Memorial Day 2023

Let Us Remember

Delivered at Jackson-Silver Post 68, Lockes Mills, on Monday, May 29, 2023

by Harry G. Orcutt, Post Commander, American Legion Department of Maine


Memorial Day, avowed to be a National Day of Remembrance for those who have sacrificed their lives on behalf of the people of the United States in times of peril, has been somewhat expanded over the years to include others who have not died in combat.  Its original intent, following the bloodiest war in the history of the Nation, the Civil War, was to decorate the graves of those who had fallen in preserving the Union.  Those previously in Rebellion against the constituted authority of the United States, the Confederacy, simultaneously originated a similar day of remembrance.


After WWI, the so-called Great War, the remembrance of veterans who had died during the conflict was expanded to include all veterans expiring, by whatever means, in all the conflicts experienced by the United States.


Today, the tradition of remembrance has been further unofficially expanded to include the decoration of the graves of all United States veterans, wherever buried, having returned home from war, or serving in periods of relative peace.  And now, families throughout the Nation, utilize the occasion to place flowers or other items of respect on the graves of family members or friends for whom they care deeply.  Being a Constitutional Republic in which freedom of choice and expression is deeply embedded, it is fitting and proper for citizens to interpret the occasion in a manner that remembers all their loved ones, as the cohesion of family is the cornerstone of a functioning viable society. However, in most cases I have found that the graves being decorated are those that family members have themselves known.  It is quite common that families may visit a cemetery, place their tokens upon the graves of those with whom they are familiar, and ignore a notable ancestor nearby, from whom they are unaware they are descended.  But that individual, if a veteran of a past conflict, most probably will have a flag placed near his or her marker, because regardless of family ties, the American Legion, other veteran organizations, and patriotic organizations such as the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War here in Woodstock, never forget the service rendered by the grave’s occupant.



It is relatively rare among our total population for men and women to have stepped forward to secure our safety from enemies both foreign and domestic, and to preserve the extensive freedoms we all enjoy.  The norm is that about 1% of our citizens serve in the Armed Forces of the United States at any given time.  As those individuals leave service and age, the total number of veterans who have served rises to about 7%.  That 1% is a national average.  Maine is one of three states, in which 7% of its total population serves annually in the Nation’s Armed Forces.  Commensurately, Maine also enjoys a much higher percentage of aging veterans who have honorably served.


We remember one and all, but perhaps we should also reflect, if they gave their lives in combat, what circumstances caused the conflict in the first place.  To be apprised of such, much effort most be devoted to the study of history.  This is a task I have undertaken for more than 65 years.  In that study, I have discovered that there are many recurring themes, many of which, unless mentioned in some obscure text, are lessons that have been forgotten.


Aspersions have been cast on so called “Military Intelligence”, yet as early as 1900 to 1915, the leadership of the United States Armed Forces identified Japan as a potential adversary.  At that time, Mexico was involved in a long-standing Revolution.  Both Germany and Japan were providing military assistance to one insurgent or another.  Japan completely controlled a Pacific port in Mexico, and her successful wars of conquest in China in 1894-95, and Russia in 1904-05, alerted the United States that Japan was modernizing its armed



forces as instruments of imperial conquest.  It was thought that it might be possible for Japan to introduce an Army through its port in Mexico to attack the Western United States, which had relatively recently been incorporated into the Union.  In 1914, the War in Europe intervened, and Japan used the occasion to join the Allied cause and strip Germany of all her Pacific and Chinese possessions.  The incorporation of these territories, bases for further conquest, delayed by 25 years the conflict that our War Planners had foreseenBefore Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, Guam, and the Philippines, they most carefully gathered intelligence about each location.   In Hawaii, an embassy official used two cab drivers of Japanese descent to take him to locations overlooking American military bases, at which he took extensive photographs, counted ships, planes, and defensive equipment, and monitored flights and fleet activities at military airfields and anchorages. The American possession of Guam in the Northern Marianas was possibly the easiest for Japan to surveille, as having taken control of all the other islands from Germany, they had ample opportunity to observe our activities and installations. The Philippines was a special case.  General Douglas MacArthur commanded all United States and Philippine armed forces, and though he received constant updates from intercepted Japanese Diplomatic and Naval coded transmissions, he was precluded from using this knowledge because then President of the Philippines Manuel Quezon had asked MacArthur not to do anything to antagonize the Japanese before the war began.  This resulted in the Japanese being allowed unmolested flights of mostly fighter aircraft from their bases on Taiwan to overfly, photograph, and practice the routes they would take when they initiated hostilities.  The recent transit of a Chinese spy balloon across our entire homeland to spy on our most secret bases is ominously reminiscent of this.


