Other Topics => Off Topic Discussion => Topic started by: Andrew on December 07, 2006, 07:19:09 PM

Title: 7 December 1941
Post by: Andrew on December 07, 2006, 07:19:09 PM
I failed to post this before heading out the door this morning.  Today is the anniversary of Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.  Thousands were killed and numerous ships destroyed, but the attack brought the United States into WWII and with a vengeance.

Title: Re: 7 December 1941
Post by: ulthar on December 07, 2006, 07:50:20 PM
When we first moved here, one of the churches we attended (a very small church) had an usher who was a Pearl Harbor Vet.  He was a quiet, unassuming man, but one could not help feel in awe around him.  And I'm sure the war did not end for him on Dec. 7, 1941.

I find it very, very troubling that there was little (if any...I've not heard any) mention of this in the major media?  Were's the calls for a moment of silence, a prayer of respect?

On another, but sorta related note, I watched "A Bridge Too Far" the other night.  Shocking losses (though not by WWII standards) for battle of eight days: Allies 35,000 original troop strength with 17,000 casualties, Germans 20,000 original troop strength with 8,000 casualties.  To me, this gives some perspective to the current hand-ringing about Iraq.  Read More Here (

Title: Re: 7 December 1941
Post by: Zapranoth on December 08, 2006, 02:36:56 AM
Not to open a can of worms.. and certainly not to show you disrespect, Ulthar, but even one death in a cause I don't believe in is one death too many.  In my opinion (and again, not to disrespect any of the brave men and women who are abroad in our military now), the war in Iraq and WWII don't go in the same breath or sentence together.     I lack depth in understanding the history involved to make a concise explanation of how and why I feel this way, but .. yeah, two or three thousand people, sure, that's fewer.   But for what?   For what?

Title: Re: 7 December 1941
Post by: ulthar on December 08, 2006, 03:54:51 AM
I was kinda afraid of this...and thought about adding the something to the effect of the following to my post (I was in a hurry when I typed it, which is NEVER a good thing):

We should lament the loss of life, any loss of life, in any war.  One war is not less tragic than another simply because fewer people died.  We seem to have some cultural sense of 'competition' from which we desire the keeping of score.  It was not my intention to play into that keeping of score.

My real point of contention is the thesis often made that we are "losing" the War on Terror in Iraq BECAUSE, and only because, 3000-odd soldiers have been killed in three years - that that is reason alone to 'quit.'  I simply wanted to emphasize that in other (major) confilcts, the sacrifice was much greater in terms of numbers, and victory resulted.  One can certainly argue the merit of the sacrifice in different cases, and that will ALWAYS be a matter of perspective.  For example, the American Revolution was a VERY unpopular war among the Colonists (many thought it was just a bunch of troublemakers causing problems), yet we consider that one to have been worth it.

So, Zap, if you disagree with the current war, I can respect that.  If you and I were to sit and discuss it, I might disagree with you and through the discussion I am sure we would both learn some things we did not know.  Such is the nature of something as complicated as war - it is not cut-and-dry and easily factored into black and white.  I understand that from one point of view the tragedy is the 3000 lost for an amorphous, perhaps unclear cause, but to represent 3000 lost over three years as it is sometimes represented (ie, "oh noes!!!! T-H-R-E-E--T-H-O-U-S-A-N-D...that's UNHEARD OF!!!!") is disingenuous.

Shoot, I'm probably not making any better sense of it this time.

Title: Re: 7 December 1941
Post by: Ash on December 08, 2006, 04:29:40 AM
The History Channel ran shows on Pearl Harbor pretty much all day yesterday and I watched a few of them.

One show in particular claimed that FDR and his top Navy admirals knew well in advance that the Japanese were going to attack but chose to let them attack.
It claimed that they wanted the Japanese to make the first move to attack and in essence, many people think that FDR was personally responsible.

Now, I've read a lot of stuff on Pearl Harbor and have watched quite a few documentaries on it, but I had never heard about any of this until yesterday.

I've seen shows that state that the US may have known something might happen, but this was the first documentary I've seen that explicitly implicated FDR and his admirals of having foreknowledge of it all and that they did nothing.

Robert Stinnet, who served in WW2 wrote a book about this titled "Day of Deceit".
( (

Wikipedia has an interesting article on the "Pearl Harbor Advanced Knowledge Debate".

And here is another in-depth article:

I'm not taking any sides or jumping to any conclusions here, but it does make for some interesting reading.

Title: Re: 7 December 1941
Post by: ulthar on December 08, 2006, 10:28:00 AM
One of the best books I have ever read about Pearl Harbor is Infamy: Pearl Harber and Its Aftermath by John Toland.  It deals with the causes and post-event investigations moreso than the attack itself.  Some key points about this book that make it a high recommendation (imo):

  • There were four major investigations following the attack, and the partisan bickering and grandstanding could rival what we see today (with the roles of Democrat and Republican reversed, of course).  I read this book while the 911-Commission was going on, and it was an extremely interesting juxtaposition to be reading of very similar "witch hunt" (for lack of a better word).
  • Details supporting the thesis that General Short and, to a much greater extent, Admiral Kimmel were made scapescoats to protect the administration's process were presented.  This is not conspiracy theory stuff, but a factual presentation of how data was ignored or misrepresented so that these two men were hung out to dry.
  • The Intelligence failures and failure to "connect the dots," compounded by misinterpretation of radio interecepts due to language translation issues, were also familiar.  Our translations of some Japanese documents at the time made them out to be FAR more 'aggressive' in tone than modern translation would have.  This in turn led the US to take stronger stances in earlier negotiations and fueled the fires Hirohito's militant generals used to convince him to attack.  Also notable in this intelligence disaster is break-down regarding the East Wind, Rain message, as well as the seeming ignoring of reports from other nations that attack was eminent.
  • The political machinations surrounding this attack were no less cloudy than the claims surrounding the Bush Administration with 9-11.  I don't WANT to believe EITHER President would purposefully allow these attacks, but I'm not sure political incompetence is that much of a better alternative.

