Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbor (extended version)

Today I want to talk about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, 70 years ago. 12% of the country enlisted; everyone pitched in with rationing in World War II. One human lifespan ago, it was a very different world, with very mixed changes.
120 survivors gathered today at the USS Arizona. I want to discuss them because that number cannot be the same next year. How long will it be, now, before the last survivor passes away, and we are left to safeguard the actualities of history? It is not yet merely recorded history; it is still living history. But not for long. Such is life.

I miss my Grand dads. I miss my Dad so much I just hung out with him at a party in my dream (not a very wild party, but some pretty women!). My Granddaddy White spent his retirement documenting family history, searching for roots in the days before the internet, combing graveyards and brittle records. Both of my grand fathers served in World War II---my dad tried joining the Army too young and was rejected---but Pawpaw White was the historian, as I was reminded each time I crossed the driveway to his house to visit.

The news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which happened after 7am, did not reach Washington, D.C. until 2:22 pm Eastern time. There is documentation that the base was known to be under surveillance by the Japanese, but the attack came suddenly and without direct provocation. The USS Utah, USS West Virginia, and USS Oklahoma were also attacked, but a full half of the casualties---1,177---were crewmen of the USS Arizona. Its memorial was begun in 1949 by the territory of Hawaii, birthplace of our President.

353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes attacked, in an effort to prevent future American interference with the Pacific theatre maneuvers against the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and American overseas territories---centered around oil, which the U.S. had stopped providing in July, 1941, due to restrictions on domestic consumption. 2402 Americans died that day, with 1,282 wounded.

The Oklahoma was sank within twelve minutes; its men were strafed as they abandoned ship. Its starboard side remained above water, and her soldiers continued fighting with anti-aircraft artillery. The ship was righted in 1943, but was not returned to duty; it was stripped of its artillery and sold for scrap in 1947. The Oklahoma served in World War II; it and its sister ship the Utah were the first to use oil, rather than coal. The ship rescued Americans at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

The following is courtesy the National Park Service site:
Initial recognition came in 1950 when Admiral Arthur Radford, Commander in Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC), ordered that a flagpole be erected over the sunken battleship. On the ninth anniversary of the attack, a commemorative plaque was placed at the base of the flagpole.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who helped achieve Allied victory in Europe during World War II, approved the creation of the Memorial in 1958. Its construction was completed in 1961 with public funds appropriated by Congress and private donations. The Memorial was dedicated in 1962.

According to its architect, Alfred Preis, the design of the Memorial, "Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory....The overall effect is one of serenity. Overtones of sadness have been omitted to permit the individual to contemplate his own personal responses...his innermost feelings."

Contrary to popular belief, the USS Arizona is no longer in commission. As a special tribute to the ship and her lost crew, the United States flag flies from the flagpole, which is attached to the severed mainmast of the sunken battleship. The USS Arizona Memorial has come to commemorate all military personnel killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.

The first counter-offensive was launched about three months later, in February, 1942. The first Pacific theatre victory for the United States was the Battle of Midway, in June, 1942.


This comes courtesy Wikipedia:

The attack took place before any formal declaration of war was made by Japan, but this was not Admiral Yamamoto's intention. He originally stipulated that the attack should not commence until thirty minutes after Japan had informed the United States that peace negotiations were at an end.

The Japanese tried to uphold the conventions of war while still achieving surprise, but the attack began before the notice could be delivered. Tokyo transmitted the 5,000-word notification (commonly called the "14-Part Message") in two blocks to the Japanese Embassy in Washington, but transcribing the message took too long for the Japanese Ambassador to deliver it in time. (In fact, U.S. code breakers had already deciphered and translated most of the message hours before he was scheduled to deliver it.)

The final part of the "14 Part Message" is sometimes described as a declaration of war. While it neither declared war nor severed diplomatic relations, it was viewed by a number of senior U.S Government and military officials as a very strong indicator that negotiations were likely to be terminated and that war might break out at any moment.

A declaration of war was printed on the front page of Japan's newspapers in the evening edition of December 8, but not delivered to the U.S. government until the day after the attack.

See "Attack on Pearl Harbor" for more details.

None of those men who stood today could’ve predicted how our war with Japan would end: with the unleashing of the most advanced and devastating scientific force the world had ever seen. So long as we maintain thousands of these weapons---so long as countries attempt to develop them---we cannot afford to forget the price of the nuclear option. You truly have to use your imagination to envision the fear of battling to the death against mainland Japan, which led to the authorization of the atomic bombings.

Japan would become one of our great world allies by my lifetime; I never knew the enmity towards that country those before had. As followers of will see throughout this month, I and other young Americans grew up on Japanese cartoons, playing (if you could afford them or their knock-offs) with Japanese robots. I studied a Japanese martial art. I watched one of those cartoons for the penultimate post on STAR BLAZERS earlier. (When Disney optioned the live-action movie, they thought to replace the Yamato---a real Japanese battleship---with a version of the Arizona.) I thought of Captain Avatar’s words to Derek Wildstar, upon finding his brother's laser pistol, the last remnants of his brother's sacrificed ship on Pluto: “Your brother lives on through the Star Force, and he lives on through you.” To have come from a cartoon, I nevertheless find it poignant because today, my grandfather and father live on through me.

I wonder sometimes if the problems between the United States and the West in general, and the Middle East could ever be resolved so much. It’s possible, but it’s such a different world than it was a simple seventy years ago.

Still: was it any easier, then?

Meanwhile, our remaining t-shirts are available at Convention Special Price, for $12 each plus $3.00 for shipping & handling.

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