Monday, December 5, 2011


Members of the Navy save a sailor who jumped 
overboard after a torpedo hit the U.S.S. West Virginia
The Attack on Pearl Harbor

 By Verne Strickland / Posted December 6, 2011

'A date that will live in infamy.'

To read the stunning statement of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, delivered to a hastily summoned joint session of the United States Congress at 12:30 p.m. on December 8, is to experience the deep shock of our Nation after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
Two aerial attacks with a total of 353 aircraft launched from six Japanese aircraft carriers sank four US Navy battleships and damaged four others, as well as sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers and one minelayer, destroyed 188 aircraft, killing 2402 personnel and wounding 1282. The Japanese lost 29 aircraft, five midget submarines and suffered 65 casualties. 
Later, they would lose their entire country.
Most of us have not really understood the full scope of the Japanese aggression on that day. Pearl Harbor was just one of many targets which the Japanese war machine mercilessly savaged in this scurrilous assault which sowed death and destruction not only on the Hawaiian Islands but throughout much of the Pacific region.
Merciless. Deadly. Dishonorable. Atrocious. Unprovoked. It was widespread premeditated murder by a greedy, cunning and malicious nation bent on international conquest.
A more detailed transcript of President Roosevelt’s comments on that dark day almost seventy years ago reveals to us the full scope of the meticulously planned attacks on unsuspecting innocents from Pearl Harbor to Hong Kong.

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
“The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our secretary of state a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.
“It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
“The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
“Yesterday the Japanese government also launched as attack against Malaya.
“Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
“Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
“Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
“Last night Japanese forces attacked Wake Island.
“And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.
“Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and  today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.
“As commander in chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.”
Roosevelt then asked the Congress to make a formal declaration of war against Japan, officially bringing the United States into World War II.

But President Roosevelt declared that “always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us."
Would that it were so. But we have had other wars to dim our collective conscience and memory of those earlier days that put much of America’s “Greatest Generation” into uniform. 
Not only have we largely forgotten what Pearl Harbor meant – and means -- what is so deplorable is that, today, many Americans, and most Japanese, don’t connect the dots which clearly reveal that Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and Nagasake are inextricably linked
The result is that – for many -- the date that will live in infamy is August 6, 1945. On this date, a U.S. B-29 bomber demolished Hiroshima with the first atomic bomb used as a military weapon.

Three days later, a second atomic bomb would level Nagasaki.

Many Japanese are predictably critical of these attacks, although it was they who drew first blood in the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor. Four years later, the atomic bomb would place an unforgettable explanation point to our retaliation.

Revisionist history in Japan justifies the ugly provocation at Pearl Harbor. So do those Americans who as a habit are bitterly critical of the U.S. armed forces at every opportunity.

The saga of victimhood renews itself every year. Already the airwaves are full of documentaries showing two Japanese cities flattened in a heartbeat. Smoking ruins. Utter desolation. Melted steel. People in agony with their skin burned off. Citizens saturated with radioactivity which would kill them by the thousands.

Do you sort of choke up when you see that? Actually, if the Japanese had been better scientists, today they might be feeling sorry for America, though I doubt it.

But they weren’t better scientists, although they later built some pretty good vehicles and electronic stuff. But like any marauding society, they built every conceivable weapon of destruction they could muster, and used it mercilessly. They were known for their savagery.

But it wasn’t enough. The race for the technology that would end World War II in the Pacific went to the U.S.

Had it not been for that American superiority, which I know was a gift from God, mushroom clouds might eventually have blossomed over Honolulu, close to where it all started, and perhaps as well over Los Angeles and other U.S. population centers on the Pacific Coast.

As the American juggernaut rolled through the scattered Pacific atolls in costly assaults against entrenched Japanese land forces, Emperor Hirohito had the homefolks built up into a froth, ready to die fighting with guns, pitchforks, clubs, or whatever was at hand to repel the expected U.S. invaders.

Vicious propaganda had convinced average citizens that the invading Americans were insatiable monsters who would kill, maim, rape, torture and even cannibalize every Japanese who fell into the enemy’s clutches.

Mass suicides were anticipated, and a hellish incident on Okinawa fueled that belief. As American forces mopped up resistance on Okinawa to claim its vital airfield, terrified civilians raced to leap off island cliffs to escape the inhumane treatment they feared at the hands of the invading GIs.

It was a horrifying, senseless spectacle that the Americans sought in vain to prevent, although they did save many Okinawans from a tragic death at the foot of the cliffs, persuading them to surrender.

Several things had become clear to the Americans.

The Japanese on the mainland would fight and die to a man, many in banzai charges, and civilian suicides would extinguish many more lives.

And as many as a million American military combatants might be sacrificed in bloody amphibious assaults and vicious infighting.

But another option had appeared. A monster weapon – the atomic bomb – had emerged from U.S. tests ready for deployment.

President Harry S. Truman, was a feisty, pragmatic man whose slogan was “The buck stops here.” He meant it. It was on his watch that history and fate brought together this fearsome weapon and the Japanese war machine which, though it teetered, would not fall.

Give-‘em-hell Harry decided to give ‘em hell. Realizing that deploying the atomic bomb against Imperial Japan could spare the lives of American troops and win the war, he did the right thing. Without looking back, he dispatched two B-29 bombers to Japan, each with an atomic payload.

The mushroom clouds that rose over Hiroshima, then Nagasaki, signaled that the “sleeping tiger” awakened by the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor had answered the indignity with a sudden, shocking response.

It was payback with stunning finality. But to this day, many Japanese – and some misguided Americans as well – still harbor a convenient disconnect between what started the war, and what ended it.

Between the years of 1968 and 1980, I traveled to Japan a dozen times or more, providing radio and television coverage to N.C. trade missions. I studied the Japanese language at N.C. State University, and, in Japan, avoided the cultural “cocoons” in which many Western visitors isolate themselves while there.

I learned many things about the Japanese during those visits, and made some Japanese friends whom I appreciated and admired.

While most of my time was spent in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, I was asked many times if I wanted to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I never cared to. I could not bear to join the ranks of simpering Western apologists who flaunted their guilt over the suffering and death caused by The Bomb. I did not – and do not – share that grief.

The Bomb saved American lives and – curious though it may seem – countless Japanese lives as well.

I don’t subscribe to the radical revisionist history taught not only in Japan, but slavishly devoured by many Westerners too, alleging that America was the villain in that war, and Japan the victim.

That is a cruel, barbaric lie. That war was brought to us. We learned many cruel lessons from it, including the wisdom of peace through strength, which Ronald Reagan would later champion as a deterrent to enemies of America.

Anyway, for me there are now several dates that will live in infamy – Dec. 7, 1941. September 11, 2001. And January 20, 2009.