USS Arizona burning Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941
Yesterday, Josh Earnest, outgoing Obama White House spokesperson, had the effrontery at a press conference to accuse the few survivors and their generations of families and WWII vets to get over their being ‘embittered’ over the Japanese sneak attack that resulted in 2,117 dead and 960 missing and presumed dead on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941. Earnest apparently conveyed the President’s concern over gestures towards the visit by Japanese Premier Abe who will accompany Obama paying a visit to the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii signifying “comfort” but no apologies on behalf of all Japanese citizens on the 75th commemoration. Abe is the first Japanese Prime Minister to make such a visit in memoriam to the victims of the Pearl Harbor attack. The President and Premier Abe will be holding their last summit before the President’s final term in office ends.
That dastardly attack is forever engraved in American history of WWII as “the day that will live in infamy” intoned by FDR at the rostrum of a joint session of Congress on Monday, December 8th when he declared War against the forces of Imperial Japan.
The toll at Pearl Harbor stood until the morning of 9/11 when 15 Saudi, Egyptian and Yemeni Islamikaze of Al Qaeda seized commercial air flights at Boston’s Logan Airport, Newark International Airport and Dulles International Airport in Virginia destroying the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan, taking out a section of the Pentagon and being overcome by the heroic passengers on board Flight 93 forcing it to crash in a field in southwestern Pennsylvania. The sneak attack of 9/11, what we and other’s have called the Pearl Harbor of the 21st Century killed more than 2,996 injured 6,000 others.
There is something more productive that the Obama White could do in the remaining weeks of its second and final term in office. They could right a wrong done to the Pacific Fleet commander, Admiral Husband Kimmel and US Army, Lt. General Walter Short. They were relieved of commands, demoted one star each, and falsely accused of incompetence that day. Reinstating their full ranks along with absolving them of unfounded accusations with apologies to their families and service colleagues is long overdue.
The story that emerged is one of slipshod communications by the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and protection of the breaking of the Japanese Diplomatic and Naval codes by the US in the 1930’s. Monitoring of those reports revealed the Japanese Imperial government intent that upon the breakdown of oil boycott negotiations with the FDR Administration, Japan would declare war and unleash the attack. The CNO archives revealed a memo on December 4, 1941 revealing their Japanese intent but the Pacific fleet command was belatedly alerted. Earlier Admiral Kimmel had made repeated requests for long range reconnaissance aircraft that might have detected the fleet of six carriers approaching the Hawaiian Islands under radio silence. Then there was the confusion over radar signals that morning, given the simultaneous arrival of a squadron of B-17s from the West Coast. 353 torpedo, dive bombers and fighters swept in from the north of Oahu to unleash their attack and destruction at Hickham Field, Schofield Barracks and scuttling of the Pacific fleet inflicted grievous harm on sailors, soldiers, airmen, nurses and civilians.
Naval Marshal General Isoroku Yamamato graduate of the US Naval War College and Harvard University, who planned, assembled and executed the surprise attack was famously quoted on January 9, 1942 saying: “A military man can scarcely pride himself on having ‘smitten a sleeping enemy’; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack.” That successful counterattack came six months later in the Battle of Midway, when Naval intelligence, and a decision by Pacific Commander Admiral Nimitz, scored a major victory sinking four of the six carriers involved in the Pearl Harbor attack- the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu. Yamamoto was eventually targeted by Naval intelligence and his Japanese command aircraft and escort fighters were ambushed in Operation Vengeance by a USAAF squadron of P-38 “lightnings” on April 18, 1943, over Buin, Papua, New Guinea.
There are two engrossing PBS documentaries that will reprise on December 7, 2016, about battleships attacked 75 years ago on December 7, 1941. One is a poignant story about the return of remains to the grandchildren for closure and interment of a young ensign who served on board the Oklahoma, a Naval Academy grad and communications officer, who perished that day. The PBS documentary includes surviving eye witness testimony.
Watch: “Pearl Harbor USS Oklahoma Final Story.”
The second documentary is an amazing video of a visit paid to the Arizona by expert scuba divers and underwater video personnel from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Research Center in Massachusetts and US Park Service experts, watched by a survivor of the Arizona bombing who was horribly burned that day
Watch: “Into the Arizona.”
Thus, the Obama White House warning to Pearl Harbor survivors their generations of families and all WW II veterans falsely accused of “feeling embittered” deserve an apology. In sharp contrast they recognize closure on their pain of loss from the visit of Japanese Premier Abe and his “comfort’ for the victims on this 75th commemoration of Pearl Harbor.