[December 07, 2014] Today is a day to pay our respect to U.S. service members and civilians who were killed or wounded on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I have been fortunate to have spoken to several military survivors of the attack and hear their amazing stories of tragedy, fear, worry, and anger. Nearly all of those I spoke to went on to fight against either Japan or Germany during the war. They have my utmost respect.
I have always wondered about the lives of these men and women. I’ve talked to many military members who were in other wars and nothing so unique as having been in the surprise Pearl Harbor attack and then go on to fight and when done, go home and have a family and successful career. This is another reason my hat goes off to these great folks.
On another note, I’ve always wondered why the Japanese attacked the United States. It is true the U.S. had imposed crippling economic sanctions on Japan many months prior to the attack, had given a number of ultimatums for Japan to get out of China (and other countries they occupied militarily), and had generally treated Japan as a second-rate power. The Japanese on the other hand, viewed the U.S. as a paper tiger, its people living in a materialistic consumer society and lacking the stern discipline and attitude required of a great nation. This is the predominant view of historians.
What we also hear from some historians is that Japan knew they could not win a long war with the U.S. So, from a strategic standpoint it would seem to make no sense for Japan to attack the U.S. and risk going to war, a war that they would probably not win. While this is the prevailing view, I would like to add that others have suggested Japan vastly misunderstood the psyche of American citizens and their leadership. Thus, the attack could be considered a miscalculation, a very serious miscalculation.
The U.S. Congress declared war on Japan the day after the attack and would end with the dropping of two nuclear bombs on cities in Japan.
“I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.” – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt1
I write this today because the study of how people think is important in understanding people and why they do what they do. It can sometimes mean the difference in an accurate prediction or a miscalculation that lead to the death of millions.2
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 Text and audio of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech: http://www.radiochemistry.org/history/nuclear_age/06_fdr_infamy.shtml