Rethinking Pearl Harbor

(This is an old American propaganda short, two minutes long. I like it because the narration gives a feel for a very different time in our history, and because it includes footage from both Japanese and American sources.)

Seventy years ago today, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor catapulted the United States into World War II. The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association has announced that today’s anniversary observances will be its last. The Association, its ranks thinned precipitously by death this past year, is disbanding December 31st.

Which raises the question: What will we do with Pearl Harbor Day when the last survivor is gone?

The days are long past, after all, when the U.S. could pretend with a straight face that we’ve always played by the rules of war, and never had imperial ambitions of our own.

And the real award for cowardice and deceit at Pearl Harbor should probably go, not to the Japanese high command, but to the American President. There’s quite a bit of evidence to suggest that:

  • FDR deliberately incited the Japanese to attack. He embargoed the oil Japan needed to survive economically, and sent our ships to cruise her interior waters.
  • FDR knew the attack was coming–and didn’t notify the Pacific fleet. He wanted into the war, public opinion was against it, and he saw he could use the “surprise” attack to turn the tide of public opinion his way.
  • His shameful duplicity cost 2,403 American lives.

If December 7th is indeed a date which should live in infamy, it’s not for the reasons FDR gave in his speech the next day.

As long as veterans of Pearl Harbor are alive, let’s continue to honor them. Once they’re gone, though, let’s be honest with ourselves, and either quietly retire Pearl Harbor Day, or use it to remind ourselves of the dangers of popular leaders and charismatic orators.

What do you think? Does Pearl Harbor Day deserve a permanent place as one of our national days of remembrance? If so, what do you think we should remember on December 7th? 


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