President Quezon had a Japanese gardener.  When the Philippines were surrendered, that gardener turned out to be a Colonel in the Imperial Army.  He forced Quezon’s compliance with the Japanese occupation by threatening to unleash unspeakable atrocities upon Quezon’s daughters.


There is another lesson we can learn from Japan’s imperial past.  In China during WWII, the Japanese created an Army organization called Unit 731.  It was made up of medical doctors, research scientists, and weapons delivery designers.  Its mission was to develop biological, chemical, and germ weapons to use, initially against the Chinese, with later use intended against other enemies.  The Japanese used humans to experiment upon:  Chinese, Koreans, White Russians, and later, American soldiers.  They were very good in achieving the outcomes they sought.  Over 500,000 Chinese were eventually killed by the deadly agents, which were dispersed in porcelain pots dropped from the air. The weak link in their system was that the ordinary Japanese soldiers who were employed to guard the facilities would rape female subjects, many of whom had been infected; they thus became ill themselves, and spread the pathogens outside the experimental compounds.  Other pathogens were spread by Japanese soldiers who handled and dispersed the materials, but were not sufficiently trained to safely handle them.



Shifting our focus from the past to the present, we might consider that the experiments at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were subject to the guidance and control of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA).    It is a fact that the Chinese Communist Party conducts inhumane repression of subject peoples who harbor philosophies counter to those espoused by the Party, the most prominent examples being Moslem Uighurs, Falun Gong practitioners, and Christians (mostly Roman Catholic).  Besides maintaining slave labor camps, it has been proven that the Party harvests organs from these citizens for transplantation as a business.  Given this disregard for human rights, who is to say that, like Unit 731, they have not used humans in the development of chemical and biological agents in secret camps near Wuhan.  Instead of originating in a Wet Market, the Wuhan Virus may have been spread unknowingly by soldiers taking advantage of defenseless prisoners.


Recently, I viewed news reports of our open Southern and Northern borders.  Young, very fit, Chinese national males, who very much appear to have a military bearing, are crossing and, reportedly, do not like to be photographed.  Mostly they fly into central America and then migrate through Mexico, although some have been observed flying into Canada and crossing over surreptitiously from there.  The reports indicate that they are coming at the rate of one hundred per day.  It is said they possess a substantial number of US dollars. If they are indeed, as I suspect, PLA, at the rate they are entering our territory, every three days they constitute a company, every fifteen days a battalion, and every forty-five days a regiment.  Since April of 2021 it is reported that over 9,000 known Chinese nationals have crossed our borders.  If anyone believes that that many people have been allowed to exit one of the most repressive governments on the planet to seek a life in the land of milk and honey, they are delusional.


It is of little relative difference when discussing dictatorial governments whether they are Communist, Fascist, or Imperial; they all act in more or less the same manner.  Totalitarian regimes do not allow events that they deem counter to their interests to be remembered, much less to inspire popular movements that lead to the overthrow of the regime.  A few years ago, Westerners visited China’s Tiananmen Square in remembrance of the 20th Anniversary of the student uprising.  All the Chinese students they encountered wondered why the Westerners had come, as they had no knowledge of the uprising and likely had not been born when it occurred.  Such is the price of forgetting history.



I cannot resist one more example of the peril at which we forget history.  Recently a report surfaced that a Russian Army Battalion in Ukraine had received information that if they established their camp in a certain location, they would be left unmolested by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.  They established their base camp in a place called the “Red Forest.”  It was called that because the entire environment generally had a red hue.  Nearby was an abandoned industrial site located next to large pool of water.  From that pool they took fish to supplement their rations.  The entire battalion became violently ill.  Twelve buses were dispatched to transport them to the hospital.  Their illness was familiar to that of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The safe place they had chosen to occupy was, of course, Chernobyl, a name with which they were only vaguely familiar because, once again, what occurred there, was an event the Russian government wished to have expunged from memory.


Today is a day of remembrance.  Let us remember, lest we suffer the consequences.


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