Monday, December 8, 2008

Memories fade. History repeats.

Sixty-seven years ago, yesterday, marks the first large-scale attack on the United States since our little tiffs with Britain in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Japan planned and carried out a massive attack on what they saw as a threat to their dominance of the Pacific Ocean: the United States Navy.

Sixty-seven years ago, yesterday, marks the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. We had done nothing to provoke it, and the Japanese gave us no hint that they were planning it. They simply, quietly, positioned their ships to launch the planes.

Sixty-seven years ago, yesterday, between 7:55 and 10:00, the Japanese overflew Hawaii, first targeting airfields to prevent us from being able to fight back with more than land- and ship-based anti-aircraft guns, then targeting our naval vessels sitting at rest in Pearl Harbor.

Sixty-seven years ago, yesterday, the Japanese pulled us into World War II with 2,042 seamen, marines, Army personnel, and civilians killed in the attack, with another 1,238 military personnel wounded. Eighteen ships were either sunk or severely damaged. One hundred sixty-one planes were destroyed, with another 102 damaged.

Our then-president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, asked Congress to declare war the very next morning in one of the most stirring speeches in American history. The entire text is reproduced from George Mason University’s website:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by 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 its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our 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 even 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. I regret to tell you that very many American
lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese government also launched as attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Wake Island.

And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. . .


Of course, we won the war. And then we forgot. Not quite sixty years later, we paid for that forgetfulness in mostly civilian blood on an even more reprehensible attack on civilian-only targets, using civilian mass-transit infrastructure: September 11, 2001’s attack.

It hasn’t even taken us ten years to mostly forget that attack. I have little hope that the next attack on American soil will not be as much worse than the second as the second was than the first.

As the title of this page states: memories fade. History repeats.

2 comments:

  1. We never learn there for we are doomed to repeat history over and over again. Sad, how humanity never learns.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Human memory only lasts as long as the generation that lived the "history" in question. And even then, sometimes memory doesn't last that long.

    ReplyDelete