Remembering Pearl Harbor

The Attack on Pearl Harbor that took place sixty-nine years ago from the date of this publication, has indeed lived in infamy within the collective memory of American citizens everywhere; just as President Roosevelt predicted.
The 2,402 soldiers lost and 1,282 who were injured will truly never be forgotten. They are remembered not simply because they gave their lives for our country, but because they took part in an event that perhaps has changed the way America as a whole approaches foreign policy. Isolationism, which is a foreign policy philosophy that focused on keeping the proverbial nose of a country out of the business of other countries, was the strategy employed by America in the years preceding the Pearl Harbor attacks. The events that occurred on December the seventh 1941, taught America –and perhaps the rest of the modern world– the hard to accept lesson that minding your own business cannot guarantee safety. The Pearl Harbor attacks themselves put a serious limp into the swagger of America’s pacific fleet. In fact, upon joining the war effort, the allies had very few playable chips in the pacific theatre. Three days after the attack, the British Navy suffered the sinking of both the HMS Prince of Whales and the HMS Repulse at the Naval Battle off Malaya. With the sinking of these two vessels, the Pacific Allied force (which now included America) was comprised of only three capital ships: the USS Enterprise, USS Lexington and USS Saratoga (all aircraft carriers). Upon learning of this additional decisive Japanese victory, England’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the following statement:

“In all the war, I never received a more direct shock… As I turned over and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in upon me. There were no British or American ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl Harbor, who were hastening back to California. Over all this vast expanse of waters Japan was supreme, and we everywhere were weak and naked.”

This telling proclamation was indeed accurate, as the Japanese forces faced nothing but submarines in the south pacific until the Battle off Endau on the 27th of January 1942. However, the newly trimmed American Pacific fleet would make the most of their remaining resources, employing submarine and carriers effectively throughout the rest of the war. The Navy realized that the battleships that were lost were actually not necessary in modern naval combat, a realization that may not have happened so soon had this event not occurred. In essence, the attacks on Pearl Harbor helped to propel America into adopting a more modern approach to ocean based warfare, which would have been demanded eventually whether the attack occurred or not. The Japanese, who maintained a naval force that was rich in battleships, did not gain this hard won insight. Instead, they remained committed to their fleet of Battleships, commissioning the monstrously enormous battleships Yamato and Musashi. With eighteen-inch-plus main guns and water displacement when fully loaded of 72,800 tons, these two imposing vessels were the largest and best armed battleships ever constructed. Commissioned shortly after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, December the 16th 1941 marked the Yamamoto’s appointment as the flagship of a Japanese fleet that would soon learn that sheer brute strength is not still the best approach to ocean combat. This is not to say that the Japanese did not understand the importance of aircraft carriers, as they used six of their own to launch the attack waves. They simply maintained a focus on Battleships when their use was becoming impractical, and did not adjust their naval strategy accordingly. To dedicate a very large amount of limited resources to the construction of two of the most imposing pieces of already semi-obsolete military machinery ever constructed, will certainly set any effort back significantly. With a fleet of powerful aircraft carriers, numerous submarines, cruisers and destroyers, and an almost limitless supply of aircraft, the US Pacific fleet was both nimble and ably far reaching. Combined with the spirit of an invigorated country, and the research of some of the world’s most brilliant scientists, America and the allies eventually crushed the axis forces, freeing the world from the grip of its most devastating act of international conflict ever. In the years following World War II, America would conduct successful operations across the world, thanks in large part to their powerful fleet of aircraft carriers and submarines. No longer did the United States wait for the battle to be brought to them. Though many might criticize Americas active foreign policy, the fact that no military presence has reigned it’s fury into America is certainly a sign that something is being done correctly. To be the world’s most active and powerful nation for over a half of a century puts a huge target on the back of any population. Thanks to our wide reaching military presence that was trimmed and formed by necessity after Pearl Harbor, no bomb has been dropped on American soil since that infamous date. As we remember the sacrifices made all those years ago, let us appreciate the fact that their lives were not lost in vain. These men are immortalized among the distinguished company of more than 400,000 US soldiers who valiantly gave their lives fighting to push back the axis forces. In addition to that, their sacrifice helped America learn an invaluable lesson about how to approach the terrible ordeal of modern warfare in such a way as to keep its horrors far away from the white picket fence surrounded backyards of Americans everywhere. The American Dream was granted a safe place to be sought after the fires of Pearl Harbor were quelled as America was forced to re-think its military strategy. America demonstrated her true heart in the years following Pearl Harbor, and the state of alert (the fact that we are constantly at the ready in oceans and land bases across the world) inspired in large part by these tragic events, helps to suppress large scale warfare across the entire face of the world. Pearl Harbor will never be forgotten because it has become the precedent for what can happen when aggression is left unchecked by those with the power to stop it.

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