is the memory that sticks with me.

Here is a little of Fuchida's backstory after that dreadful day at Pearl Harbor. It seems that during the occupation of Japan, while stepping from a train, Fuchida was handed a pamphlet at random by a stranger. It recounted the remarkable conversion to Christ of an American POW, Jake DeShazer, who was taken captive in 1942, when, as a member of Doolittle's Raiders, he dropped bombs near Tokyo, and then was forced to parachute into China. Remarkably, after reading this pamphlet Fuchida was led to purchase and read a copy of the Bible. When he read about the crucifixion of Christ in Luke 23:34, especially Jesus' prayer, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” Fuchida said he was certain he was one of those for whom Jesus had prayed.
The many men I had killed had been slaughtered in the name of patriotism, for I did not understand the love which Christ wishes to implant within every heart. Right at that moment, I seemed to meet Jesus for the first time. I understood the meaning of His death as a substitute for my wickedness, and so in prayer, I requested Him to forgive my sins and change me from a bitter, disillusioned ex-pilot into a well-balanced Christian with purpose in living.
Fuchida would go on to write about his conversion,
That date, April 14, 1950—became the second "day to remember" of my life. On that day, I became a new person. My complete view on life was changed by the intervention of the Christ I had always hated and ignored before. Soon other friends beyond my close family learned of my decision to be a follower of Christ, and they could hardly understand it.
Big headlines appeared in the papers: "Pearl Harbor Hero Converts to Christianity." Old war buddies came to visit me, trying to persuade me to discard "this crazy idea." Others accused me of being an opportunist, embracing Christianity only for how it might impress our American victors.
But time has proven them wrong. 
After the war, Fuchida had a successful Christian ministry in his native homeland and, amazingly, in the United States, too. Gordon W. Prange documents Fuchida’s life and work in his book, God's Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor. Fuchida wrote his own testimony in “From Pearl Harbor to Calvary” and “Beyond Pearl Harbor.”

Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida died 36 years ago, in Japan, on May 30, 1976. But his testimony as a true believer in Jesus Christ remains. In his own words:
That morning [December 7, 1941]… I lifted the curtain of warfare by dispatching that cursed order, and I put my whole effort into the war that followed… [But] after buying and reading the Bible, my mind was strongly impressed and captivated. I think I can say today without hesitation that God's grace has been set upon me.
I was only a young boy 50 years ago when my dad insisted I go along with him to meet this remarkable former enemy. I'm grateful for Dad letting me witness the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.

*For Fuchida’s recollections of the attack see Eyewitness to History

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

USS Hoga, the heroine tug of Pearl Harbor

The USS Hoga was moored with other ships when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese at 7:50 AM, on December 7, 1941. It was underway within 10 minutes of the first strike, picking up men in the water while she headed to Battleship Row. The USS Arizona was a blazing hulk, but tied up to it was my father's repair ship, the USS Vestal. At 8:30 AM, sailors on the Hoga threw lines to the stricken repair ship, and helped the Vestal clear away from the Arizona.

Having freed the Vestal from destruction, the Hoga next moved to aid the minelayer, USS Oglala at 8:50 AM, and towed her clear of the flaming cruiser, Helena.  Then, it was on to the battleship Nevada, where with another tug, she kept the sinking ship from blocking the channel. From the NevadaHoga returned to Battleship Row, fighting fires on the Maryland and the Tennessee. Finally, she went to work on Arizona, assisting until December 9. In the days after the attack, the Hoga, along with other yard tugs and support craft, provided additional help in cleaning debris from the harbor and performing salvage work on the sunken and battle-damaged ships.

My dad, who was stationed on the Vestal at the time of the attack on December 7,  recalls the various actions of the Hoga, including its rescue of the his ship, in his story, The Heroine of the Day (A Story for My Grandkids). He was one among many survivors who praised the work of this tug on that infamous day.

