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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A day that will live in infamy: December 7 is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor

The Island of Oahu, with its military depots, both naval and land, its airdromes, water supplies, the city of Honolulu with its wharves and supply points, forms an easy, compact, and convenient object for air attack... I believe therefore, that should Japan decide upon the reduction and seizure of the Hawaiian Islands... [an] attack will be launched at Ford's Island at 7:30 A.M. 

~ General William ("Billy") Mitchell (1879-1936) (memorandum for the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, 1924) 

I can run wild for six months... after that, I have no expectation of success.* 

~ Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (wiki) (1884-1943) (to the Japanese cabinet, circa 1940) 

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. 

~ Franklin D. Roosevelt (wiki) (1882-1945) (to Congress, 8 December 1941) 

Throughout the action, there was never the slightest sign of faltering or cowardice. The actions of the officers and men were wholly commendable; there was no panic, no shirking or flinching, and words fail to describe the truly magnificent display of courage, discipline, and devotion of duty of all. 

~ Report by the Executive Officer of USS West Virginia after Pearl Harbor

Today is the anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor (wiki) on 7 December 1941, which brought the United States into World War II. The meticulously planned and devastatingly successful operation was launched from six aircraft carriers and their escorts, which had managed to penetrate to within 200 miles of Oahu without being discovered. 

Of the eight American battleships in port that day, four were sunk or destroyed, and nine other warships were sunk or severely damaged. Over 2,400 U.S. servicemen lost their lives, including 2.000 sailors, most of whom perished on the USS Arizona (BB-39). The only bright spots were the absence of the three U.S. aircraft carriers from Pearl Harbor that day and the strange failure of the Japanese to destroy the Pacific Fleet's enormous fuel supplies, which would have been an easy target. Japan's attack on Oahu put an abrupt end to pre-war American isolationism and united the nation as it had never been before. But as Napoleon Bonaparte (wiki) noted in his Maxims of War,
"To be defeated is pardonable; to be surprised - never!" 
* N.B. Yamamoto is often quoted as having said, "I fear we have only awakened a sleeping giant, and his reaction will be terrible," but this appears to be apocryphal.

** Quoted in this form in Samuel Eliot Morison, The Two Ocean War, Ch. 3.

Here's a contemporaneous newsreel of the Pearl Harbor attack:

I realize that Pearl Harbor is a significant and serious event, but this reenactment by Monty Python, from Flying Circus: is a hoot, and much too good to pass up:
The stuff of history is indeed woven in the woof. Pearl Harbour. There are pages in history's book which are written on the grand scale. Events so momentous that they dwarf man and time alike. And such is the Battle of Pearl Harbour, re-enacted for us now by the women of Barley Townswomen's Guild (script available at the link):

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