With Pearl Harbor, we have the two key benefits of 65 years of history: first, the benefit of detailed factual analysis that has revealed the failures (and successes) to prevent the attack and second, the benefit of knowing we actually WON that war.  The Press and Political Opposition in the 40's was no less than what it is today.  Only time will tell how the current situation plays out on both of these counts.

Title: Re: 7 December 1941
Post by: raj on December 08, 2006, 03:31:17 PM
Yea, Ash, Day of Deceit is very well laid out.  Extremely dry reading though.  And Stinnett isn't trying to knock FDR down, he actually supported the idea.

IMO  FDR certainly knew that war with Japan was coming.  I don't think he actually knew where the first blow was going to come from though.  What is puzzling is why FDR and Secretary of War Stimson didn't have the Pacific fleet on any sort of medium to high alert.

Title: Re: 7 December 1941
Post by: Dennis on December 10, 2006, 01:54:46 AM
I believe, from all that I've read about the attack and the history leading up to it, that the decision makers in Washington, and this includes FDR, made the mistake of underestimating the Japanese. The prevailing opinion was that while the Japanese were great imitators they could in no way come close to matching US technology or abilities and that while they were a threat it was not a serious one. The assumption was that they were not able to strike at Pearl Harbor so the fleet was safe there, the only threat in Hawaii was seen to be sabotage so the aircraft on the army and navy airfields were parked wingtip to wingtip as this made them easier to guard. There were other measures taken to intimidate the Japanese,
B-17's were sent to the Philippines, marines were sent to Wake Island and various other steps taken to insure the Japanese government was cowed, no one in charge really believed that they would actually go to war, it was assumed that they would stop their aggression in china and cave in or that if they did try anything the war would be very short and they would lose. All of this in spite of the US ambassador to Japan sending repeated cables saying that they felt they were being insulted and that they were capable of anything including a major war. The government made the mistake of assuming that a potential enemy would react the way they wanted and took the steps they felt were appropriate for safety. Franklin Roosevelt was sure that Japan would back down or that if they didn't there was not a whole lot they could do, unfortunately he was mistaken, it wasn't a conspiracy to get us into the war, it was bad judgement on the part of the government. Our government is in the end made up of people, people who are not perfect, people who will make mistakes, that was true in 1941 and it is true today.

  There is a very interesting book about WWII and the events in the 1930's leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor as seen from the Japanese view point, The Rising Sun by John Toland

Title: Re: 7 December 1941
Post by: ulthar on December 10, 2006, 06:14:48 PM

  There is a very interesting book about WWII and the events in the 1930's leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor as seen from the Japanese view point, The Rising Sun by John Toland

Ah, the same guy that wrote the book I mentioned.  The Rising Sun was first and Infamy was a followup that focused more on the investigations after-the-fact.  If you liked The Rising Sun, you might want to check out Infamy.

Title: Re: 7 December 1941
Post by: Dennis on December 10, 2006, 08:18:13 PM
ulthar, I certainly will check out Infamy, I have always liked history and really enjoy a good book about the people and events that have shaped our world.

Title: Re: 7 December 1941
Post by: BoyScoutKevin on December 14, 2006, 12:29:19 PM
And if you are ever in Honolulu, Hawaii, be sure to visit the "Arizona." The tickets to visit it are free, at least they were, when I was there, last year. You just have to stand in line for them, so be sure to get there early.

But, what I liked more than visiting the "Arizona" was the film they show you, before they you out to the "Arizona," as the film put a face onto the people who were there on December 7, 1941. And, of course, they also have one of the original survivors of that day, give a short talk as to what it was like on that day. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer of those veterans every year.

And I might also say how popular that attraction is with the Japanese.

Title: Re: 7 December 1941
Post by: peter johnson on December 14, 2006, 03:37:13 PM
One of the best analyses of the issue of "Did Roosevelt Know/Did he let it happen?" was in American Heritage magazine about 2 years ago --
Written as an editorial, the editor laid out his contention that the theory makes no sense, as American would have been equally as shocked and eager to fight the Japanese had the attack force been intercepted and battled on the high seas or if the planes had been scrambled properly and lots of Japanese shot down -- American resolve would have been identical had not even a single US ship been sunk.  The mere fact of a Japanese attack would have been galvanizing enough.
I didn't bookmark this editorial or save it in magazine format -- I always give away my best stuff -- but I do recall that the author, a major scholar of military history, made a watertight case that were it Roosevelt's  goal to "Bring us into War", then letting the Japanese attack was a moot point.
Personally, I find that the same people here in town who believe Roosevelt let the Japanese attack are the same people who believe George Bush and Queen Elizabeth are giant alien reptoids in disguise, and that we brought down the twin towers on 9-11 with controlled demolition.  That is, there really isn't any standard for what they WON'T believe --
peter johnson/denny crane

Title: Re: 7 December 1941
Post by: Jim H on December 23, 2006, 11:18:26 PM
One thing I found interesting is that this is the last year the Pearl Harbor vets are having a get together.  They seem to feel they're too old now.