Day of Infamy: The Classic Account of the Bombing of Pearl Harbor

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In a historic six-minute speech, President Roosevelt made the grim announcement: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan . . . ." In Day of Infamy, Walter Lord traces in brilliant detail the human drama of the great attack: the spies behind it; the Japanese pilots; the crews on the stricken warships; the men at the airfields and on the bases; the generals, the sailors, the ...

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In a historic six-minute speech, President Roosevelt made the grim announcement: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan . . . ." In Day of Infamy, Walter Lord traces in brilliant detail the human drama of the great attack: the spies behind it; the Japanese pilots; the crews on the stricken warships; the men at the airfields and on the bases; the generals, the sailors, the housewives, and the children who responded to the attack with anger, numbness, and magnificent courage. 

Day of Infamy is an inspiring human document of one of the truly great epics of American history. 

Walter Lord is the author of several best-selling works of history, including A Night to Remember, a re-creation of the sinking of the Titanic. He lives in New York City.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The 60th anniversary edition of a truly classic book. Lord's stirring account of the unexpected Pearl Harbor aerial attack has had a powerful effect on more than a million readers.
Library Journal
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that precipitated U.S. involvement in World War II is described here by the participants themselves. Author Lord performed an enormous amount of research, some of which is described at the recording's end, and spent considerable time locating and interviewing survivors from both sides of the battle. Tom Parker gives an excellent reading of the text. His narration is paced to the rapid sequence of events, uncertainty, confusion, and suspense experienced by those caught in the great battle. The listener who is not a student of the battle will be carried along by both the astonishing acts of courage and the incredible instances of denial that persisted even while the attack was underway! Recommended for all history collections, wherein it can be enjoyed by folks of all ages.-Cliff Glaviano, Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., Ohio
From the Publisher
". . . is as engrossing as the story of the sinking of the Titanic and more harrowing." (The Atlantic Monthly)

". . . Lord has produced a behind-the-scenes story that is utterly fascinating." (Chicago Sunday Tribune)

". . . historians will appreciate Walter Lord's solid reconstruction of what happened in Hawaii." (James Michener, The New York Times)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805068030
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/2001
  • Edition description: Anniversary Edition
  • Edition number: 16
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 299,259
  • Product dimensions: 5.67 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Walter Lord is the author of several other bestsellers, including A Night to Remember, the re-creation of the sinking of the Titanic. He lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt


"Isn't That a Beautiful Sight?"

Monica Conter, a young Army nurse, and Second Lieutenant Barney Benning of the Coast Artillery strolled out of the Pearl Harbor Officers' Club, down the path near the ironwood trees, and stood by the club landing, watching the launches take men back to the warships riding at anchor.

They were engaged, and the setting was perfect. The workshops, the big hammerhead crane, all the paraphernalia of the Navy's great Hawaiian base were hidden by the night; the daytime clatter was gone; only the pretty things were left — the moonlight . . . the dance music that drifted from the club . . . the lights of the Pacific Fleet that shimmered across the harbor.

And there were more lights than ever before. For the first weekend since July 4 all the battleships were in port at once. Normally they took turns — six might be out with Admiral Pye's battleship task force, or three would be off with Admiral Halsey 's carrier task force. This was Pye's turn in, but Halsey was out on a special assignment that meant leaving his battleships behind. A secret "war warning" had been received from Washington — Japan was expected to hit "the Philippines, Thai, or Kra Peninsula or possibly Borneo" — and the carrier Enterprise was ferrying a squadron of Marine fighters to reinforce Wake Island. Battleships would slow the task force's speed from 30 to 17 knots. Yet they were too vulnerable to maneuver alone without carrier protection. The only other carrier, the Lexington, was off ferrying planes to Midway, so the battleships stayed at Pearl Harbor, where it was safe.

With the big ships in port, the officers' club seemed even gayer and more crowded than usual, as Monica Conter and Lieutenant Benning walked back and rejoined the group at the table. Somebody suggested calling Lieutenant Bill Silvester, a friend of them all who this particular evening was dining eight miles away in downtown Honolulu. Monica called him, playfully scolded him for deserting his buddies — the kind of call that has been placed thousands of times by young people late in the evening, and memorable this time only because it was the last night Bill Silvester would be alive.

Then back to the dance, which was really a conglomeration of Dutch treats and small private parties given by various officers for their friends: "Captain Montgomery E. Higgins and Mrs. Higgins entertained at the Pearl Harbor Officers' Club . . . Lieutenant Commander and Mrs. Harold Pullen gave a dinner at the Pearl Harbor Officers' Club . . ." — the Honolulu Sunday Advertiser rattled them off in its society column the following morning.

Gay but hardly giddy. The bar always closed at midnight. The band seemed in a bit of a rut — its favorite "Sweet Leilani" was now over four years old. The place itself was the standard blend of chrome, plywood, and synthetic leather, typical of all officers' clubs everywhere. But it was cheap — dinner for a dollar — and it was friendly. In the Navy everybody still seemed to know everybody else on December 6, 1941.

Twelve miles away, Brigadier General Durward S. Wilson, commanding the 24th Infantry Division, was enjoying the same kind of evening at the Schofield Barracks Officers' Club. Here, too, the weekly Saturday night dance seemed even gayer than usual — partly because many of the troops in the 24th and 25th Divisions had just come off a long, tough week in the field; partly because it was the night of Ann Etzler's Cabaret, a benefit show worked up annually by "one of the very talented young ladies on the post," as General Wilson gallantly puts it. The show featured amateur singing and dancing — a little corny perhaps, but it was all in the name of charity and enjoyed the support of everybody who counted, including Lieut. General Walter C. Short, commanding general of the Hawaiian Department.

