I write to support NBC news anchor, Brian Williams, who to have been aboard a helicopter that was shot down during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Williams admitted Wednesday that he was on a different helicopter, just like the first one only it wasn’t shot down. He apologized to viewers and crew members of the 159th Aviation Regiment for the anxiety they would have suffered over his safety and well-being if he had in fact been with them when they crashed. Williams and I have much in common. There but for the grace of God go neither of us.
Memory plays tricks on honest people. I was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 when it was bombed by the Japanese. That day of infamy has stayed with me over the years and I have written about it many times.
In my book, Flags of our Fathers, I described the pain of watching navy buddies perish. Their ghosts haunt me still.
Recently a critic for the New York Times sneered, that in 1941 I would have been 2 or 3 years old. He also said that my book, Flags of our Fathers was written by someone else. That was hurtful. Whether I wrote that particular book or another one, I honestly believed that I was at Pearl Harbor. I remembered it as plain as day.
I was mistaken. What had actually happened was that I played the flute in the U.S. Army Band at Fort Ord, California. That also took a lot of daring and was easily conflated with the sinking of the US Pacific fleet. To those who doubt that one could confuse a naval catastrophe with a John Phillip Sousa march, I say, it depends on the piccolo soloist.