PEARL HARBOR DAY
Posted by Tim Bryce on December 7, 2015
BRYCE ON HISTORY
– Remembering the day of “Infamy.”
It’s Pearl Harbor Day, a day we set aside in America to commemorate “a date which will live in infamy,” December 7th, 1941, when the Imperial military forces of Japan bombed military targets in Hawaii or, as many called it, a “sneak attack.” Today, in the 21st century where 9-11 is fresh in our memories, the Pearl Harbor attack is quickly fading into obscurity as the “greatest generation” fades away with it. I’m afraid 9-11 is superseding December 7th, just as the Pearl Harbor attack superseded “Remember the Maine” in 1898. All were unfortunate disasters, and I don’t want to say one is better than another, but it would be unfortunate if we forgot the important lessons they taught us, particularly December 7th.
Pearl Harbor is a story of courage, survival, and a spirit of “don’t give up the ship.” On that day in 1941 approximately 2,500 people were killed and another 1,200 wounded. Four major battleships were sunk in the harbor (though two were subsequently raised), numerous planes were destroyed, and the Pacific fleet was set into disarray. To this day, 74 years later, oil still leaks from the USS Arizona which sits in its watery grave in the harbor.
The bombing shocked and angered the nation. Had it not been a surprise attack, it may not have aroused the emotions of Americans, but such is hindsight.
The real lesson learned from Pearl Harbor was how unprepared we were and how we could have prevented it. To illustrate, prior to the Pearl Harbor disaster, the Army sent General Billy Mitchell to study Pacific defenses. Mitchell’s notoriety stemmed from his advocacy of air power. During World War I he commanded all of the American air combat units in France. He was a visionary who understood the potential of the airplane and pushed hard to promote air power which, as he discovered, was difficult to do during peacetime. His arguments extolling the virtues of air power fell on deaf ears and earned him the scorn of his superiors, who sent him to the Pacific (and get him out of their hair).
During his tour of the Pacific, Mitchell visited Japan and witnessed firsthand how the Japanese were embracing air power and realized America was far behind their counterparts. Following his tour of the Pacific he produced an extensive 323 page report on his assessment of American defenses in the Pacific. Here are excerpts from it:
“One hears it often said that Japanese cannot fly. Nothing is more fallacious than this. They can fly, are going to fly, and may end up by developing the greatest air power in the world… It takes no longer to teach Japanese than it does Anglo-Saxons.”
“Japan knows full well that the United States will probably enter the next war with the methods and weapons of the former war… Japan also knows full well that the defense of the Hawaiian group is based on the island of Oahu and not on the defense of the whole group.”
(After describing in detail the tactics and timing of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor) “I have gone into attack by an enemy in some detail to show how easily it can be done by a determined and resourceful enemy…
Actually nothing can stop it except air power…”
“(Japan) knows that war is coming some day with the United States, and it will be a contest for her very existence. The United States must not render herself completely defenseless by on the one hand thinking that a war with Japan is an impossibility, and on the other by sticking to methods and means of making war as obsolete as the bow and arrow.”(1)
Interestingly, this report was produced in 1924, seventeen years before the Pearl Harbor bombings. Mitchell was not only prophetic, he was correct. Regardless of how accurate Mitchell’s report was, he was criticized and ignored by the Army, and the report was quickly dismissed. One year later, Mitchell would be court-martialed and suspended for remarks he made accusing the Army and Navy of military incompetence.
Regardless of the military’s feeling about him, Mitchell had delivered a fair warning and provided a blueprint of weaknesses in Pacific defenses which, had they been corrected, would have changed the course of history.
Pearl Harbor Day to me is a strong reminder of how Americans tend to be reactionaries as opposed to planners. I find it incredibly strange and dangerous that we prefer to pay attention to a dog only after it has bitten us, as opposed to heeding its bark. Our history is checkered with many examples of reactionary behavior, all coming at an incredible expense to American lives.
I hear the dogs barking in the Middle East and Asia, but does anyone else?
Originally published: December 7, 2010
Keep the Faith!
EPILOGUE: In 1942, after Pearl Harbor proved Mitchell correct, FDR restored his service record and elevated him to the rank of major general. Regrettably, he had passed away six years earlier never knowing how prophetic he had been.
1 – The Billy Mitchell Story by Burke Davis
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at email@example.com
For Tim’s columns, see: timbryce.com
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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
NEXT UP: THE GROWING POLITICAL POLARITY – File this under, “More Trouble Brewing.”
LAST TIME: WHEN DO WE BECOME OUR PARENTS? – Is it in our 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s?
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