Sixty-seven years ago today, the Japanese conducted a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that changed the nation, and the world, forever. The clip below combines footage from the Japanese Imperial Navy, the US, and some cheesy re-enactments to provide a compelling reminder of the destruction that day:
Before World War II, the US was an isolationist nation struggling through a protracted economic disaster, mostly uninterested in foreign entanglements. After this attack, America began its quick march to becoming a superpower projecting its might around the world. Pearl Harbor provided the impetus for that transformation, with a nation vowing never to be taken by surprise again — and succeeding for almost 60 years in preventing it.
If you have not read William Shirer’sThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, I’d recommend it for today’s reading. Shirer recounts the attack from the German perspective, and Hitler’s ambivalence about it. While he admired the Japanese for attacking without warning, he felt that they had acted rashly and too early. He wanted Japan to focus on the British in the Indian Ocean, not the Americans in the Pacific, in order to bring the UK to its knees and subjugated to Nazi Germany. Despite his military treaty with Japan, Hitler initially hesitated to declare war on the US, hoping to keep them sidelined. FDR head-faked Hitler into declaring war first in the end, overcoming initial Congressional resistance to fight a two-front war.
Almost 3,000 died that day in a war they didn’t know they were in. That has its own parallels to 9/11. Let’s remember all Americans who died in cowardly sneak attacks today, especially those who gave their lives 67 years ago as a painful beginning for the modern American nation.