Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Rescuing Survivors near the USS West Virginia during the Japanese Raid on Pearl Harbor.

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor. Incredibly, there still are survivors of Pearl Harbor amongst us. Think about that; there are men and women who remember that terrible day - and the subsequent terrible years - like it was yesterday.

USS Maryland and the capsized USS Oklahoma, 7 December 1941

We are now closer to the 100th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor than we are to the historical event itself - we have been for at least nineteen years now, actually. It is conceivable that some of the people reading this post will be alive thirty years from now - perhaps even the person writing it - but it defies credulity that any veterans of that day will still be with us, then.

The forward magazine of USS Shaw (DD-373) explodes during the second Japanese attack wave.

We are losing the Greatest Generation at a rate of a thousand a day. Soon there will be no more of them; and yet we will remember - we must remember - what they taught us about the Great Depression and World War II.

The forward magazines of USS Arizona (BB-39) explode after she was hit by a Japanese bomb, 7 December 1941. Frame clipped from a color motion picture taken from on board USS Solace (AH-5).

The attack on Pearl Harbor is actually a study in the Law of Unintended Consequences - for it was preceded by the Anglo-American steel embargo on Japan, which was intended to curb Imperial Japan's militancy in the Far East. Instead, the strategic planners of the Japanese military government regarded it as a "No-Later-Than" deadline - they had six months to make their move, and so they did what to them made perfect sense, at the time.

USS Arizona after a bomb penetrated into the forward magazine causing massive explosions and killing 1,104 men.

The lessons of Pearl Harbor are many: Never undersestimate your opponant. Never paint your opponant into a corner unless you have the capability to defeat him, then and there - and always beware the "cornered rat" syndrome. Never park your entire fleet in one harbor; and never, ever sleep at dawn - because dawn is when the enemy attacks.

The USS Arizona Memorial straddles the bridge of the sunken battleship, where over 1400 sailors remain entombed.

When I lived in Okinawa, I became aware that the Japanese teach their school children that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a defensive move - I can see their point of view, but I whole-heartedly denounce this. Imperial Japan in 1941 was a fascist regime that already enslaved and massacred millions in China, Manchuria and Korea. Their nation was led by a military class that had warped the traditional warrior code of honor - Bushido - into what ultimately became a suicide pact for their entire population.

There is a modern parallel here in the way fanatics have twisted Islam into the al Qaeda charter against Western Civilization.

Our generation has also experienced our own version of Pearl Harbor - the terrorist attacks of 9/11. And incredibly - just like in 1941 - the enemy signalled their intentions, and we chose to look the other way. This is the eptiome of George Santayana's prophetic warning: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

We will never forget. We MUST NEVER forget.



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