Just a scant 9 years before I was born, our country experienced a wake up call that changed the world. The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 assured American involvement in World War II.
Recently there has been a lot of speculation as to who knew what when and if the attack could have been prevented. This Monday morning quarterbacking ignores the fact that the Japanese were in negotiations with the US just prior to the attack and that they intended to deliver a formal declaration of war 30 minutes prior to the attack, but failed to meet the timetable on the diplomatic front.
No matter, the fact was that the surprise attack spurred the US public into action and we jumped into the war with a vigor rarely seen before or since.
The final outcome of the attack was debilitating to the Pacific Fleet, but could have been worse. A proposed third wave attack on fuel and munition supplies was not carried out and arguably that would have had a far greater effect than the loss of ships. In the end, the words attributed to Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto were prophetic .
"I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."
Today, many people compare the attack on the World Trade Centers to Pearl Harbor. Though they were both surprise attacks and resulted in a great loss of life, the comparison is imprecise. 9-11 was an action carried out by a very small determined group of fanatics designed to terrorize our country and Pearl Harbor was a concerted peremptory attack designed to prevent the US from entering a conflict. Ultimately, Pearl Harbor failed, it only motivated us to join the war and eventually defeat the Japanese and Germans. 9-11 succeeded in wreaking terror on the US and ultimately change our way of life and freedom.
As we commemorate Pearl Harbor, it is well worth considering the resolve our country experienced just after the attack. We shared the sacrifice needed to commit to the war effort. Everyone in the country pulled together and did something to help. Had that kind of resolve and shared sacrifice been the result of 9-11 instead of the political manipulations and jingoism that followed we would have been far better off today.