USS Hoga at Pearl Harbor, 1942

The Hoga performed faithful service throughout the war, and then had a new life for 40 years as a fireboat for the port city of Oakland, California. She was retired in 1994. In 2005, the ownership of Hoga transferred to the City of North Little Rock, although for now, it rests with the reserve fleet in San Francisco.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Temporary transfer to the Curtiss

Nearly a week after the attack at Pearl Harbor, the most urgent repairs had been made. On this date, my dad, Frank Dolan, was temporarily transferred to the USS Curtiss, a seaplane tender, to assist with the temporary repair work so the stricken ship could safely return to the states for permanent repairs. Less than a year in service, Curtiss had been hit by an enemy dive bomber, which crashed into one of her cranes and burned. A bomb from another plane hit near her damaged crane, exploding below decks, setting the hangar, main decks, and No. 4 handling room on fire. Dad will work on this ship until the 20th, then move on to other critical repairs.

USS Curtis on fire after being hit by Japanese dive bomber, December 7, 1941
Source: NavSource Online

Source: Frank L. Dolan's Service Records; USS Curtis Muster Roll, December 1941

Monday, December 12, 2011

Commander Cassin Young, Medal of Honor Recipient

Commander Cassin Young was the commanding officer of my dad’s ship, the USS Vestal, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. For his exceptional performance during the attack, Young was awarded the Medal of Honor. The citation reads:
For distinguished conduct in action, outstanding heroism and utter disregard of his own safety, above and beyond the call of duty, as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Vestal, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by enemy Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Commander Young proceeded to the bridge and later took personal command of the 3-inch antiaircraft gun. When blown overboard by the blast of the forward magazine explosion of the U.S.S. Arizona, to which the U.S.S. Vestal was moored, he swam back to his ship. The entire forward part of the U.S.S. Arizona was a blazing inferno with oil afire on the water between the two ships; as a result of several bomb hits, the U.S.S. Vestal was afire in several places, was settling and taking on a list. Despite severe enemy bombing and strafing at the time, and his shocking experience of having been blown overboard, Commander Young, with extreme coolness and calmness, moved his ship to an anchorage distant from the U.S.S. Arizona, and subsequently beached the U.S.S. Vestal upon determining that such action was required to save his ship.
Capt. Cassin Young, USN, receives his Medal of Honor
from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Februaryi889ioo 1942
Source: NavSource

Dad remembered Commander Young as a personable man who earned his respect. He said that he saw and saluted Cmdr. Young often, since his personal gear was stowed near the captain’s deck on the US  Vestal.

Young was promoted to Captain in February 1942, and later was given command of the cruiser USS San Francisco. He commanded San Francisco in the Battle of Cape Esperance and the subsequent Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, with great distinction. During the latter battle, just 11 months after Pearl Harbor, Young guided his ship in action against a superior Japanese force. Sadly, he was killed by enemy shells while closely engaging the enemy battleship Hiei. Captain Young was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during the campaign, and San Francisco received the Presidential Unit Citation.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Aftermath at Pearl, 3

My dad, Frank Dolan, recalled that when his ship, Vestal, was beached following the attack, it became stuck in the mud. “Our propeller, going in reverse, was of little help in getting us off, and we were scheduled for drydock. Our captain who was just outside the bridge had all available men topside to go to the portside and then at his command we all ran to the starboard side. Portside to starboard. Portside to starboard. With our propeller reversing and in this rocking motion, we were finally able to get off the mud.”

Although damaged, the Vestal participated in the post-attack salvage operations, sending repair parties to the overturned hull of the battleship Oklahoma so that weldors could cut into the ship and rescue men trapped there when she capsized. Dad participated in the rescue of some survivors but did not do any actual cutting. He visited the scene of the Oklahoma a couple of times to bring oxygen and acetylene from the Vestal.

Over the ensuing days, Vestal's men repaired their own ship because yard facilities in the aftermath of the Japanese surprise attack were at a premium. Within a week of the raid, Vestal's crew had pumped out the oil and water that had flooded the compartments below the waterline and cleared out the damaged and gutted holds—all work that had to be completed before the rebuilding process could begin. There were many ships to repair. In addition to repairs to the Vestal, Dad's work took him to the Indianapolis, Pyro and many other ships he could not recall 70 years later. From December 13-20, he was temporarily transferred to the Curtis to repair bomb damage it sustained during the attack.

