History & Culture

Pearl Harbor’s 80th Anniversary


The importance of Pearl Harbor is to remember both the human loss 80 years ago and the extraordinary response by this extraordinary nation to an unprovoked, unnecessary attack on freedom.

This week, we remember Pearl Harbor – a devastating, unprovoked attack by Japan on Hawaii 80 years ago. That event triggered US entry into World War II. “A day that shall live in infamy,” said President Franklin Roosevelt. For perspective and implications, consider more.

War – at the tactical level – often involves surprise attacks. From China’s Sun-Tzu to George Patton, surprise can be decisive. On the other hand, inflaming passions of an innocent party – attacking without cause, without measuring an adversary’s commitment, can be fatal.

What Japan forgot is that America’s commitment to freedom is fed by a deep taproot, goes way deep, draws from an invisible reservoir of individual beliefs, resolve, concern for justice, defense of the right, and intolerance for evil.

As Japan’s militant general and prime minister, Hideki Tojo, laconically observed – on learning of America’s war declaration, “I fear we have awakened the sleeping giant.”

Indeed, they had.

Within weeks, America had reconfigured strategy and tactics. A first, daring counterassault was launched by the Doolittle Raiders. Stripping down 16 B-25 bombers, they plowed waves to mid-Pacific, then launched a one-way air raid on Tokyo.

Japan was shocked. Message to the imperial belligerent: You misjudged. You thought a single Sunday blow, surprise attack below the belt, would quiet us. You thought wrong.

Never count America out. That is one of history’s clearer lessons. The Doolittle Raiders sent a shockwave through Japan’s leadership. We were supposed to be incapacitated, yet within four months hit Tokyo. We would not pause, Guadalcanal north, not stopping until done.

At war’s end, we would meet this imperial arrogance, intransigence, and resistance – a threat of millions of Americans dead on their beaches and kamikaze mentality – with two atomic bombs.

Many facts are forgotten around this day, which triggered our entrance into World War II. Like the miscast surprise attacks of 9-11, Pearl Harbor swiftly ended America’s resistance to war.

Like 9-11, Pearl Harbor killed and maimed thousands – 2,403 killed, 1,178 wounded. On 9-11, radical Islamic terrorists killed 2,977, left 6,000 injured. Both events catalyzed our nation, unified, fortified, awakened awareness of what counts, the importance of defense, response, deterrence, and an unblinking resolve to preserve freedom and security, to extinguish evil.

Other facts surrounding Pearl Harbor get little ink, worth recalling on the 80th Anniversary. Unknown to many, within seven hours, Japan hit other US territories, the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, and British Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong. Their aim: Preemptive horror.

The idea – flawed as war-starting often is – was to hit hard, make clear to the US and Great Britain that Japan intended to take Southeast Asia, the Western Pacific. We were to back off.

The process of seeking hegemony began before Pearl Harbor, before WWII. Ten years earlier, in 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria. Then, with method, they pushed the West – glancing blows.

They took territory, ignored human rights, committed massacres, attacked US ships, disrupted trade, accelerated militarization, insulted Western values, personnel, and status quo. Their hostility to the West – especially American values – was open, notorious, and no secret.

Still, the West was unmoved, unwilling to see the shadow. We continued to trade with Japan, only slowly curtailed weapons sales, indulged cognitive dissonance – the idea that we saw one thing and believed another. We did not want to believe violent hegemony was in their sights.

By early 1941, another fact loomed large. Japan was afraid the West would cut off fuel supplies, especially aviation fuel after Japan started taking countries. As their plans expanded, the US did cut off oil, triggering an accelerated assault by Japan on regional US allies.

In short, Pearl Harbor, a bold, horrific attack on innocents, launched without moral compunction, probably was not foreseeable – but the drift toward hostilities had been growing for a decade.

The losses suffered and a reminder that defense means awareness, realism, deterrence, candor, clear expectations, no wishful thinking come back on this 80th Anniversary. The result of Japan’s misjudgment of American resolve proved devastating to that country and costly to America.

The forward lesson – one of the implications of Pearl Harbor – is that we have the power to shape the future through plain-spoken, proactive, clear, credible, and honest diplomacy.

We can – so long as our word is good, history our baseline, consequences follow threats, and promises are kept – shape the future in ways that minimize accidental or reckless wars. The clearer our resolve to fight for freedom – anywhere and everywhere – the less chance of war.

Look around us today. China is creeping forward, signaling a strangely similar interest in regional – even global – hegemony. They snuff out human rights at home, overran Hong Kong, threatened Taiwan, intimidated Western allies, invited confrontations at sea, pushed Communism as Japan once pushed Imperialism.

China is militarizing at breakneck speed, advertising first-strike weapons, including an orbiting hypersonic missile. They are preparing thousands of nuclear silos, building for maritime dominance, testing anti-satellite weapons, weaponizing trade and educational exchanges.

