Tag Archives: Pearl Harbor

A Contemporary Response to Pearl Harbor

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 11.12.25 AMThose of you who subscribe to The Americanist Independent will surely recall the wonderful collection of WWII letters written by Navy Aviator Bill Evans – published in issue three earlier this year.

On this national day of remembrance, December 7, 2014, I suggest we all revisit – or have a first look at his reflections on the attack, written only hours after the event. Subscriptions to the journal are free – and you can access the particular issue HERE.

With compliments,

Keith

December 7

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FDR’s address to the nation:

Yesterday, December 7th, 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. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of 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 an 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, the Japanese 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.

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 that 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 it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

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 Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

Discoveries

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I came across this video yesterday while perusing the Internet for engaging WWII related tidbits. The poster claimed that this was “Rare archival footage of the attack on Pearl Harbor…showing incredible shots of the sneak attack by Imperial Japan.” The individual explains that  “the footage is low resolution, due to the fact that the original has been lost and this is a copy. Shown in the video are the USS Nevada firing at Japanese craft, the USS Oglala rolling over sinking and the USS St. Louis.”

 

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Navy aviator William R. Evans, Jr.

Things come up on the web all the time claiming to be recoveries – or discoveries – of lost or previously unknown war documents, films, and images. Some are legitimately “new” discoveries or recovered footage, as this appears to be, others are not. You will all remember the recent Battle of the Bulge “uncovered camera” incident that turned out to be a hoax. I guess you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. How disconcerting.

But the truth is that there are documents out there in private collections and stored away in drawers, closets, and attics all across the land. And from time to time, a few will find their way to publication. My own web-journal, The Americanist Independent, will have the honor of publishing a small collection of personal letters written by Navy aviator William R. Evans, Jr., who fought at the Battle of Midway.  Some of Bill’s words are inscribed in a monument to Indiana servicemen who fought in WWII. You can find them at the Memorial Mall in downtown Indianapolis. His letters to his family will be published in the journal, for the first time, in the September 2014 issue. His words are at once poetic and powerful. They are but a momentary glimpse at the Pacific Theater of war from Pearl Harbor to mid-1942 – a glimpse worthy of attention.

With compliments,

Keith

 

February 24th 1942 – a date which will live in obscurity: The Battle of Los Angeles

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 11.44.44 AMMy analysis today is even less heavy-handed than usual. You know…I spend a lot of time wading waist deep in academic nitwittery and today I feel like telling an interesting story – just because.

I sort of stumbled upon this story while looking into Los Angeles during WWII. So imagine this: you live on the west coast of the United States. It is February 1942 – on the heels of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. The country is at war and excitement is sweeping across the land. Another attack seems eminent. The people of Los Angeles are bracing themselves for the next onslaught…

Did you ever see the 1979 Steven Spielberg film 1941? It starred John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy and other well-known comedic actors of the time. It is a fictional tale of a renegade Japanese submarine commander intent on attacking Hollywood, and a group of Los Angeles residents running amok in the first days of war.

Well, 1941 is laden with disturbing racial stereotypes (Hooorrryyyywoooo!!!!!!) meant (I believe) to convey Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 11.44.25 AMwar-era Americans’ perception of Japanese people rather than vulgar racist jabs. But racial analysis aside, I think Spielberg did a wonderful job capturing the hysteria that gripped the west coast in the early days of war. And as an added bonus, John Belushi is superb as fighter pilot Captain Wild Bill Kelso. You have to love the scene where he strafes Hollywood Blvd in his Custiss P-40 Warhawk. While the film received low marks from critics and audiences alike, I would recommend it nevertheless. It is a first-rate fictional tale and a visually stunning period piece.

But the truth is, the film wasn’t really that much of a stretch. Something along these lines actually (kind of) happened way back on February 24th 1942. It seems that reports of a Japanese air raid sent the good citizens of LA into hysterics. That evening, radar picked up several unidentified objects closing in on the Los Angeles area. After a bit, an artillery colonel reported enemy planes (although the radar blips had vanished) flying 12,000 feet above LA. This prompted coastal defense teams to send up flares and open up with a barrage of anti-aircraft fire. Four enemy planes were reported shot down, including one that was supposed to have crash landed on Hollywood Blvd.

People watched the scene unfold from rooftops and as the excitement persisted…they freaked out. Cars crashed, shell fragments fell on the city, and at least one person had a heart attack and died. But there was no attack, no enemy planes shot down, and no explanation for why coastal defense crews opened fire. Just a couple of unexplained blips, some spotlights, and a whole lot of artillery fire. The next day the Washington Post referred to the “battle” as a “recipe for jitters” and the New York Times simply stated that the event was “expensive incompetence and jitters.”

Well, call it what you want. At any rate…it is certainly a good story. I keep finding all kinds of little tidbits about LA during the war. Perhaps a short book is in order….

With compliments,

Keith