Saturday, December 7, 2019

Beyond Pearl Harbor: Things You Probably Didn't Know About the Day of Infamy

Bombing of Pearl Harbor. Photo: U.S. Navy. Public domain.

The USS West Virginia was struck by 6 torpedoes and 2 bombs.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japan launched a sneak attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, as part of a plan to eliminate any potential challenge to Japanese conquests in Asia.*

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The Japanese attack force—which included six aircraft carriers and 420 planes—sailed from Hitokappu Bay in the Kurile Islands, on a 3,500 mile voyage to a staging area 230 miles off the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

The attack killed 2,403 service members and wounded 1,178 more, and sank or destroyed six U.S. ships,. They also destroyed 169 U.S. Navy and Army Air Corps planes.*

More than half the fatalities were on the USS Arizona . 
THERE ARE a lot of things that happened that are seldom noted when we remember this historic event. That same day, the Japanese followed up with assaults on the Philippines, Guam, Midway Island and the Wake Islands. They also attacked the British colonies of Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong. Soon after they invaded Thailand. Within months all of these were conquered, the Japanese flag flying over all.

Most history books describe the assault on these Southwest Pacific islands as taking place the next day. The history books state that they were bombed and attacked on December 8. This is because the International Date Line is West of Hawaii. The Japanese, according to their history books, place the attack on Pearl Harbor as having occurred on December 8.

10 Peso Note in Philippines. Colonies had U.S. notables on their money.
What I also find interesting is that in our contemporary minds, we consider the attack on Hawaii an attack on the United States when in reality Hawaii was no more a state than the Philippines, Guam or the Wake Islands. In fact, all of these island territories had been colonies of the United States at one time. Because the term "colony" was out of favor and politically incorrect, we began calling them territories.. (Hawaii became a state in 1959.) Not only did Japan attack all of these, the Japanese soon overran these others completely.

16 million Filipinos, who saluted the U.S. flag and called FDR their commander-in-chief, were no longer free. You can see whose face is on their 10-peso bill (above), reminding them who holds the cards.

Losses at Wake Island. (National Archives)
The bombing of American airfields made us unable to defend these territories and by Christmas the U.S. abandoned Manila to the Japanese with the colony easily overrun. Within a couple days of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. forces in Guam and the Wake Islands had already surrendered after their planes were destroyed while still on the ground.

President Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech to the nation downplayed the losses of the Western Pacific, and up-played the significance of Hawaii. Even though the colony was 3/4s Asian and Pacific Islanders, FDR elevated the status of Hawaii by calling it an "American island." His intent was to end our nation's isolationist stance. He could now, with the support of the people, enter the war.

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Related Links
Pearl Harbor Facts
The Infamy Speech by FDR
Some of the information in this blog post comes from the introduction to Daniel Immerwahr's How to Hide an Empire

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