It is December 7th and something is strange. I have seen numerous references to Pearl Harbor today. This is as it should be; it was a horrendous event, a terrible sneak attack. It marked a crisis point in our history. In literature, the crisis point of a novel is the point at which something happens and nothing can be the same again. In our history, the attack on Pearl meant a change in our thinking, our policies, and our place in the world. No more a semi-isolationist, semi-neutral (I know, it's like semi-pregnant) nation, we were thrust into an action to save our very existence.
As it was planned, the attack on Pearl Harbor was practically a genius military operation. It was supposed to be timed to occur within hours of a declaration of war against the USA. It was supposed to cripple the US Navy's Pacific Fleet, especially the two aircraft carriers stationed there. In execution, it didn't work out so well. First of all, the declaration of war was to be delivered to the Secretary of State by the Japanese ambassador at a specific time but the planners didn't allow for the time it took to translate and type up the declaration. The declaration didn't make it to the SecState until well after the attack had happened. So it was forever deemed a "sneak attack". And the two aircraft carriers weren't in the harbor at the time of the attack, so while the US Pacific Fleet was seriously damaged (several ships were sunk and many more were out of commission for months effecting repairs), it was able to respond much sooner than Japan had planned.
One of the planners and advocates of the attack, ADM Yamamoto (who dissuaded those who wanted to invade California because there would be an American with a rifle behind every blade of grass) was upset when he learned the declaration of war had not gotten to the American government before the attack and that the carriers were not destroyed. He told his staff, "I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping dragon and fill him with a terrible resolve"...or words to that effect.
Turns out, he was right.
I have heard so many people equate the attacks of 9/11 with the attack on Pearl Harbor. There are some similarities, I guess. Both attacks involved airplanes and massive property damage. 9/11 represented a much larger monetary loss than Pearl. A sign of the times is the fact it cost more to make the movie about the attack on Pearl (Tora, Tora, Tora) in 1970 than it cost the Japanese to do the attack in 1941. Both attacks resulted in thousands dead. Both were unexpected by their victims. Both attacks happened on bright, clear mornings. Both attacks created huge clouds of dust and smoke. But I don't think there is much real comparison between an attack by a nation's armed forces against another nation's military base and equipment, especially when the receiving nation would pose a huge obstacle to the delivering nation's aspirations to control the whole Pacific Rim, and an attack by a radical religious group against a non-military target simply because the occupants of that target don't agree with your world view and ideology.
My daughter-in-law pointed out to us this morning that we are fortunate that the Japanese aren't Muslims or we'd be getting some kind of attack against us every December 7th. After all, weren't the Japanese the first to come up with the idea of flying an airplane into a target? They also used suicide bombers...well... suicide grenaders.
This is turning into a ramble. To get back on track, I was surprised that so much is being mentioned about Pearl today when last year I was surprised that there was so very little said about it. Slower news day today? I don't know. I do know that I like to see all the tributes and reminders. We have proven that, as a nation, we do have a very short memory. We need to see the images of the Battleship Arizona being gutted, smoke and fireball roiling hundreds of feet in the air. We need to see the mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki...a reminder of what "justice" really means. We need to see innocent Americans jumping from the towers to avoid being baked alive. We need to see the towers coming down in huge clouds of pulverized building materials and ground-up people. We need reminders to what we are fighting and why.
So remember the Alamo...and the Maine...and Pearl Harbor...and Auschwitz...and Pork Chop Hill...and 9/11...and who we are and what we do and why we do it.
Okay...if you are champing at the bit to tell me all about the Roosevelt conspiracy and the wars for oil and how we earned the attacks because of our foreign policies and there were no weapons of mass destruction and Bush lied and all the rest of that ilk...if you want to scream about how many muslims have died because we are waging war against a religion...well, that isn't what this is about...today is a day of remembrance for what happened at Pearl Harbor...not why it happened. 71 years ago the Japanese Naval Air Forces attacked US Forces in and around Pearl Harbor. They sank some of our ships, damaged a lot more, and killed about 2400 people. It was a peaceful Sunday in a paradisical island community. This isn't about civics or psychology...it is history, and we need to remember it...so it doesn't get repeated....oh....yeah....it already has....hmmmm. I guess we'll just have to keep repeating the reminders until you pay attention.