Sources: Frank L. Dolan's Pearl Harbor As I Remember; Dictionary of American Fighting Ships, V. 7: T-V

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Vestal Report for December 7, 1941

AR4/L11-1/(066)          U.S.S. Vestal        10-trb
                                                                    December 11, 1941

From:          The Commanding Officer.
To:              The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Subject:       Report of action on December 7, 1941,
                    in accordance with references (a) and (b).*
Reference:  (a) Art. 840 Navy Regs.
                   (b) Cincpac conf. desp. 102102 of Dec. 1941. 

a.      The USS Vestal was struck by two bombs at about 0805 December 7, 1941, while moored port side to port side of the USS Arizona berthed at Fox 7, Pearl Harbor, T.H. One bomb struck the starboard side at frame 44 penetrating three decks, passing through the upper crew space, GSK stores A-16½, A-14½, and exploding in GSK stores lower hold A-9. The fire main and electric cables in crew space were cut. W.T. hatch to A-14½ buckled and stores in GSK stores and lower hold set on fire and wrecked. As far as can be ascertained there are no indications that this bomb or fragments caused any rupture in the hull.
b.          The second bomb struck at frame 110 port side, passed through the carpenter shop, shipfitter shop, shipfitters locker room (D-1½), fuel oil tanks D-80-P-F and D-82-P-F and left an irregular hole in the hull about 5 feet in diameter just inboard of the bilge keel. The above spaces (D-1½) flooded up to the level of the carpenter shop with fuel and water.
c.          Due to the bomb explosion forward and fire and water in GSK stores, practically all stores are damaged, the extent cannot be ascertained until completion of removal. Heat from this fire necessitated the flooding of the forward magazine containing 100 rounds of target and approximately 580 rounds of service 5" ammunition.
d.          Damage as a result of the magazine explosion on the Arizona and the resultant fires on the Vestal were three life rafts, 6 mooring lines, 1 gangway, rigging and blocks and paintwork burned, stanchions bent, port lenses and windows broken.
1.          At about 0820 a torpedo was seen to pass astern of the Vestal and it apparently hit the Arizona whose bow extended about 100 feet beyond the Vestal. The Arizona also received a bomb hit forward almost simultaneously. Immediately following these the Arizona's forward magazine exploded. This explosion started fires aft and amidships on the Vestal. Shortly after the Arizona was observed to be settling and the fuel oil between Vestal and Arizona was ignited.
2.          At 0830 orders were given to make preparations for getting underway – this had been anticipated by the Engineer Officer. At 0845 the forward lines were cut, the Arizona's quarterdeck was awash, and Vestal got underway on both engines, no steering gear. Tug pulled Vestal's bow away from the Arizona. The Vestal started to list to starboard and was taking water aft. She was maneuvered to position with south end of McGrew's Point bearing 30°, distance 910 yards and at 0910 anchored in 35 feet of water.
3.          Soundings and draft readings were taken continuously; these showed the ship was settling aft and continuing to list to starboard. Draft aft increased to 27 feet and the list to 6 ½°. Because of the unstable condition of the ship due to large amount of free surface, the knowledge that we had two holes in the hull – subsequent inspections showed only one - ship being on fire in several places and the possibility of further attacks, it was decided to ground the ship. At 0950 got underway and maneuvered to position with Old Aiea Railroad Station bearing 73° true and West Tangent of McGrew's Point bearing 320° true; ship grounded. Number 2 white spar buoy close aboard on starboard side amidships. Ship's head 092° true. Depth of water forward 11 feet, amidships 18 feet, aft 27 feet. Draft forward 15 feet, aft 29 feet.
4.          Offensive measures.
a.          At 0755 sounded general quarters. Manned the 3" anti-aircraft and 4 - 5" broadside and 2 - 30 caliber machine guns. At about 0805 opened fire with 3" anti-aircraft gun and both machine guns. After firing three rounds, 3" anti-aircraft gun breech jammed; breech was cleared and one additional round was fired when blast from Arizona magazine cleared gun station killing one man. Machine guns continued firing on enemy planes until they withdrew.
b.          3" anti-aircraft and after machine gun both fired at plane which released torpedo at Arizona and turned toward Vestal. This plane was seen by crew of the machine gun to burst into flame and disappear over Ford Island, this was substantiated by others in the vicinity. Whether the plane was hit by gun fire from Vestal or adjacent ships is not known.
5.          Identified dead - Six Unidentified dead - Three, one from 3" anti-aircraft gun platform and two from stern of Vestal. These men may have been either Arizona personnel blown over by magazine blast or members of Vestal after gun crews; they were burned beyond recognition.
Missing - Seven.
Hospitalized - Nineteen. About twenty per cent of those hospitalized are seriously injured suffering primarily from burns and fractures.
6.          The conduct of all officers and enlisted personnel was exemplary and of such high order that I would especially desire to have them with me in future engagements.

