Wednesday, 7 December 2016

A date which will live in infamy

F D Roosevelt rightly titled the 7th December 1941 as 'a date which will live in infamy'. The Japanese attack was not supposed to have taken place until thirty minutes after the peace negotiations between Japan and the United States were formally terminated, but thanks to slow processing of the coded message that was to be passed to the Americans by the Japanese Embassy in Washington, this did not happen. The message was not an actual declaration of war; this was not made until 8th December, the day after the attack.

'Battleship Row' under attack.
The attack on the United States Pacific Fleet was devastating. The following ships were sunk or badly damaged as a result of the attack:
  • 8 Battleships: Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia, California, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Maryland.
  • 1 Target/AA training ship (ex-battleship): Utah.
  • 2 Cruisers: Helena and Raleigh.
  • 3 Destroyers: Cassin, Downes, and Shaw.
  • Auxiliaries: Oglala (minelayer), Vestal (repair ship), and Curtiss (seaplane tender).
Of the ships sunk, all but the Arizona, Oklahoma, and Utah were repaired and returned to active service.

8 comments:

  1. 'This day shall live in infamy' because it happened to the United States. The US doesn't seem to regard declarations of war necessary for itself to carry out acts of war against sovereign nations. The hypocrisy is getting more than a little brassy.

    Still, I like Shinzo Abe's reciprocating Barack Obama's visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a visit to Pearl Harbour.

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    1. Archduke Piccolo,

      I'll reply by using Francis Urquart's comment that 'You might think that; I couldn't possible comment.'

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. Being resident in Japan myself, I asked a group of my more mature students tonight what earth-shaking event had occurred 75 years ago on this date. Once they realised what I was talking about, I asked them to give their views on it and to speak freely with no fear of judgment from me. It was interesting to hear they all saw it as a terrible mistake and a stain on Japan's honour to have attacked before war was declared.

    They saw the war as a grave error in the broader scheme of things anyway, but recurrently and genuinely lamented the 'sneak attack' aspect.

    It was a real privilege to observe their discussion.

    Best wishes,
    Aaron

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    1. Prufrock (Aaron),

      Thanks for your very interesting comment, particularly the aspect of it being a stain on Japan's honour, as I know that honour is something that most Japanese regard as being highly important.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. I wonder what people think of the revisionist historians claim that Roosevelt knew about the attack plans and wanted it to happen to bring the US into the war. Wikipedia describes these theories as on the fringe of historical debate. I find the idea that a president would allow such a thing difficult to believe but there seem to have been many indications that such an attack could happen. Just thought I'd open a can of beans out of interest in other people's perspectives. As usual in history, the waters of evidence can be very murky..

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    1. My own view on this is that (a) the US were prodding japan hard enough that they must not only have known a reaction would happen, they hoped it would; (b) they didn't expect the reaction they did get; (c) they had enough intel to warn them of an attack (specifically on Pearl Harbour) but simply failed to connect the dots.

      Incidentally, the explosion aboard USS Maine was enough to provide the casus belli of the Spanish-American war of 1898, even though the evidence for Spanish involvement was at best flimsy, and a real motive was wanting. I am certain in my mind that the US Government didn't really believe Spanish responsibility, the finding of its first court of enquiry notwithstanding. But that is far from calling the thing a 'false flag' incident. But what it suggests to me is that maybe in 1940-41, the US was hoping that Japan might be goaded into some kind of attack on a US vessel.

      This is my own personal opinion, and I acknowledge freely that it is highly conjectural. But it seems to me more likely than a cynical Government disregard for the lives of its own citizens to bring about a 'desired' state of war. That doesn't 'fit' with what I believe of FDR's character.

      Since then, the US seems to have developed a modus operandi of 'false flag' incidents, most famously with the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964, and blaming the 9/11 attacks in the US falsely upon Iraq. The US military and intelligence organisations have been publically outed on a number of occasions for suggested 'false flag' projects, though it is not clear how many were carried out. It seems that some were, in Latin America at least.

      All this rather tends to lend a kind of 'second hand' credence to 'conspiracy theories' (I', told the expression was originally coined within the CIA - or at least took on its present pejorative sense from CIA usage in the 1960s). US security services are fond of using 'plausible deniability' as a cover for some of its more outre 'black' operations, though I am inclined to assert a counter-expression of my own: 'assertable plausibility'.

      After all, 'conspiracy theories' are after all merely narratives competing with the official story. As we can see, there is as little to persuade us to accept the official narrative - the official conspiracy theory - against alternative narratives.

      (I wish these windows were bigger. These are bally hard to edit. Hope it make some kind of sense)

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    2. James James,

      In our modern world where communication is almost instant and we can see people face-to-face even though we are many miles apart, it can sometimes be difficult to grasp the problems faced by a president who was not being kept totally 'in the loop' by his military commanders and the country's intelligence community, and who was relying on diplomats to do his talking for him.

      Roosevelt may have thought that an attack was likely, but he may also have thought that taking any steps that might be misconstrued as being a threat by Japan could precipitate the very war he wanted to avoid.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    3. Archduke Piccolo,

      I think your analysis (as outlined in your opening paragraph) is probably very close to the truth.

      All the best,

      Bob

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