What shaped The American Memory?
All of us born after 1960 have had our memories of WW2 shaped by textbooks and the veterans we have talked with. The collective American memory of the start of WW2 in the Pacific has been shaped by powerful ideas. What has shaped our memory is important because those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it. Our nation claims to have suffered a Pearl Harbor like attack on 911. So maybe it is good to review Pearl Harbor so we may learn.
Remember before Pearl Harbor the world had been at war since 1939 although the USA had not been attacked. It was late 1941 Hitler had already taken by force Poland, France, Yugoslavia, and Norway. The USSR had taken half of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, and had invaded Finland. Japan had taken Mongolia, and attacked China.
Our minds and memories have been shaped by truth, error, myth and urban legends, and also our drive to be thought righteous or noble. Consider the following information about Pearl Harbor, and who knew what.
From the Book “Pearl Harbor, Select Testimonies, Fully Indexed, from the Congressional Hearings (1945-1946) and prior Investigations of the events Leading up to the attack. “ISBN # 0-89950-811-1.
It is documented on page 9 as Mr. Stimson went through his records, he testified: “November 25, 1941, at 9:30 Knox and I met in Hull’s office for our meeting of three. Hull showed us the proposal for a three months’ truce which he was going to lay before the Japanese tomorrow. It adequately safeguarded all our interests, I thought, as we read it, but I don’t think that there is any chance of the Japanese accepting it because it was so drastic.
[ 2070 ] Then we had a long talk over the general situation there, which I remember.
We were an hour and a half with Hull, and then I went back to the Department, I got a hold of Marshall. Then at twelve o’clock I went to the White House where we were until nearly half past one.”
“At the meeting were Hull, Knox, Marshall, Stark, and myself. There the President brought up the relations with the Japanese. He brought up the event that we were likely to be attacked perhaps as soon as-perhaps next Monday, for the [Japanese] are notorious for making an attack without warning, and the question was what should we do. We conferred on the general problem.”
So on November 25, 1941 the President thought the Japanese could launch a surprise attack before December 1941, this more than a week before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
There is a lot more in the book about who else knew what, who was where, etc.
But we cannot say the President did not know what the Japanese were capable of. No one can say “WE,” including the President, did not know war was coming, we were expecting it.
By all other evidence it is clear the USA was “fortifying” its bases in the Pacific expecting an attack. Also Pearl Harbor was on the list of possible targets. It was American policy to wait until the Japanese hit first, The Japanese knew it as well as the British and other allies.
Everyone is aware that the USS Ward sank a Japanese sub before the planes attacked.
http://www.history.navy.mil/docs/wwii/pearl/ph97.htm “The attack was made at 0645”
http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/HURL/midget.html The sub the USS Ward sunk was found which confirms all the USS Ward’s account.
http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/pearl.htm “The attacking planes came in two waves; the first hit its target at 7:53 AM”
If you do the math that is 68 minutes from the time the USS Ward sounded the first alarm and the Japanese attacked. The USS Ward was there hunting that sub because another ship reported a sub earlier.
In the book the “They Were Expendable” on pg 6, a PT boat captain who had been in Manila when the first Japanese attack came had these memories. “On my way back here last week, I had a few hours in Honolulu, and the boys there were still talking about how they’d been surprised on December 7. I don’t know why they should have been surprised they got the same warnings as we did in Manila. That war was maybe days away, perhaps even only hours away. The only thing that surprised us was it was Pearl Harbor that got attacked and not us.”
So remember the facts.
The world was already at war.
The military was getting ready for war.
The President expected a surprise attack with days or weeks after 11/25/1941.
The US Pacific fleet had recently been moved from California to Pearl Harbor, which made it easier to be attacked.
Our Aircraft Carriers in that fleet were the top targets of the Japanese attack.
Our carriers were not present but off delivering planes to other bases as a build up to war.
Oh, and we were able to read the Japanese Secret Diplomatic code, and who knows what else. At the battle of Midway our ability to read Japanese code allowed us to place our carriers in the best spot.
In the big picture though would what looks like a premeditated strategy of waiting, that allowed attack on Pearl Harbor to take place as it did, would that be wrong? As with fishing, in war they bait traps with tempting targets. Some say that the American mind set is such that no political leader dare start a war because that would get them more than fired. Historically America has sat on its butt until being provoked, it is part of our culture. The military is always placing someone in harms way, and our enemies seek out and attack our weakest or most valuable targets, like pieces on a chessboard. Service men and women usually volunteer, like firefighters, and police do to go into harms way, and some die, so others may live. Freedom has a price.
Jesus said, “no greater sacrifice can a man make than to lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus also said to His disciples “you are my friends” and then showed it. What more can be said for those who put themselves in harms way?
It is good to listen to a veteran if you are willing to really listen. They are able to share the truth from their point of view, which can help you learn. Listening to them is much better than reading a book written years later.
“Pearl Harbor, Select Testimonies, Fully Indexed, from the Congressional Hearings (1945-10946) and prior Investigations of the events Leading up to the attack “ISBN # 0-89950-811-1.
“They Were Expendable” by William Lindsay White ISBN # 1557509484