December 7, 1941 was, as FDR put it, a ″Day of Infamy″. A fast moving Japanese fleet centered on 6 aircraft carriers launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the attack, which brought the United States of America into World War 2. Americans had already been fighting prior to this, some serving as volunteers for foreign governments, others as part of American operations, such as escorting ship convoys across the Atlantic. But, after Pearl Harbor, there was no mystery any longer. The nation mobilized for total warfare.
Later this month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Pearl Harbor, but he is not expected to offer any apologies. Some may argue that he ought to, especially after Barack Obama offered what many saw as an apology at a Hiroshima memorial. Obama seems to enjoy apologizing for America′s perceived faults. Apparently, Shinzo Abe does not share this handicap.
Whether the dead of the Pearl Harbor attack, or their surviving loved ones, still care about getting an apology from Japan seems a mute point. There was plenty of blame to go around. Many in the U.S. military and government, including FDR, knew that Japan was planning something. That some sort of an attack was imminent. A week before, a general warning had been issued to all U.S. commanders in the Pacific to be on the alert. While few expected Pearl Harbor to be one of the first targets, some American military experts did predict the attack years earlier.
As we remember the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, on this 75th Anniversary, we should keep in mind why we were surprised. A failure in intelligence and communications between the military services and government leaders resulted in being caught off guard. We saw the same thing repeated on September 11, 2001. There had been plenty of warning signs before the attack, then, as well. Some even had an idea as to the targets and who would be executing the attacks. The FBI even had one in custody!
The lesson is that we live in a dangerous world. We must always be vigilant and ready. Evil takes no holidays. Hindsight will not bring back the dead, nor comfort the living. But it does remind us that we are only as good as our last decision. It also reminds us that we should not ignore nor dismiss any alarm, even those from whom most people view as kooks. Every scenario must be considered and rationally acted upon. If the odds are a million-to-one against it happening, then we should put a plan to counter an event on the back burner, but we should still have a plan on the shelf, just in case. The attack on Pearl Harbor, and 9/11, were inevitable when we examine history. But the shelf was bare and we were caught flat-footed. Let us never make that mistake again!
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