At Dawn, We Slept

By | December 7, 2020

[December 7, 2020]  December 7, 1941, at 7:53 a.m., Japanese warplanes attacked the U.S. Naval fleet at Pearl Harbor.1  Much has been written in America about the attack – the lessons learned from it and how a weaker yet innovative enemy can blindside a large and powerful nation.

In a famous speech, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt declared the attack as a date that “will live in infamy.”  He made it “very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.”  He was wrong.  Nearly 60 years later, terrorists struck the United States in another surprise attack on our soil and threw the nation into another war.

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Of course, there are lessons we can learn from this tragedy.  I wrote about a few of them two years ago in an article titled, Pearl Harbor: Lessons from the Attack.  These lessons are – 1) never underestimate your enemy, 2) political unanimity can fail, and 3) the signs of war are often visible for all to see.

Is it true that leaders are too often prejudiced in their vision of reality that they cannot predict such events.  Or, are such terrible acts simply Pink Flamingo or Black Swan happenings to deal with only when they occur?2  We all know too well the tragedy of failed leadership.  Today, we see it in our city and state political leaders who adopt programs and policies that repeatedly fail the inner-city poor.3

Prior to WWII, for example, Japan had been on a collision course with the U.S..  Japan saw the U.S. as its main rival for supremacy in the Pacific.  In the late 1930s, the U.S. adopted economic sanctions intended to end Japanese aggression against China.  These had precisely the opposite effect on the military-dominated government of Tokyo.

At Dawn We Slept is the name of a book by Gordon W. Prange that says as much in the title.  I doubt anyone could have come up with a better name.  The dawn attack on Pearl Harbor was successful because the U.S. was unprepared.  It does not mean that we did not have the proper equipment, training, or deployment of forces.  It meant a failure to appreciate the ‘will’ of a determined enemy.

The will to succeed is important, but what’s more important is the will to prepare.”  – Bobby Knight

I’m reminded of the story of Alex Horanzy.  U.S. Army private Horanzy was sleeping early on the morning of December 7, 1941, as he and his unit were up all night guarding airfields on Pearl Harbor.  The Japanese attack woke him and his buddies.  They ran for the antiaircraft guns, some being killed along the way.

They operated the guns until the attack was over.  Shortly after that, he was sent to fight the Japanese throughout the rest of the war.  Mr. Hornazy passed away at 98 years of age.  There are many like Alex Horanzy. We should all salute heroes like him.


  1. This article’s thumbnail is taken from the book’s cover, At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor (2001) by Gordon W. Prange. Actually, Prange did the research, and Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon wrote the book.  Prange passed away in 1980.  The book is thoroughly researched, and the thick volume covers considerable detail about the year leading up to the attack.  I recommend it.
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

29 thoughts on “At Dawn, We Slept

  1. Nick Lighthouse

    Just ran across you article this morning while looking for a different kind of Dec 7th article. Thanks Gen. Satterfield for introducing reliable lessons from the past in such an interesting way.

  2. Sadako Red

    Gen. Satterfield has written an excellent introduction of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy. It is not accident that he brings this up today and briefly points to lessons learned. Please do not pass by that point for it is crucial for the understanding of great leadership that we know the past in order to exist with less risk today. Read about Pearl Harbor and absorb the lessons. Read more of Gen. Satterfield and of his blog specifically. You will be surprised what you can learn in just a few minutes a day.

  3. old warrior

    Hey, great job Gen. Satterfield. Kicked some butt today with this article!!!!

    1. Dale Paul Fox

      Old Warrior, you are “da man.” Always looking forward to reading what you have to say.

    2. Dennis Mathes

      Yeah!!! You nearly got me to spit my coffee up thru my nose. Thank you old warrior.

  4. Doug Smith

    At first, I thought this article would be a review of the book At Dawn We Slept (2001). But it wasn’t and good for Gen. Satterfield. Yes, there are several books that should be required reading of those interested in learning about leadership. This book is a good one and well researched. But there are others as well. Gen. Satterfield pointed out several lessons learned from that day and he also has two articles in his Daily Favorites that give us some additional lessons. Go there and read them, thank you.