Copy to: Combasefor.

*For additional action reports from other ships present, see Pearl Harbor Action Reports, 7 December 1941, from the Naval History and Heritage Command site.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Aftermath at Pearl, 2

Our carpenter and pipe shops both had large cargo ports, which were either open or were opened by the initial attack. The cargo port in the carpenter shop was just above a camel, which is a large wooden planking structure floating between ships to keep them [Vestal and Arizona] apart. Oil-soaked, burned, and dazed men from the Arizona were climbing from the burning oil and water between the blazing ship and our ship onto the camel. Our men rescued them by pulling them up aboard the Vestal where they were put on cots in our shops. I assisted in the weld shop. I do not remember any of these men having on clothing, except for some who had on “skivvies” (shorts). Their clothes had been burned off, and most suffered from burned flesh and hair…

Where it came from I do not know, but morphine was given when available. When it was administered, the needle was stuck in the earlobe of the victim, bent over and left attached. This was done in order to let someone know down the line that the victim had been given morphine...

USS Arizona ablaze and sinking

Boats came alongside our ship, and their men volunteered to come to the aid of the victims. We lowered the burned Arizona men into these boats. From there they either went to the hospital ship, Solace, or to beach hospitals. We could not give them much hope of surviving the day since they were in such bad condition...

I do not remember the next meal I ate after the attack as I was not too hungry for a while. However, I do remember the meat was either chicken or turkey. As I looked at that undercooked meat, I nearly threw up. It was just too much of a reminder of all the burned human flesh I had seen. I think I was a vegetarian for over a week. Later I began to eat normally with little or no effects.

For quite some time, the odor of fuel oil was a reminder of what we had experienced. When we began to clean up the fuel oil that was all over the lower compartments, the odor there was a constant reminder. Even weeks later, when the ship took on fuel oil and some spilled on the deck, we were reminded. Eventually that too, subsided.

US Vestal's position at the time of the attack

From Frank L. Dolan's personal account, Pearl Harbor: As I Remember

The Aftermath at Pearl

It was all over by 10:00 AM except for a few diehard Jap pilots with a few more bullets they had not used up… Everything else we saw was smoke, smoke, and more smoke from blazing ships. The Vestal was solidly grounded, but she was down aft and with a starboard list of eight degrees and stable in the mud.

All of my belongings were in a locker below the boiler deck. Everything was ruined by oil and water, except for my shoes and the clothes on my body. It was several days before I was issued extra clothing. The clothes I had on were a mess, but they were all I had. Oh, yes, I had to buy these newly-issued clothes. In fact, they took the cost of the clothes out of my pay. The Navy at that time gave you the first issue of clothing in boot camp. After that, we bought clothing as needed.

Frank L. Dolan, USS Vestal, from his account, Pearl Harbor: As I Remember

Pearl Harbor 70 Years Ago: A sailor's first-hand account of that infamous day

My dad Frank Dolan, a weldor on the repair ship USS Vestal, which was tied alongside the battleship USS Arizona, remembered the events that unfolded at Pearl Harbor on this date in 1941 like this...
Sunday was "holiday routine"… a no-work day. The officers and men would ‘sleep-in,’ but not me. I was eager to get my ratings. So, after morning chow, I went to the foc’sle… which was an upper deck in the forward part of the ship, to do my studying… Noise! A loud noise! A loud, booming noise came! Then came the roar of airplanes. I looked over the starboard (right) side of the ship and saw planes—many planes. Some were overhead, but many were just a few feet above the water. They were launching what I thought were “dummy” torpedoes. "Neat, real neat!" I thought. But when the first one exploded against a battleship’s side, I thought some dumb American pilot dropped a real live torpedo by accident.

