Day of Infamy

uss_arizona_memorialWe often talk of World War II, it was a major series of events in American and world history, as long as those survivors were in charge, things were better than ever, as they leave the stage, we are seeming to come face-to-face with the fact that they went too easy on us, and the discipline to succeed in the real world appears to be lacking. We need to look back and take the lesson that America was taught starting today, 75 years ago.

76 years ago today, America was attacked at Pearl Harbor. We were thus thrust onto center stage of the 20th Century’s biggest conflict and the most clear-cut war for liberty in the history of the world. It’s a day to remember the sacrifices made by that generation, who are now leaving us at a very rapid pace. They saved the world for freedom, this would be a very good day to thank them. In this video, I want you to listen to the resolve of Franklin Roosevelt, in it, you will learn much about leadership in a free country.

This is how an American President responds to an attack on the homeland.

The forward magazines of the U.S. Navy battles...

The Arizona at Pearl Harbor: Image via Wikipedia

We all know (or should) that behind them the Japanese attackers left 2,403 dead, 188 destroyed planes and a crippled Pacific Fleet that included 8 damaged or destroyed battleships. One of them the USS Arizona is still there, minus her hull, still to this day leaking oil and designated as both an American Military Cemetery and the Pearl Harbor Memorial.

My old friend Mr. Mac over at The Leansubmariner has published the after action report of the Commander Battle Force, Pacific. It is both horrific and fascinating reading about brave men suddenly thrust into the fight of their lives. Here’s some, read it all.

On the occasion of the treacherous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, battleship ready guns opened fire at once. They were progressively augmented as the rest of the antiaircraft battery was manned as all battleships went to General Quarters with commendable promptness. This resulted in an early and great volume of antiaircraft fire. Considering all the circumstances, including the necessity for local control in the early stages of the attack, the control of fire was gratifyingly good as attested by the fifteen to seventeen enemy planes which were brought down. That such an antiaircraft fire could be inaugurated and sustained in spite of the difficulties resulting from early damage by torpedoes and bombs and great and menacing oil fires is a tribute to the courage, constancy, efficiency and resourcefulness of the officers and men. not only were they maintaining a sustained and aggressive fire whenever the enemy threatened, but they were engaged in valiant efforts to save the ships, prevent their capsizing and fighting large and menacing oil fires, enveloped in dense clouds of smoke. Severe structural damage and flooded magazines made replenishment of ammunition a serious problem, in overcoming which great courage and ingenuity was exhibited.

Great courage and ingenuity indeed. What could be done, was. Here is part of what happened.

    1. Personnel losses. (a) The following is a personnel table indicating the total officers and men attached to the ship prior to the attack, the number of casualties, the number of survivors, and the name of the senior surviving officer on each ship. The reports on which these figures are based are being corrected daily.
On Board 1 Dec. Killed Injured Missing Survivors Senior surviving officer
Ship Off Men Off Men Off Men Off Men Off Men
Maryland* 108 1496 2 1 0 14 0 1 106 1480 Capt. Godwin
W. Virginia 87 1454 2 25 0 52 0 130 85 1247 Cdr. Hillendoetter
Tennessee* 94 1372 0 4 1 20 0 2 93 1337 Capt. Reordan
California* 120 1546 3 45 3 58 2 56 112 1382 Capt. Bunkley
Pennsylvania 81 1395 2 17 0 30 0 6 79 1340 Capt. Cooke
Arizona* 100 1411 2 54 5 39 47 1059 54 259 Cdr. Geiselman
Oklahoma 82 1270 0 20 2 30 21 415 59 805 Capt. Bode
Total 766 11334  14  200  16  347  70 1685  674  9086
* Includes Flag personnel attached.
  • (b) The following named Division Commanders and Commanding Officers were killed:
  • Rear Admiral I.C. Kidd, U.S. Navy, Commander Battleship Division One.
    Captain F. Van Valkenburgh, U.S. Navy, Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Arizona.
    Captain M.S. Bennion, U.S. Navy, Commanding Officer, U.S.S. West Virginia
  • Conduct of personnel. In separate correspondence Commander Battleships has submitted to the Commander-in-Chief a report of the distinguished conduct of various individuals, as well as the ships’ companies in general. Commander Battleships cannot, however, conclude this report without paying homage to the universal exhibition of courage and magnificent fighting spirit by absolutely all the personnel of the battleships. Their conduct was in accord with the highest traditions of the Service.

