Pearl Harbor – By Craig Nelson

pearl-harborMr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and House of Representatives: Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – The United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

Within an hour of speaking these words, war was declared and the United States had entered into the second world war. With these words, a nation that was trying to stay out of Europe’s problems all of a sudden became a decisive factor in the war. With these words, young men who were nobodies tested their strength and proved themselves to be the “Greatest Generation.”

This book begins several months prior to Franklin Roosevelt’s speech declaring war. The author takes his time in setting the stage educating the reader on what was going on in the world. Why did the Japanese who had been our allies in World War 1 so quickly become our enemies?

One of the sad parts of the attack on Pearl Harbor is how all the pieces of information were not put together in time to prevent the attack. The author lays a foundation of information that was known by the State Department, by the Navy, and by the Army. This lack of sharing complete information resulted in Hawaii being on sabotage alert. Because they were on sabotage alert, ammo was locked, planes were tied down, and the United States was not ready to defend itself, thus amplifying the damage caused by the Japanese military.


Towards the end of the book, the author dives into all the investigations into why Pearl Harbor was not ready. We read how military officers were blaming Congress for not giving them bigger budgets. We read how one branch would blame the other branch. Ultimately, there was a lot of finger-pointing going on.

As a result, the Department of Defense was reorganized and the Central Intelligence Agency was founded. These changes were made as an attempt to reshape the way that information was passed so as to ensure that we would not be subjected to another disastrous attack that could have been prevented.

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

As I read about the political pontification after Pearl Harbor, I was reminded of the attack of 9/11. Some things just never change. Politicians are always quick to make major changes in response to a catastrophe but before the catastrophe, they are very slow to make changes. Business as usual is a much safer path to a successful political career. After 9/11, in order to solve the problems of information not being passed properly, we saw the creation of another government bureaucracy called the Department of Homeland Security. Along with this creation of new bureaucracy, there was a major intelligence reorganization.

The majority of this book covered the events that occurred on December 7th, 1941 in a chronological order. As such, one minute you were reading about the thoughts of a Japanese pilot and then the author would jump to how some officer was jumping in his car to get back to Pearl Harbor. As a result, there is a lot of bouncing around from one character to another and back again.

One of the benefits of this method is that it really helps you understand the precise order of events. It is critical to understand who knew what and how they responded to the limited information that they had.

This book is full of stories of various people in various positions around the island. We read about flight instructors who were teaching people how to fly all of a sudden being attacked by zeros. We read about little girls who woke up to the sounds of bombs who were soon being drug by their mothers to the safety of a bomb shelter. We read about Japanese Americans who are afraid for their lives because everyone is now looking at them as spies.

We are told about the 12 pilots of the B-17’s who just arrived at Pearl Harbor after a 14-hour flight from California. These pilots were almost out of fuel and all of a sudden they are trying to land their planes in the middle of a bunch of Japanese pilots who were attacking the airports. To add insult to injury, the anti-aircraft guns from the Army bases were shooting indiscriminately at any aircraft that was in the air. These pilots had to make split second decisions of where they were going to land their planes in order save their lives and protect the plane from being destroyed.


While the majority of the book covered the events of December 7, 1941, the book does not end when Congress declares war the next day. The author does a quick 30,000-foot view of the famous Jimmy Doolittle raid and the battle of Midway. The author briefly mentions various other battles including General MacArthur’s famous return to the Philippines. Of course, the author does a quick dive into the events that lead to and resulted by the dropping of the atomic bomb.

I think the thing that surprised me the most in reading the post-Pearl Harbor narrative was the stories of the lives that were spiritually changed. The book tells about a POW who obtained a Bible from the Japanese and he became a Christian. This man later became a missionary in Japan and started many churches. The book also tells of a famous Japanese officer who read the story of this POW and how he turned his life over to Christ and began to travel around his nation preaching the gospel.

The number of individuals who were in Hawaii on December 7, 1941 are greatly diminishing. Many young men died that day not knowing that those who survived were about to be thrust into a grueling campaign that would cost many a man their life. Many a mother lost her son and many a girl lost her man. On this day, many lives were changed, but the nation rallied with the cry to Remember Pearl Harbor.

This nation did not run and hide. This nation stood strong and each person did their part to help the war effort. As we remember the 75th anniversary of that fateful date, let us not forget the sacrifices of blood that were shed on this date and the dates that followed so that you and I might enjoy our liberties and our freedoms.

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