Even as torpedoes were exploding on impact against the sides of the battleships, I told myself there must be some mistake. The planes were so close we could easily see the pilots. Then the red ball designation of the Japanese on the sides of the planes came into view. Immediately I was off the foc’csle down the port passageway aft on the main deck and onto the starboard side to watch. Again, I was not really believing what I was witnessing. More torpedo planes, and then came the dive bombers. I had no battle station as at this time we were at peace with Japan, and had only one 3-inch anti-aircraft gun, and a couple of Thompson machine guns on board. Our 5-inch broadside guns were for use against surface craft.
My next move was to head for the weld shop. To get there I had to go down a ladder through the carpenter shop and then amidships to the weld shop. No sooner had I got down the ladder when a bomb came through the carpenter shop hitting the ladder I had just come down. There were numerous casualties in the carpenter shop. One shipmate was decapitated. Immediately, I went to the weld shop. Half of the men there had been sleeping or were just awakening and were asking, "What's up?" The other men and I told them the Japs were here. I looked toward the small hatch opening that I had just come through to get to our shop. "Ski," a shipmate, had just come into the shop looking very pale and wobbly. We grabbed him and laid him on a cot, face-down, as we discovered that both cheeks of his backside were torn off and hardly any flesh remained. This was the result of the bomb that had come through the carpenter shop. In the meantime, another bomb hit the forward part of our ship on the starboard side near where I had been studying a few minutes earlier.
USS Arizona burning
Dad recalled that at about the time the second bomb hit the forward part of the Vestal, on the starboard side near where he had been studying a few minutes earlier, was when the Arizona exploded. While he was below decks at that moment, he did not then know what had happened, although it was a “shaking experience” for him. “When the Arizona blew up and was broken in two, my first thought from below deck was that our acetylene and oxygen cylinders, which were topside and near the great explosion, had blown up. Soon afterward, we learned that it was the Arizona. And, later on, with all of the burned survivors, we knew for sure what had happened.”

When the Arizona exploded, more than 100 sailors on the Vestal were blown overboard into the flaming, oil-covered water. Amazingly, of the 400 men on the Vestal, only 6 were lost, although many were seriously injured. Among the many deeds of brave men, the Vestal’s captain, Cassin Young, received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions that day. Having been blown overboard himself, Young swam back to the ship and retook command, calling his men back to their battle stations. To prevent the loss of his ship, Commander Young ran Vestal aground on a coral reef at Aiea. Young became 1 of 15 men to receive the Medal of Honor for bravery in the attack.

The losses to the Arizona were horrific. More than 1,100 Sailors and Marines still lie entombed within its sunken hull. Over 50 Sailors lie within the submerged Utah.

While effecting her own repairs, Vestal's crewmen immediately went to work resurrecting the sunken fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Dad recounted his experience of this “date which will live in infamy” in his narrative, Pearl Harbor: As I Remember.


A profound experience from my childhood was to personally meet Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese commander who led the first attack wave on Pearl Harbor, and who immortalized the words, Tora, Tora, Tora. When I was about 10, my dad insisted that I go with him to a Youth for Christ meeting in San Diego where this extraordinary man and former enemy of the United States was speaking. Years after the Pearl Harbor attack, Fuchida became a Christian in a remarkable conversion to Christ. I wrote about my experience in the post, Meeting God's Samurai.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Alongside the Arizona

My dad, Frank Dolan, remembered that his repair ship, the Vestal, moved alongside the USS Arizona on this date, a Friday in 1941, in preparation for work to begin the following Monday.
We tied up to her, portside to portside, meaning that the Arizona as well as all of the other battleships faced south, and we faced north. All of these huge battleships with 14-inch or 16-inch guns were a sight to behold. After our lines were tied, the weldors threw their welding ground leads over to the Arizona where they were clamped securely, ready for Monday.
Of course, the infamous Japanese attack on Sunday morning will change everyone's plans.

