March 1, 2010
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
Joe and I are at the age where we’re paying more attention to the obituaries. Actually, Joe reads them more than I do, always noting how our World War II vets are dying off at an alarming rate. So it wasn’t surprising last week when he pointed out a veteran’s death notice he thought might interest me.
“Don’t worry about it,” read the obit. “Those words, which he uttered on a peaceful Sunday morning in 1941 on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, would haunt Kermit A. Tyler for the rest of his life.
“Mr. Tyler was the Army Air Forces’ first lieutenant on temporary duty at Fort Shafter’s radar information center on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941,” the article goes on to say, “when a radar operator on the northern tip of the island reported that he and another private were seeing an unusually large ‘blip’ on their radar screen, indicating a large number of aircraft about 132 miles away and fast approaching.
“’Don’t worry about it,’ Tyler told the radar operator, thinking it was a flight of U.S. B-17 bombers that was due in from the mainland.”
As you might have guessed, that “blip” wasn’t from Americans—it was the first wave of Japanese planes sent to attack Pearl Harbor, sparking our country’s entry into the Second World War.
The newspaper piece noted that Mr. Tyler’s four-word sentence lived on in history books, articles, documentaries, and even the 1970 movie about the surprise assault, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” It mentions that he was often ridiculed and second-guessed, and even received angry letters reviling him for not taking action that infamous day.
But Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the National Park Service’s World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Pearl Harbor, defends the young officer. “He was never trained for that job,” the AP quotes him as saying. “He had a walk-through the previous Wednesday but had never spent a full day there.”
Even Congressional committees and military inquiries did not find him at fault, Mr. Martinez says in the article.
And what about Mr. Tyler himself? Did he live in misery over these last 68 years, adversely affected by his actions and words? Apparently not. He flew combat missions in the Pacific during the war, retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel, earned a business degree, and worked in real estate. He also married and had three children.
But did his past really haunt him the rest of his life, as the article claims? Not according to an interview he gave to New Jersey’s Star-Ledger in 2007. “I wake up at nights sometimes and think about it,” he said. “But I don’t feel guilty. I did all I could that morning.”
I stand in awe of a man involved in such a momentous historic event, who was still able to achieve the proper perspective of his historic role, even when others maligned him. When I think of how I much I berate myself for my mistakes, omissions, and instances, like Mr. Tyler’s, where I did all I could yet things still turned out badly…well, they just can’t compare to what he went through.
And they pale in comparison to what Jesus did for me. By dying on the cross, He paid the price for all the right and wrong blame I put on myself, taking it away completely (“as far as the east is from the west,” as Psalm 103:12 puts it), leaving behind only forgiving grace. That grace is not just sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)—it’s piled up (John 1:16), abounding (2 Corinthians 9:8), full of hope (Romans 5:2) and ultimately, freeing (Romans 8:2).
The next time that old liar (John 8:44) and accuser (Revelation 12:10), the devil, haunts me with defeat and reproach, I’m going to tell him to take a hike.
Because my Jesus has already won that war for me.