Sunday, December 11, 2016

Post-75th – The Legacy of Pearl Harbor

Review by Bill Doughty

Parts II and III: Strike! to Victory...

Pearl Harbor survivor Donald Stratton renders a salute as USS Halsey (DDG 97) performs a Pass-in-Review during the 75th Anniversary National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)
USS Arizona Seaman 1st Class Don Stratton represented all Pearl Harbor survivors in returning the salute of guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey at the Navy's and National Park Service's Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony – the 75th anniversary commemoration held at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam last week.

Young Sailor Don Stratton
In "Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness" author Craig Nelson quotes Stratton, who remembers his injuries: "'Both my legs were burn pretty bad,' Stratton said, 'My legs, arms, face, my hair. Lost a couple of tattoos ... don't recommend that way to get rid of 'em...'"

Nelson provides short vignettes of dozens of warfighters impacted by Imperial Japan's attack on Oahu. He introduces readers to John Finn, Peter Tomich, Lee Soucy, Max Middlesworth, Sterling Cale and Dorie Miller, among others.

He reports, "A great many of America's servicemen at this moment were teenagers or young men, untried by life and untested by combat – of the forty thousand enlisted men on Oahu in 1941, the average age was nineteen." And, "All were bonded by that special tick of the heart that make a life of duty."

Young men who were coming of age were branded by what they saw and experienced. But their preferred lasting memories were the days before the attack, according to Nelson. Those memories include "battles of the bands," such as those involving the USS Arizona Band. Every member of the band was killed on Dec. 7, 1941.

Imperial General Quarters; the Emperor seen as a "living god."
"Many Pearl Harbor survivors would, for decades, hold vivid and precise memories not so much of December 7 as of December 6, since that was the last moment they were with so many, many friends who would be taken from them." But all would have images of the attack and the war branded in their minds for a lifetime.

Nelson does not hold back in his vivid description of the violence and gore of the war in the Pacific.

His timely and well-researched book offers drama of the lead-up to the war, of the actual attack, and in the aftermath, including conspiracy theories. His lead-up to the attack is covered in our previous post showing the various roads that led to war, both political – as the military controlled the civilian government and populace, actively promoting patriotism in the guise of and faith-based nationalism and xenophobia. 

Matsuoka Yosuke, Japan's foreign minister in 1940-41, pictured on the cover of Time magazine, at left, orchestrated the tripartite pact with Germany and Italy. Matsuoka advocated for war against Russia and then the United States in the name of the emperor.

Imperial Japan's attack originated from a racist and religious extremist belief in racial superiority, exemplified in a verse by poet and war advocate Takamura Kotaro that include these lines:

Nippon, the Land of the Gods
Ruled by a living God

The "reluctant admiral," Adm. Yamamoto Isoroku, famously warned of awakening a sleeping giant – the United States – and instilling a "terrible resolve." Nelson describes that resolve, starting with heroic recovery, salvage and restoration in Pearl Harbor:
"The miracle of muscle and engineering that restored the American fleet at Pearl Harbor would continue on a grand scale in the United States, where a secret group of heroes now began turning the tide of war. The most brilliant of generals, the most inspiring of admirals, and the greatest of battlefield troops would pale in significance to the thousands of American Rosie and Ronnie the Riveters who outproduced both the Axis and the other Allied powers combined, contributing nearly three hundred thousand tanks to Roosevelt's arsenal of democracy in 1943. Like all wars, the winners of World War II were the guys with the most ships, guns, and planes; in 1944, Joseph Stalin even proposed a toast to the productivity of the American assembly live."
Why did Japan's warmongers prevail over the diplomats in bringing about the infamous attack? The militarists took control of the government and the press, and the people in power made irrational assumptions and decisions, which the largely uninformed populace followed blindly.
" the end, Japanese emotion won out over rational action. Starting with the fundamental theory – that killing thousands of Americans in a surprise attack would trigger the United States to falter and surrender – and ending with the decision to wage war – during which dozens in Tokyo, from graduate students to finance, foreign, naval, and prime minister, told the army that fighting the United States was nonsensical – Japan's course to pearl Harbor was irrational in the extreme. Sense, in the end, did not carry the day."
Stars & Stripes page one featuring Adm. "Bull" Halsey. 
Nelson shows how "The Pearl Harbor attack set in motion a series of events that rippled across the Pacific," to include an early turning point for the United States Navy – the Battle of Midway.

For the American Military "Remember Pearl Harbor" was a rallying cry. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's description of "infamy" captured the depth of shock of an adversary's deception – attacking under the cover of diplomacy:

"If the holocaust defined evil for the Americans of WWII, Dec. 7 was the embodiment of malignant treachery," Nelson writes.

"Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness" concludes with a hopeful context – that the world would learn the lessons of history.
"With a rage ignited by Tokyo, a confidence born with Doolittle, and the great idealism of ensuring such a thing would never happen again, Pearl Harbor's greatest legacy is our nation's continuing struggle to make sure that there will never be a World War III. Whatever you think of the United States of America, its foreign policy, its military, and its actions overseas, the world at overall peace since 1943 has been an American goal and an American triumph. What could be a greater legacy to those who served and died in World War II, beginning at Pearl Harbor?"
Pearl Harbor survivor Don Stratton gives his perspective as to why world leaders should commit to lasting peace: "'I seen everything that went on there, and I tell you what. There was more courage and more heroics and more valor and more sacrifice that day than a human being ought to see in ten lifetimes."

Minutes before Hawaii-homeported USS Halsey saluted USS Arizona, Don Stratton and survivors at the main ceremony last Wednesday in Pearl Harbor, the ship and its crew saluted USS Utah on the other side of Ford Island. USS Utah survivor Gil Meyer returned the salute for all of his shipmates past and present.
161207-N-QE566-008 PEARL HARBOR (Dec. 07, 2016) (right) Retired Chief Petty Officer Gilbert Meyer, a USS Utah and Pearl Harbor survivor, and Capt. Jeffrey Rathbun, U.S. Pacific Fleet Command Deputy Director, Logistics, Engineering and Security Cooperation, return honors to USS Halsey (DDG 97) as the ship sailed past the USS Utah Memorial in Pearl Harbor as part of a pass in review and salute to USS Arizona and Pearl Harbor survivors Dec. 7.  (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Corwin M. Colbert)

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