  5. Willie Shrumburger

    There are many books and articles out on Pearl Harbor. If we want to get a good grounding in the lessons learned, I highly recommend we read several of them and not rely on one or two. When we begin to find patterns in those lessons, then there is something to them to remember. Thanks all for marking today as something special.

  6. JT Patterson

    The real question for us is, “Did we learn our lesson from Pearl Harbor?” The US Navy did learn it. They never again lined up all their main battleships in one location except when Pres Obama ordered them to do so. Again, another example of stupidity at the most senior levels of politicians who think they know better.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Stupid is as stupid does. Pres Obama did order them to do so but I believe we were at less risk than in 1941 when we knew Japan was up to something. Pres Obama was interested in a “show”, not military maneauvering.

    2. Edward Kennedy III

      JT, this is really the 50 dollar question, “did we learn our lesson from Pearl Harbor?” I think we did but have also forgotten it. Why? Well, I’m neither a historian nor a psychologist but I think there are many human factors to why we forget and one of them is the hubris that we are smarter and morally superior to all others who came before us. That hubris is a bad thing.

      1. Jerome Smith

        Hi Mr. Kennedy. Great to hear from you again. Always a great pleasure to see you on Gen. Satterfield’s website. I’m looking forward to your next kick-ass article.

  7. Maureen S. Sullivan

    Another exceptional article in this blog by Gen. Satterfield. Once again, Gen. S, you have nailed it. I think that those lessons you’ve pointed out should be taped to every military man and woman’s uniform so that they are never forgotten. But it is our leaders that make or break us. That is why it is important to have an honorable process to select leaders.

    1. Wilson Cox

      Yes, exceptional article today on this very special day…. on that has truly lived in infamy.

    2. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      The concept of learning past lessons is not something we have managed to instill in our young. Just look at how socialism (and maybe yes communism) now inspires so many of our youth and a few dumbass twerps in politics. The reason is simple, lessons of the past are hard, socialism is easy.

      1. benrhodesatDOS

        Hi all, I’m new here but would like to contribute anyway. Otto’s comment about us not instilling past lessons for our youth is an imaginative comment, well deserving of support. I too think we have done our youth a disservice in school and at home. With COVID, things are WORSE OFF because of opportunities lost. Maybe Gen. Satterfield could start a column on lessons learned in war, peace, and business. Just thinking a little.

  8. Xavier Bordon

    Excellent article for one of the most special days to remember in US history. At Dawn, We Slept. Very appropriate.

  9. Tom Bushmaster

    Sunday, December 7, 1941, was, as President Roosevelt said, “a date which will live in infamy.” Fortunately, there are many fascinating accounts of that unforgettable day’s events.

  10. Army Captain

    The United States of 1941 was divided as much as today. They differed in that divisions were along geographic, social and racial lines. Those cracks sealed quickly after the Pearl Harbor attack, offering solid, unified public support for the government to act strongly and decisively. This cohesion shaped up quickly after the 2001 attacks as well.

    1. Randy Goodman

      Yes, thanks Army Captain. There are also many lessons learned from this divisiveness as well. Many of our politicians, esp Democrats, build their brand on divisiveness because they have no core values at all – other than political power.

      1. Greg Heyman

        Randy, your are spot-on with that comment. Thanks. I will add that it doesn’t look good if China Joe Biden gets into office. He will just be a paper in the wind with nothing behind him at all. Who will be the real powerbrokers?

      2. Len Jakosky

        All good comments today on such an important day. I talked to a kid the other day and he had never heard of the Japanese attk on pearl harbor. Interesting as much as it is sad.

    2. Eric Coda

      A divided USA. Wow, common refrain, but I’m not so sure. Yes, we have differences and there are patterns in our differences — that makes us human, not necessarily divided. Let’s figure this out together. I will agree – on the side – that a Joe Biden presidency in the USA will be very bad for our country. Too many people are able to LIE to themselves and deny it. Self denial is a psychological problem for them.

      1. H. M. Longstreet

        You got that one right Eric. BAM, BAM, BAM, listen to Eric, he knows what he is talking about.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.