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Homeland Defense: An American Tradition By: Richard Poe
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, September 24, 2001


I love that phrase. It bespeaks a purity and innocence long absent from our war-making vocabulary. It evokes our forefathers who defended this land with steel, powder and muscle.

 

Like all bureaucracies, the newly created Office of Homeland Security may or may not prove salutary for America in the long run. But I like the name. And I applaud the new culture of "homeland defense" which gave rise to it.

Too many Americans are ignorant of our proud tradition of "homeland defense." Consider those pundits who insist that September 11 marked the first foreign attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.

They are wrong. Pearl Harbor was but the first of many attacks on our homeland during World War II.

In June 1942, the Japanese invaded the Aleutian Islands. For the geographically challenged, the Aleutians are part of Alaska.

The attack began on June 3 and 4, with air raids on Dutch Harbor killing 33 U.S. servicemen and 10 civilians. Japanese troops arriving with a task force of 2 aircraft carriers, 12 destroyers, 5 cruisers, 6 submarines, 4 troop transports and other vessels subsequently occupied the Aleutian islands of Kiska and Attu.

It took 14 months and nearly 700 American lives to drive them off U.S. soil.

On Attu, the Japanese fought to the death. Only 28 surrendered, from a garrison of about 3,000.

The U.S. mainland also suffered Japanese attacks.

On February 23, 1942, a Japanese sub fired 13 shells at an oil refinery at Goleta, California, crippling one oil well. The same submarine later lobbed 17 shells at a naval base at Fort Stevens, Oregon, on June 22, 1942.

Japanese commanders also sought to ignite forest fires through incendiary bombing a strategy they believed would cause panic and mayhem behind U.S. lines.

 

A warplane launched from the submarine I-25 specially equipped with a watertight hangar on deck dropped incendiary bombs on Oregon, September 9 and 29, 1942, igniting forest fires.

Many more fires were started by unmanned balloon bombs, thousands of which were dispatched over U.S. territory by the Japanese.

A favorite media cliché holds that we are today engaged in "a new kind of war," unique to the 21st century. Yet, Hitler used terrorism as readily as Osama bin Laden.

In June 1943, two teams of German saboteurs landed by U-boat at Amagansett, Long Island and Ponte Vedra, Florida. Their plans included blowing up New York City’s water system, Penn Station and Brooklyn Bridge, and terrorizing civilians by bombing movie theaters and department stores.

The saboteurs were caught and executed, except for two who ratted on their comrades in exchange for reduced sentences of 30 years and life imprisonment.

Following the terror attacks of two weeks ago, gun and ammunition sales have reportedly skyrocketed around the country, by 400 percent in some areas.

Media commentators paint the gun buyers as eccentrics, desperate to "do something," but lacking a constructive outlet for their patriotism. In fact, those gun buyers show a far better grasp of the "homeland defense" concept than their media critics.

The role of our citizen’s militia during the American Revolution is well-known. Yet few are aware that armed civilians also helped win World War II.

 

After Pearl Harbor, German U-boats infested our East Coast. From January to June 1942, 100 Allied ships were sunk and some 2,000 lives lost in U.S. coastal waters.

Crowds of New Jerseyites watched from shore as the torpedoed oil tanker R.P. Resor went up in flames. Long Islanders grew accustomed to the wreckage, oil slicks and corpses that washed regularly onto their beaches.

The U.S. counterattacked with Navy planes and destroyers. However, civilian volunteers also played an important role in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Amateur pilots organized theCivil Air Patrol, equipping their own private planes with bombs and depth charges.

Civilian mariners patrolled U-boat infested waters with fishing boats, sailboats and motor yachts, armed, in many cases, with nothing more than rifles and handguns. Officially named the Coastal Picket Patrol, this maritime militia was affectionately dubbed the "Hooligan’s Navy."

Civilian volunteers mainly provided reconnaissance. But they also engaged the enemy in battle. The Civil Air Patrol claims to have sighted 173 U-boats, attacked 57 with bombs and depth charges, and sunk at least two.

Most readers are unfamiliar with these stories. That is a pity. We need the experience of past generations to guide and inspire us.

Singing, flag-waving and candle-lighting all have their place. But our forefathers understood that "homeland defense" goes farther than that.




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