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Thread: Pearl Harbor: Could It Have Been Prevented?

  1. #1
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    Pearl Harbor: Could It Have Been Prevented?

    Pearl Harbor: Could It Have Been Prevented?

    http://www.americanheritage.com/arti...sen-navy.shtml

    12/7/2005

    Franklin Roosevelt was right when he declared that December 7, 1941, was “a date which will live in infamy.” Today, 64 years later, the attack on Pearl Harbor continues to make its importance felt. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, young Americans understand as never before what it means to be struck without warning, with devastating consequences. Few, though, can really imagine the awful proportions of that moment in the Pacific.

    At 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning, the Japanese fleet in the Pacific launched 183 bombers and fighters. A little over an hour later, 170 more planes followed them. By 9:45, less than two hours after the first attack order was given, the Japanese planes had accomplished their mission. The U.S. forces in Hawaii lay in ruins. Nearly 2,400 American servicemen were dead, as were dozens of civilians. Of 394 U.S. aircraft based at three airstrips, the attack had destroyed 188 and damaged 154. The planes ravaged the U.S. naval forces, too, capsizing the battleships Oklahoma and Utah, sinking the California and West Virginia, and setting ablaze the Arizona. Photographs of Pearl Harbor after the attack show sheer devastation.

    The consequences of Japan’s actions were immediate and immense. On December 8 President Roosevelt gave his now-famous message to Congress announcing that the country had been attacked “suddenly and deliberately” and asking for a declaration of war. His request was granted, and the United States embarked on a military project that would transform the face of the earth and bring an end to two evil empires, Germany’s and Japan’s. Roosevelt would not live to see the war’s end, but his response to Pearl Harbor set the United States on a course that would liberate the Pacific, defeat the Nazis at Normandy, split the atom, and bring the American economy to a point of unprecedented strength and prosperity.

    Yet as much as there is to be proud of in the American reaction to Japan’s attack, there are lingering questions about the event itself that continue to occupy historians and their readers. In our own age of uncertainty and fear, when the notion of a surprise attack by air is much more than a distant memory, it is not surprising that Americans have again begun to ask a troubling question: Could the attack on Pearl Harbor have been prevented?

    The question is not a new one. Not long after the attack, various investigations were begun to analyze the run-up to Pearl Harbor and discover if the government had missed opportunities to take protective action. Numerous failures to use intelligence properly were found, but nothing like a broad conspiracy was ever detected. More recently, certain historians have been less cautious in their assessments of the events directly preceding the attack.

    Some have criticized President Roosevelt, alleging that he knew of the attacks in advance and allowed them to occur, or that he failed to conduct effective diplomacy through his secretary of state, Cordell Hull. Others, like Robert Stinnett, author of Day of Deceit: the Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor, have suggested an even more insidious history. Stinnett argues that a “systematic plan had been in place long before Pearl Harbor that would climax with the attack,” and he tells his readers that Roosevelt made a “decision to provoke Japan into a bloody and terrible war that ultimately took millions of lives,” in order to win public support for going to war against Germany. Still others believe that England intercepted key Japanese communications–but withheld them in order to gain America’s help against Hitler.

    These theses, while provocative, are fiercely contested by other historians. Henry C. Clausen, the man first appointed by Stimson to investigate the attack, fully articulated his well-informed opinion not long after the publication of Stinnett’s controversial book. In his own 2001 book, Pearl Harbor: Final Judgement, Clausen agrees with Stinnett that the attack on Pearl Harbor could have been stopped. But he does not lay blame at the feet of President Roosevelt. Rather he highlights specific instances of failure by other of America’s civil and military authorities.

    In one agonizing moment, he describes a naval intelligence officer’s failure to report the final section of a fourteen-part message from Japan to the Emperor’s diplomats in Washington, D.C., ordering them to break off all diplomatic contact with the United States. That message was intercepted late at night on December 6, 1941. The final section arrived around midnight; the officer on duty didn’t deliver it because he “did not want to disturb the usual recipients who were probably at home asleep.” With the knowledge contained in that message, the United States could have ordered its military forces, including those at Pearl Harbor, to prepare for an imminent attack. Some of Clausen’s harshest words are reserved for Adm. Husband E. Kimmel and Gen. Walter C. Short, two leading officers at Pearl Harbor. In his view, they ignored ample evidence of immediate danger and failed to adequately communicate their own observations to Washington.

    The debate over whether Pearl Harbor could have been prevented will surely rage on, as will similar debates over the terrorist attacks of 2001. Whether or not Roosevelt, Short, or Kimmel could have stopped Japan’s assault, though, no one can contest the fact that they failed to do so. The devastation of that infamous day is real and lives on in the recorded memories of its survivors. In one such recollection, printed in the 2001 book Pearl Harbor Survivors, Norman Robarr, a naval serviceman aboard the USS Trever, gives voice to his memories of the Arizona. It was in the explosion of that battleship that more than half of Pearl Harbor’s casualties perished.

    “One night about a week before the attack I was aboard the battleship Arizona watching the ship’s movie,” Robarr says. He continues, “I’d like to quietly go aboard Arizona again. And there be alone with my thoughts… . Then I’d like to get on the plane and leave–never looking back.”

    —Alexander Burns, an undergraduate at Harvard College, is a frequent contributor to AmericanHeritage.com
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  2. #2
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    "The debate over whether Pearl Harbor could have been prevented will surely rage on, as will similar debates over the terrorist attacks of 2001."

    Not if I have anything to say about it.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  3. #3
    jetsetlemming Guest
    I'm sure the government planned and executed Pearl Harbor themselves, right, Gold? Of course, it makes perfect sence! Just look at the shape of the holes the zeros made in the ships, and it's clear they were really missles!

  4. #4
    jetsetlemming Guest
    Oh, and there were bombs aboard the ships, too.

  5. #5
    jetsetlemming Guest
    Not that I'm trying to be a dick, of course.

  6. #6
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    Are you talking to me?
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  7. #7
    Partridge Guest

  8. #8
    jetsetlemming Guest
    No, just saying anything that comes to mind. I'm bored, so it tends to be very random and pointless. btw, why did you say that the discussion about 9/11 wouldn't continue if you could help it? That came out kinda strange...

  9. #9
    jetsetlemming Guest
    wow, that guy goes on and on about nothing, doesn't he? There's a lot of filler in that article.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by jetsetlemming
    No, just saying anything that comes to mind. I'm bored, so it tends to be very random and pointless. btw, why did you say that the discussion about 9/11 wouldn't continue if you could help it? That came out kinda strange...
    If I have anything to say about it, there won't be a need for a debate regarding 9/11.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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