There are certain events in history that are so earth-shattering that the mere thought of them soon become memories frozen in time.
For those born roughly from the 1920’s to the mid ’90s, the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks would be the perfect case in point. Prior to that, it would be an incident like the November 22, 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Travel back in time just one more generation to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. That was just prior to the days of public television viewing. But President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech to the United States Congress, thundered over radio waves throughout the world. Here are excerpts of that speech as displayed in www.homefront.com:
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941-a date that will live in infamy…The United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that nation, and at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor, looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.
Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State, a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.
Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.
I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.
With confidence in our armed forces-with the unbounding determination of our people-we will gain the inevitable triumph-so help us God.
I ask that the Congress declare that, since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on December 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.”
Back then, Hawaii was a possession of the United States, which had chosen more of an isolationist world view. While the U.S. did furnish supplies to a China that was invaded and occupied by Japan in the 1930’s, we chose a non-direct approach to combat except for scattered crews of volunteer airmen.
Naturally, with Pearl Harbor came a more direct approach to the war. But the tide of World War II in the Pacific did not even start turning until The Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 and Battle of Midway Island the following month. Prior to that, the Japanese had conquered a vast majority of islands in the South Pacific, including The Philippines.
Since the U.S. was also concentrating a large measure of its war efforts fighting the Nazis and Fascists in Europe, she primarily chose the gradual island hopping means of freeing the Pacific islanders before attacking the Japanese homeland.
But, had Japan not awaken “The Sleeping Giant” at Pearl Harbor, and gotten America into World War II at that time, (and also Adolph Hitler’s decision to invade Russia with three million troops, beginning on June 22, 1941) who knows just how much more difficult it may have been to win the war in Europe with growing strength from Nazi Germany?