Imprinting Pearl Harbor on our Memory

By | December 7, 2019

[December 7, 2019] Seventy-Eight years ago, at approximately 8 a.m., Imperial Japanese planes appeared over the Hawaiian island of Oahu.  Less than two hours later the surprise attack was over, and the American naval fleet in the Pacific lay in smoking ruins.  U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt declared the next day that this is a “date which will live in infamy.”1

There are good reasons that this attack on Pearl Harbor should be imprinted on our memory.  More than simple military lessons learned, such as don’t put all your ships in one place, we can extract more important ideas that influence our ability to prepare for the future and fight for today’s freedom of action.

First, some events are hard to predict.  In 1941, the U.S. was not surprised about entering a war with Japan but from how it began.  Catastrophic events are often unpredictable, and I’ve addressed that here in an earlier blog post (see link here).  We call them black swan events.2

Second, it’s hard to anticipate the unintended consequences of our intended actions.  The Japanese won a great tactical victory over the United States in that attack but doomed themselves to lose the war.

Third, things will always go wrong, so have a backup plan.  Despite the U.S. Navy’s poor decision to consolidate much of its fleet, it did have a more important asset out of the area.  Aircraft carriers were now more important than battleships and were not at Pearl Harbor.  And the U.S. Pacific Navy headquarters had dispersed its shipbuilding and repair facilities, enabling a quick recovery.

Fourth, hope is not a plan.  Visualize what you want the future to be and make plans to accomplish it.  The old saying that you can’t hit what you don’t aim at is apropos.  Having a vision is what leaders do; they plan for the future, communicate their message, and take action to accomplish their vision of the future.

And fifth, mental attitude is more important than physical strength.  Napoléon Bonaparte once said that “an army of sheep, led by a lion, is better than an army of lions, led by a sheep.”  The strength of the mind determines whether we accomplish the mission and win the battles.  That is why we see so much written about our mental state.

Pearl Harbor was a tragedy for the United States.  But it provided the push we needed to defeat the evil empire of Japan.  The lessons here are why we should imprint this event at Pearl Harbor on our minds.


  1. Read the entire speech before the U.S. Congress and listen to the audio of President Franklin Roosevelt. See link here (audio 4:14)
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

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

23 thoughts on “Imprinting Pearl Harbor on our Memory

  1. Dennis Mathes

    Impressive. Dec 7th is a special day in US history. One we should never forget.

    1. Wesley Brown

      Good to see you here Dennis and thanks for reinforcing the idea that the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor should be remembered. If you want a real sense of it, visit Hawaii and see the memorials.

  2. Len Jakosky

    REMEMBER Pear Harbor. The lessons of a lack of preparedness should be very clear but for politicians, they work on a different level of logic than the ordinary person like you and I.

    1. Kenny Foster

      Why do we elect such politicians. Having a strong military is the only guarantee that crazy people don’t attack us. That may seem simple but it cannot ever be discounted. Strength is the way of humans since the beginning and will always be. Anyone who thinks war and conflict is outdated should realize that this is the common way we operate and that peace is an aberration.

  3. Bart Rhodes

    The best way to prevent your enemies from attacking you (militarily or otherwise) is to show how strong you are and that you have the will to fight. Wimps in the US Congress are pussies and the Iranians, Russians, and Chinese know it.

  4. Sadako Red

    And we, the good ole’ USA, kicked their butts. Don’t mess with the USA. Remember that the US is the only nation to use an atomic weapon in war. We have the willpower to do what it takes to defeat evil. We value strength, honor, and the truth. No progressive or liberal can change that despite their whining, mama-boy antics.

      1. Shawn C. Stolarz

        Please, General Satterfield, ask him back for another one of his hard-hitting aricles about Baltimore or any other liberal-dumbass city.

    1. Lady Hawk

      I’m also one of your fans since your first article. Please write again for Gen Satterfield and his blog. Oh, great comment.

  5. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    Less than five months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army Air Force launched B-25 bombers from the deck of the USS Hornet and bombed Tokyo. The raid was more an emotional victory than a strategic one, but attitude is important in winning a war.

  6. Ronny Fisher

    There are Pearl Harbor remembrance activities in my hometown today and I will be going to show my support for our military. Thanks all and have a great weekend.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      I agree that we should get liberal thinking people out of the history business, since they distort what really happened. Trying to blame the Japanese attack on America is whacko thinking but mainstream in so many “progressive liberals.”

      1. Yusaf from Texas

        This is why President Trump was elected as US Pres. He saw the deep state before most of us did. That’s why I’ll keep voting for him.

      2. Karl J.

        I don’t want to get too far off track on this important day but pointing out that the policies of the US govt at the time pressured Japan is correct. The fact that the Japanese leadership thought that attacking the US would change US policy was a disaster for them.

      3. JT Patterson

        This is why we need folks in the US Congress that are for the USA and not for neo-Marxism. The history of Marxism is there for us all to see (over 100 million deaths and counting).

  7. Eric Coda

    Before Pearl Harbor, people were not so interested in joining the war and wanted to remain isolated. After Pearl Harbor, the support for the war effort was almost unanimous.

  8. Army Captain

    The resulting Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was an extreme miscalculation by the Japanese government. With one blow Japan aroused and united a nation, which up to that day was still debating isolationism and pacifism, and that ultimately led to Japan’s demise.

    1. Roger Yellowmule

      Correct, Army Cpt. The Japanese glorified war, believing that it made their people stronger and more heroic. The Japanese believed that they were racially superior to the Chinese and especially the decadent Americans from the United States. We should learn that thinking you are superior to others, either racially or morally, has dire consequences.

      1. Harry Donner

        Well said, Roger. If more folks would think this way, we would have less conflict in the world.

    2. Greg Heyman

      Right! Never underestimate your enemy (or anyone for that matter). You will often feel the blade of death at your throat if you do.

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