Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese bombing of the US Navy's Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Although the USA had been supplying England, the Soviet Union and Chang Kai-Shek's China with materiel since May of 1941 under FDR's Lend-Lease, the Japanese attack on December 7th triggered America's direct involvement in WWII.

The surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy was meant to completely knock out the Navy's Pacific fleet and although the battleships USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma were destroyed, three aircraft carriers were out at sea that fateful day- either delivering aircraft to US bases in the Pacific or out on maneuvers.

At the end of the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto- considered the architect of Japan's attack on Pearl harbor- is depicted telling his subordinates "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve" After receiving word of the successful attack on Pearl Harbor.

There is no record of Yamamoto giving this warning to colleagues or subordinates in any of Japan's official military archives, but the Admiral had openly expressed a reluctance to initiate a war with the United States. Yamamoto had spent two years studying at Harvard after the First World War and had two postings in the USA as a Naval attaché.

While his commanders believed an economically depressed USA with the horrors of the First World War still on the minds of many would mean an America reluctant to enter into armed conflict, Yamamoto knew better. A more accurate quote attributed to Yamamoto was made to a Japanese cabinet minister- In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success.

His words proved prophetic- almost seven months to the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, US forces dealt a crippling blow to Imperial Japan's naval fleet at the Battle of Midway in June 1942.

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