And remember that only includes the Battleships at Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese fleet also left behind it the most implacable foe there is: the determined and united people of the United States. ADM Halsey’s comment is an indicator: “When this war is over, Japanese will be spoken only in Hell”. It nearly came to that. The casualty projections for the invasion of Japan ran to over 1 Million American casualties only, the only other alternatives were for the Navy to starve the entire country while the Air Force burned it down. Every American (and Japanese) should thank their God for the Atom Bomb for this was the future it prevented. And as the Confederate Air Force has said: “There would have been no Hiroshima without Pearl Harbor”.

It probably should be noted that nearly the entire Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and Royal Australian Navy, as well as the US Atlantic Fleet, were in the process of joining the US Pacific fleet, which had long since become (by far) the most powerful fleet in the history of the world. Also transhipping were the Allied armies that had defeated Nazi Germany. Götterdämmerung had come for the Japanese as it had for the Germans before them. Every memoir of those men I have read states more or less explicitly that none (repeat none) of them expected to survive. The implacable free people of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, the Philippine Islands, and even Soviet Russia had made the world (mostly) free, again.

We live in a world shaped by tragedies inflicted on the United States, 9/11 has been very influential in our lives but, Pearl Harbor is even more so. It taught us again that freedom is never free, if we don’t defend it, it will pass as it did, for a time, for many of our allies. It also taught us that when America leads anything is possible.

English: General Douglas MacArthur signs as Su...

The Surrender in Tokyo Bay: Image via Wikipedia

The Pacific Campaign was marked by a series of terrible battles in some of the most inhospitable of climates. Who can forget the battles that followed Pearl Harbor: Guadalcanal, the Coral Sea, The Mitchell raid, Corregidor and the Bataan Death march, Midway, the Marianas, Tarawa, the Liberation of the Philippines, Iwo Jima and the flag, Okinawa, and that final scene in Tokyo Bay, where MacArthur and Wainwright accepted the Japanese surrender on the deck of one of the most powerful battleships ever built: The USS Missouri.  All of this happened in only 44 Months.

English: "Remember December 7th" US ...

Image via Wikipedia

People my age knew the men who fought all those battles, they were our heroes. Combat may not have been realistic but it fired our admiration. Ensign George Gay, the sole survivor of Torpron 8 at Midway, grew up about 10 miles from where I did. They deserve our memories today because 76 years ago they started the counterattack that built the free (and mostly peaceful) world we have known all our life. We seldom remember that the Pax Americana has mostly held since 1945, we owe a debt to those men (and women), our parents (and mostly grandparents now) that we will never be able to repay except by keeping the peace and freedom they won.

As we sit here in the world that these men and women bequeathed us, we need to remember that while those enemies of freedom were defeated utterly and at great cost, freedom still has enemies. North Korea and Iran have once again put us in the position that America (and the world) faces a nuclear Pearl Harbor. While we might survive such a thing, it is far from a given that we will, that is why we must prevent it. The survival of humanity itself depends on us this time.


About NEO
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10 Responses to Day of Infamy

  1. NEO says:

    And do please read this as well, Pearl Harbor


  2. the unit says:

    Well, we know the rumors of what did Roosevelt know and when did he know it. I don’t know about that. According to Today in History he was pretty much fooled by what he thought was so on December 6, 1941. I guess he said to himself “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” and knew what had to be said and done after December 7, 1941.
    This day before Pearl Harbor was news to me, and I guess it’s so.
    And yes, surely today we know it’s still true that freedom is never free.

    Liked by 2 people

    • NEO says:

      There were some reports, as I recall, but I suspect that most thought Pearl was a bunch of bridges too far. The Philippines? Sure, but Pearl? Really? But the Japanese muffed it, if they’d taken out the oil farm it would have been much worse.

      Yep, that is simply axiomatic, always has been, always will be.

      Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        So far nothing done yet has meant…”This means war.” Sooner or later though, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          I do too.


      • Indeed why they (the Japanese attack) did NOT take out the oil? What providence for the Americans!

        Liked by 2 people

        • NEO says:

          I’d have to guess it was lack of vision. Strange though since their major worry was the cutoff of oil to Japan. Providence works for me.


        • the unit says:

          Good question.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on boudicabpi2015.


  4. Btw, I got to stand on the USS Arizona Memorial, just after my time in Nam. It was quite moving! Many Americans Marines died on that ship too! Semper Fi to them, and of course the US Navy!


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