The "Hawaii Operation"
Sixty-seven years ago this morning, 353 Japanese naval aircraft launched from six aircraft carriers in two waves attacked the United States Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. When they were finished, four U.S. battleships were sunk and four damaged. They also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, one minelayer, destroyed 188 aircraft and killed 2,402 sailers, soldiers, marines and civilians. 1,282 were wounded. Japanese losses were minimal in what their Imperial General Headquarters called "the Hawaii Operation."
The Japanese had confidence that they could win a short war against the soft and arrogant Americans. They found out differently. It was, in retrospect, one of the greatest strategic errors of the war, ranking right up there with the German attack on the Soviet Union and Hitler's gratuitous declaration of war on the U.S. the day after Pearl Harbor. Indeed, had someone been able to explain to the Japanese what lay in store for them, they might not have been so grasping.
This attack had been both expected and predicted by some in the U.S. military. War between Japan and the United States had been a possibility since the 1920s, though tensions did not begin to grow seriously until Japan's 1931 invasion of Manchuria. When Japan invaded French Indochina in 1940, the United States placed an embargo on oil exports to Dai Nippon. It was expected by many that this would cause the Japanese to strike at the oil-rich Dutch East Indies. Still, in both countries there were "pragmatists" who hoped to avoid war. The payoff for their efforts was the charnel house that was Pearl Harbor on the afternoon 7 December 1941.
Pearl Harbor, the surprise attack on a nation at peace, has been used as metaphor for other surprises since then. 11 September 2001 was rightly said to have been a "Pearl Harbor," even though it was carried out by non-state actors. The economic meltdown has been described as a "domestic Pearl Harbor," albeit one by negligent suicide.
In truth, the enemies of the Founders' Republic are more domestic than foreign these days and the new administration will likely bring a greater threat of subversion to their vision of free people and free markets, of individual liberty and right to property, than has ever been seen in our history.
We must do two things, this 67th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. We must remember our honored dead who gave up their lives in defense of their country. Second, we must consider the lesson of Pearl Harbor as applied to our new domestic reality. There are really two nations within our borders. We are as divided philosophically as any people ever have been short of civil war.
Is it beyond comprehension that one side, believing itself to be in the right, may engage in a preemptive strike on the other in order to accomplish its purposes? And when it happens, won't people say in retrospect, "We should have seen that coming, it was perfectly predictable."?
The Japanese attacked because they saw a somnolent, smug and unready enemy, too trusting in the notion that "it can't happen here." How many today say the same thing?
Let us honor the fallen, this Sunday, 7 December, and try to prevent the next "surprise" attack on the Republic they gave their lives for.