"Battleship Row" on December 7, 1941

Source: Frank L. Dolan's account

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veterans Day, Dad!

My dad, a Pearl Harbor survivor, told us many inspiring and hair-raising stories about his WWII experiences. Over the years, I’ve tried to record as many of these as I could coax him to remember, many of which I'm blogging about here. I also decided to document his war service in manuscript. It was a delight to go back and forth with him in writing and editing over the past few years. Sadly, the work was still in process when he was taken from us last April. But even in his last weeks in the hospital he was still recalling interesting details.

The last tidbit about the war that I remember him relaying was, that while in Hawaii, probably in  1944, he and some buddies one day were pretending to hit a few balls around the golf course. They were taken by complete surprise when a U.S. Army general approached them. After introductions and making a few observations with the sailors, the general played on through their group. Dad had no idea at that moment who he was. A few months later, though, he and the rest of the world recognized General Douglas MacArthur famously wading onto the shore at Leyte in the Philippines declaring, "I have returned."

Source: Naval History & Heritage Museum

President Roosevelt had summoned Gen. MacArthur and Adm. Nimitz to meet with
him in Hawaii to make a decision about the next phase of action against Japan. Nimitz
made the case for attacking Formosa, while MacArthur stressed America's moral obli-
gation to liberate the Philippines. The meeting took place on board USS Baltimore at
Pearl Harbor, on July 26, 1944.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Scary things to do this Halloween

Vision Forum reminds us of what America is missingfear—the fear of the Lord in particular.  "As a people, we no longer fear God.  Because we do not fear God, we no longer hate evil (Proverbs 8:13)."  The "Five Scariest Things You Can Do This Halloween" is a timely and worthwhile article to read today.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Liberty and State Education

Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them then to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist. 
J. Gresham Machen (Christianity and Liberalism, 1923)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Daily Life at Pearl, 1941

At Pearl, before the war, we worked on ships that needed their portholes welded up, by taking out the old glass and inserting a circular metal plate that we welded in its place. This was done in case of war for the watertightness of ships and completed mostly on our World War I destroyers… Saturday was the usual ‘captains’ inspection,’ then liberty to Honolulu for those in the liberty section.

Frank L. Dolan, USS Vestal, 1941

Friday, September 30, 2011

Two takes on 'Time'

Shakespeare on 'Time'
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd,
Crooked elipses 'gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.
(Sonnet #60)

The Apostle Paul on 'Time'
See then that you walk circumspectly,
not as fools, but as wise,
redeeming the time,
because the days are evil.
(Ephesians 5:15-16)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Logic, Latin, and a Whole Lot More

Across the country, there is an emerging movement of parents and teachers* that believes it is not enough only to provide the right subjects for their children. More than teaching basic skills and information, these folks are starting and staffing schools that focus on teaching comprehensive content and moral conviction—the kind of education we’d have to look back to our great-grandparents’ generation to find.

This is a central aim of classical educators today, to recover a method that is missing in modern schooling. Their classrooms include the fundamentals of phonics, grammar, logic, and rhetoric.  But these “classical” subjects are only the beginning. Students are also trained to use them as tools for self-learning.  Indeed, these “tools of learning” are as important as the “subjects” they teach.

Over 60 years ago, Oxford scholar and British novelist, Dorothy Sayers, wrote about the declining ability to think evidenced in her pre-World War II generation.  She addressed this topic in an essay called “The Lost Tools of Learning.” There she lamented the fact that while teachers were successful at teaching “subjects,” as a whole they were failing to train students how to think. “They learn everything except the art of learning,” she observed. Her solution? A return to the “medieval syllabus” where teaching doesn’t focus on subjects as much as it does on the methods of handling those subjects. In this approach, students are taught how to use the “tools of learning” before they begin to apply them to study of subjects in particular.

Modern education tends to focus mainly on teaching subjects, leaving the method of thinking, arguing, and expressing one’s conclusions to be learned more by accident, or at least incidental to the learning process. But Sayers points out that in the mediaeval model, teaching concentrated first on “forging and learning to handle the tools of learning,” using the subjects as material on which “to doodle until the use of the tool became second nature.” Teaching students how to acquire and use these tools is fundamental to learning any subject.