Espionage, theft, dishonesty in multiple forums, including denial of responsibility for a devasting virus, all seem to prompt no contrition, signal no remorse, imply disinterest in respect.

The importance of Pearl Harbor is to remember both the human loss 80 years ago and the extraordinary response by this extraordinary nation to an unprovoked, unnecessary attack on freedom. It is also a moment for taking what we know of human and international behaviors, becoming more circumspect, applying what we know to assure deterrence against future tragedy. Winning wars is good; preventing them is better. That is the lesson hidden within Pearl Harbor.

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1 month ago

The sleeping giant appears comatose today. Scary and sad to say the least. Dangerous to the survival of this exceptional nation. We seem to have lost the will or commitment to our values like “Live free or die”!

1 month ago

Love conspiracy theories about Pearl Harbor. I believe most if any information has been destroyed or buried that the truth may never be known (at least until the 100th anniversary).
Did any other nation know? The Soviet Union was reeling in the midst of the German blitzkrieg that had started on 22 June 1941, but were about to start their winter counteroffensive which would stop the Germans at the gates of Moscow. The Soviets had a well placed spy on the German embassy staff in Tokyo, Japan, whose contacts were able to get much information of the upcoming attack at Pearl Harbor. This info was relayed to Moscow but seemed to be getting no where. This agent then sent an ultimatum that he would inform the American Embassy in Tokyo about the forthcoming attack. Needless to say, his Soviet masters gave him away to the Japanese secret police, he was arrested and later executed before any attack info could be given. Around the 2 or 3 December, a Soviet cargo ship departed the port of Seattle, sailing the north Pacific route, just happened to sail through the Japanese task force. Moscow had informed the Japanese that this would take place and if the ship were sunk, that the United States would be informed the whereabouts the Japanese task force. The rest is history.
What about the British? In November 1940, the British conducted an small air raid on the Italian battle fleet at Taranto harbor with devastating results. The harbor had characteristics similar to Pearl Harbor that attracted the attention of the Japanese planners. In March 1941, a group of the Japanese air planners were escorted by host Luftwaffe officers to Taranto harbor for evaluation. One of the Luftwaffe officers was a double agent working for the British. He did not learn about the attack objective but correctly deduced that Pearl Harbor was the target based on strategic importance in the Pacific at that time. How to get the information to the United States without compromising this agent’s situation in Germany. An opportunity arose and this agent was able to travel to the US where he was apprehended by the FBI outside the proper zones that he was to remain in. What happened has never been disclosed, the agent was released and returned to Germany. A couple of months later, this agent went back to the US, arrested again only this time he was taken directly to the FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover. Again nothing has ever been disclosed about this meeting and it can only be assumed that the attack information and possible objective was given at this meeting. Note: FDR and Hoover did not get along, so why pass the info on when you can make your enemy look bad.?
Well, the attack happened and who knows where all the evidence is buried?

Jerry Caruthers
1 month ago

I want to address the Pearl Harbor conspiracy theory, Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard has conducted extensive research on the subject for his Killing the Rising Sun Book. They could not find one shred of evidence that FDR, the Chief of Staff or anyone in FDR’s administration conspired to get the USA into a war. Bill has the facts to back up his assortations. 

On a more serious matter, on 12/7/21 The Epoch Times posted a tribute 80 Years of Remembering Pearl Harbor, it was a very good, thoughtful, well written article. Most of the comments posted by the readers were respectful and honored our Vet’s, but a lot of the comments posted displayed vile hatred and political rhetoric. I have never seen this type of blatant disrespect for our veterans, these jerks are absent of good manners, morals, values and ethics! They talked like rioting socialists’ agitators; may God save the USA!

1 month ago

Interesting, not even Amac wants to discuss FDR’s full prior knowledge of the imminent attack on Pearl Harbor. Yes, the congressional record has it but its taboo to talk about it. He used the attack to convince the Am. people to go to war. Same with the Lusitania, gulf of Tonkin, twin towers, ……

Jerry Caruthers
1 month ago
Reply to  Chuck

I want to address the Pearl Harbor conspiracy theory, Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard has conducted extensive research on the subject for his Killing the Rising Sun Book. They could not find one shred of evidence that FDR, the Chief of Staff or anyone in FDR’s administration conspired to get the USA into a war. Bill has the facts to back up his assortations. 

William H. DeLeshe
1 month ago

I hope we never forget what happened on December 7th 1941,ever and that also goes for September,11th 2001,I have had an American car flag on my car since 9/11/2001,and will continue
to keep one on my car,,,People should never forget,what happened,,,

1 month ago

We visited Pearl Harbor years ago. The memorial is a fitting tribute to those that lost their life that tragic Sunday morning. One of those, an 18 year old Marine that died that day, is my uncle, an uncle I never was able to know, my mom’s brother, sent to his watery grave by the lucky hit on the powder magazine. There is great pain and also great pride in seeing his name on the memorial.

