Sunday, December 7, 2008

Infamy Day

The 7 December 1941 Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor was one of the great defining moments in history. A single carefully-planned and well-executed stroke removed the United States Navy's battleship force as a possible threat to the Japanese Empire's southward expansion. America, unprepared and now considerably weakened, was abruptly brought into the Second World War as a full combatant.

Eighteen months earlier, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had transferred the United States Fleet to Pearl Harbor as a presumed deterrent to Japanese agression. The Japanese military, deeply engaged in the seemingly endless war it had started against China in mid-1937, badly needed oil and other raw materials. Commercial access to these was gradually curtailed as the conquests continued.

In July 1941 the Western powers effectively halted trade with Japan. From then on, as the desperate Japanese schemed to seize the oil and mineral-rich East Indies and Southeast Asia, a Pacific war was virtually inevitable.

By late November 1941, with peace negotiations clearly approaching an end, informed U.S. officials (and they were well-informed, they believed, through an ability to read Japan's diplomatic codes) fully expected a Japanese attack into the Indies, Malaya and probably the Philippines. Completely unanticipated was the prospect that Japan would attack east, as well.

The U.S. Fleet's Pearl Harbor base was reachable by an aircraft carrier force, and the Japanese Navy secretly sent one across the Pacific with greater aerial striking power than had ever been seen on the World's oceans. Its planes hit just before 8AM on 7 December. Within a short time five of eight battleships at Pearl Harbor were sunk or sinking, with the rest damaged. Several other ships and most Hawaii-based combat planes were also knocked out and over 2400 Americans were dead.

Soon after, Japanese planes eliminated much of the American air force in the Philippines, and a Japanese Army was ashore in Malaya.

These great Japanese successes, achieved without prior diplomatic formalities, shocked and enraged the previously divided American people into a level of purposeful unity hardly seen before or since. For the next five months, until the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May, Japan's far-reaching offensives proceeded untroubled by fruitful opposition.

American and Allied morale suffered accordingly. Under normal political circumstances, an accomodation might have been considered.

However, the memory of the "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor fueled a determination to fight on.

Once the Battle of Midway in early June 1942 had eliminated much of Japan's striking power, that same memory stoked a relentless war to reverse her conquests and remove her, and her German and Italian allies, as future threats to World peace.

Source - US Navy Historical Center

Pic - "Pearl Harbor"


Findalis said...

The true outcome of Pearl Harbor was Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For if the Japanese didn't attack the US, the US wouldn't have nuked Japan.

A thing to remember Iran!

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Donald Douglas said...

Cool essay, Courtney!

Jeff said...

Every December 7th now makes me wonder when the next attack will happen. Which city will it be: New York, Washington, LA, or some other big city in America? Most of us expect it. The Bush administration gets the credit for keeping a post 9/11 attack from happening. Bush has been tough, but he's gone soon. And along with Bush's departure may also come to an end number of counter measures that Obama is not be willing to carry on. Will an Obama administration make the grade in protection? Can, or "will" he, may be a better word, do what he has to do to protect Americans? Some of the most useful information we've gotten so far has come from captured terrorists while under tough interrogation. Will we still be pushing these hardened killers or just asking them name, rank and jihad number? If so, we can probably expect bad news sooner than later.

AI said...

Glad you posted on this Courtney...