So a large part of what classical educators are doing is identifying age-appropriate tools for students so that they become life-long learners. The approach centers on the application of the trivium, the historical foundation for learning. The trivium has three parts or phases of learning that are adapted to three observable stages of childhood development:  grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Each of these phases focuses on the ways students learn best.

For example, grammar school students are taught through songs, rhythm, and repetition in order to help them develop memory and to store basic information for later use. Amazingly, this is also when they begin to master Latin, the foundation for English, and an important link to the student’s cultural roots and later learning.

Next, in the logic stage, teachers capitalize on the early adolescent’s ability to argue and draw conclusions. These mentally astute kids are taught formal logic, and their reasoning skills are sharpened through learning other advanced subjects, too.

High school is the rhetoric phase.  Students now are taught how to communicate with clarity and winsomeness at a point in their personal development when they are naturally concerned about personal appearance. Without this ability to communicate persuasively, the best ideas will go unheard.

Classical education is the legacy of Western Civilization. This method of learning was woven into the fabric of our own nation’s history. Leaders like Washington, Adams, and Jefferson—to name only a few—were products of classical training. Classical education has always provided a structured environment that also inspires students with a love for learning. While in earlier generations this approach trained the best American minds, it is being used again to develop thoughtful, articulate, and morally mature young people today.

Which leads to the final, but the most compelling component of classical education today: moral nurture. In the Western tradition, classical schooling was based on a foundation of morality. Timeless beliefs from the Scriptures were formulated into concrete values on which our greatest leaders once lived and labored. Today’s classical schools build a biblical and moral structure around which all other subjects are taught.

This, then, is modern classical education—so much more than mere subjects to be taught. In response to academic and moral decline in American schools today, this educational movement is returning to a time-tested method that worked for a thousand years until the modern age. These educators are successfully inspiring students to engage in their own learning long after the lights go out at the end of the school day.

*See, for example, the Association of Classical and Christian Schools:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Moral Relativism & Education

Like several others C.S. Lewis’s books, The Abolition of Man is a collection of lectures delivered in 1943. These dealt mainly with what Lewis perceived to be the dangers of moral relativism, a destructive modern worldview. He believed that our universe existed in such a way “that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or incongruous to it… that objects did not merely receive, but could merit, our approval or disapproval, or reverence, or our contempt.”  This idea has profound implications for teachers.

The importance of education lies in cultivating the right attitude towards this a universal law, which Lewis called the Tao.  For some, the term is an unfortunate choice.  However, by choosing this word, Lewis was simply naming a universal moral law, which previous generations of all cultures had recognized to one degree or another. Until our age, societies typically lived and functioned within the limits of the moral law. What distinguishes our present generation is the denial of the Tao, thereby cutting itself off from its moral heritage. Educators share in the blame. Lewis particularly noticed this trend in student textbooks, the very means of handing off moral and cultural heritage from one generation to another.  He feared that the new thinkers writing these books would wield the power to “condition” succeeding generations.

Progressive education sounds innocuous and maybe even beneficial.  After all, who wants to resist progress? However, the progress that Lewis identified represented power:  power over nature, even human nature. “Each new power won by man,” he warned, “is a power over man as well.” He knew that those with the power to condition others’ thoughts, too, even to alter societal values.

The only remedy is to embrace objective standards and to apply these with emotional and intellectual conviction. Students must learn proper responses, “to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likable, disgusting, and hateful,” says Lewis. He goes on to demonstrate that when properly trained in the Tao, students have a means to shaping Christian behavior, but that’s another book, or rather Book 3 of his Mere Christianity.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Emily Dickinson’s tribute to books

Unto my Books—so good to turn—
Far ends of tired Days—
It half endears the Abstinence—
And Pain—is missed—in praise—
As Flavors—cheer Retarded Guests
With Banquettings to be—
So Spices—stimulate the time
Till my small Library—
It may be Wilderness—without—
Far feet of failing Men—
But Holiday—excludes the night—
And it is Bells—within—
I thank these Kinsmen of the Shelf—
Their Countenances Kid
Enamor—in Prospective—
And satisfy—obtained—