Philip Hammersley
1 month ago

Would Americans have elected Bundists to Congress in 1942 or Shintoists? Yet idiotic DIMMs elect AOC, Tlaib, Pressly, and Omar who applaud our enemies! What’s wrong with these stupid voters?

1 month ago

We are seeing more and more of our farms and ranches being bought out by the Chinese here in the heartland, Oklahoma. The offers they are making for our land is far above the market price, and they are cash deals sometime closing with days. Our law enforcement are discovering numerous illegal marijuana manufacturers owned by China and ran by force laborers. They are buying up hog operations in our panhandle to meet China’s appetite for pork. They want to control the entire food market. This is China’s version of Pearl Harbor without having to fire a shot.

1 month ago

The correct statement from FDR should read, “December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy…..”

R.J. from Arizona
1 month ago

There is an old saying that history repeats itself.

1 month ago

The greatest treason in history has been the lie that building up china would be to our eventual advantage. Politicians from both parties rallied under the phony banner of free trade. Business leaders followed the trail of enhanced profits. I guess ten or a hundred million bucks is enough to sell out your country if the consequences are far in the future. When i consider all the twenty year olds who died in battle and then compare that to our ‘leaders’ who got rich feeding a mortal enemy i am sickened.

1 month ago

As tragic as the losses that occurred that day in Pearl Harbor, too few people are looking at what caused that attack and got us into a war, we didn’t necessarily have to physically become part of the effort. We could have in both WWI and WWII just rendered aid to those we considered our allies, but the profit generated of being in war regardless of the human loss was the big push.
We should honor those who served for their sacrifice on days like this, regardless of the stupidity of our leaders. Let’s hope we aren’t heading to another world war state.

1 month ago

I fear “the sleeping giant” of 1941 has become the passive “couch potatoes” of 2021. Few have the resolve, pride or determination of the greatest generation, easier to let someone else take care of the problems.

1 month ago
Reply to  Granky

Our biggest mistake was to eliminate the military draft. Everyone should give back to this great country. Back then, 1973 they stopped the military draft and went volunteer. It was at that time up to1973 one would serve 2 years active, 2 years active reserve, and 2 years standby. Perhaps there would be more push back on the far left loons determined to transform this great country into a 3rd hell hole! Military at war and the American people are at the mall!
One proud veteran

Eddie Van Halen
1 month ago

The old “waiting for approval” trick, eh, AMAC ?

Eddie Van Halen
1 month ago

I’ve been there to visit and pay homage. I was a combat infantry returnee from Viet Nam ( 1969 ).
My take on Pearl is that socialist FDR KNEW they were coming and he wanted us HIT. So, in this was with collateral damage he could get us into HIS war. The movie Tora – Tora – Tora hit on that issue ‘lightly.’ Same deal as how “Woody” Wilson got us into WWl. 2 socialist swine. And for “Woody” ? He gave us that, the IRS monster, and the “Fed.” It is NOT federal and it has no RESERVE. It is so sad how the “men” wasted American lives just to get us into THEIR war.

1 month ago

I read the book ‘Day of Deceit’ by a retired naval officer. In it he makes the case that fdr allowed the attack to proceed in order to change the isolationist mood of the country. The author presents all sorts of circumstantial evidence. If true and if our carriers had been caught and a third wave of jap planes sent we would not have been able to respond in the pacific for years.

Eddie Van Halen
1 month ago
Reply to  Morbious

A point I have had discussion about with men who lived that era. They ALL agreed with me as to what a strange COINCIDENCE it was that all our ‘flat tops’ were out to sea on that fateful day. That attack was left undefended by PLAN from FDR’s bidding. He needed that war to “build his economy” at all costs. My elders told me that nothing FDR did worked. Kinda’ like the scum Obama.

Stephen Russell
1 month ago

Prior to raid we had Real life experiments to prove IT was doable:
Gen Billy Mitchell
Gen Patton
Japanese Emb
Naval War Games.
ALL proved it could be done BUT US did nothing
Only Mitchell thought they would use islands as base for bombers vs carriers.

But our leaders didnt see the Facts IE
Naval War Games
Mitchell bombing tests.
& thus comes 12-7-41

Philip Hammersley
1 month ago

The Japanese had done a similar “Sneak attack” in the Russo-Japanese War 35 years before! Yet CNO Stark and the navy brass sat on their a***** and blamed Kimmel. Same thing again when they blamed McVay for the USS Indianapolis sinking when they didn’t pass along the “intelligence” which they knew!.

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