Actually, General Short was late. He had been trapped by a phone call, just as he and his intelligence officer, Lieutenant Colonel Kendall Fielder, were leaving for the party from their quarters at Fort Shafter, the Army's administrative headquarters just outside Honolulu. Lieutenant Colonel George Bicknell, Short's counterintelligence officer, was on the wire. He asked them to wait; he had something interesting to show them. The general said all right, but hurry.

At 6:30 Bicknell puffed up. Then, while Mrs. Short and Mrs. Fielder fretted and fumed in the car, the three men sat down together on the commanding general's lanai. Colonel Bicknell produced the transcript of a phone conversation monitored the day before by the local FBI. It was a call placed by someone on the Tokyo newspaper Yomiuri Shinbun to Dr. Motokazu Mori, a local Japanese dentist and husband of the paper's Honolulu correspondent.

Tokyo asked about conditions in general: about planes, searchlights, the weather, the number of sailors around . . . and about flowers. "Presently," offered Dr. Mori, "the flowers in bloom are fewest out of the whole year. However, the hibiscus and the poinsettia are in bloom now."

The three officers hashed it over. Why would anyone spend the cost of a transpacific phone call discussing flowers? But if this was code, why talk in the clear about things like planes and searchlights? And would a spy use the telephone? On the other hand, what else could be going on? Was there any connection with the cable recently received from Washington warning "hostile action possible at any moment"?

Fifteen minutes . . . half an hour . . . nearly an hour skipped by, and they couldn't make up their minds. Finally General Short gently suggested that Colonel Bicknell was "too intelligence-conscious"; in any case they couldn't do anything about it tonight; they would think it over some more and talk about it in the morning.

It was almost 7:30 when the general and Colonel Fielder rejoined their now seething wives and drove the fifteen miles to Schofield. As they entered the dance floor, they scarcely noticed the big lava-rock columns banked with ferns for a gala evening — they were still brooding over the Mori call.

General Short had a couple of cocktails — he never drank after dinner — and worried his way through the next two hours. Perhaps it was the Mori call. Perhaps it was his troubles with training and equipment (there was never enough of anything). Perhaps it was his fear of sabotage. To General Short, Washington's warning had posed one overwhelming danger — an uprising by Hawaii's 157,905 civilians of Japanese blood, which would coincide with any Tokyo move in the Far East. He immediately alerted his command against sabotage; lined up all his planes neatly on the ramps, where they could be more easily guarded; and notified the War Department. Washington seemed satisfied, but the fear of a Japanese Fifth Column lingered — that was the way the Axis always struck.

By 9:30 he had had enough. The Shorts and the Fielders left the officers' club, started back to Shafter. As they rolled along the road that sloped down toward town again, Pearl Harbor spread out below them in the distance. The Pacific Fleet blazed with lights, and searchlight beams occasionally probed the sky. It was a moment for forgetting the cares of the day and enjoying the breathless night. "Isn't that a beautiful sight?" sighed General Short, adding thoughtfully, "and what a target they would make."

General Short's opposite number, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet — known as CINCPAC in the Navy's jargon of endless initials — had an even less eventful evening back in Honolulu. He was dining quietly at the Halekulani Hotel, a Waikiki landmark that maintained a precarious balance between charm and stuffiness. Several of the Navy's top brass lived there with their wives, and tonight Admiral and Mrs. Fairfax Leary were giving a small dinner, attended by the commander in chief. It was anything but a wild party — so slow, in fact, that at least two of the wives retreated to a bedroom upstairs for some refreshment with a little more authority.

But Admiral Kimmel was no party admiral anyhow. Hard, sharp, and utterly frank, he worked himself to the bone. When he relaxed, it was usually a brisk walk with a few brother officers, not cocktails and social banter. Proudly self-contained, he looked and acted uncomfortable in easygoing surroundings — he even disapproved of the Navy's new khakis as "lessening the dignity and military point of view of the wearer."

He was a difficult man to know, and his position made him more so. He had been jumped over 32 admirals to his present job. Relations were utterly correct, but inevitably there was a mild awkwardness — a lack of informal give-and-take — between himself and some of the men who had always been his seniors. Finally, there was his responsibility as CINCPAC — enough to kill the social inclinations in any man: refitting the fleet with the new weapons that were emerging, training the swarm of new recruits that were arriving, planning operations against Japan if hostilities should explode.

Copyright © 1957, 1985 Walter Lord

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    Great read!

    So glad this has been re-issued. It is one of the best - if not THE best - book about Pearl Harbor. Well researched and written for everyone, not just military historians.

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  • Posted April 3, 2012

    Vivid History

    I enjoy reading accounts of historical events. Lord figured out a very engaging way to do it. He pieced together over 400 eyewitness accounts in order to come up with one narrative of what happened on December 7. One of the most important aspects of Lords' narrative was the first-hand account provided about the Japanese side. To me Pearl Harbor was a few paragraphs in a textbook. Now I see it as an important point in history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2005

    Like I was there

    Very good book. Kept me on the edge of my seat. Couldn't hardly put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2004

    This book is.......

    This book is my personal favorite about the attack on pearl harbor. This book tells you what happened threw the whole attack and how the japanese planed the attack. I love buying books that have something to do with a specific battle. I picked the perfect book to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2001

    Hollywood should have read this book!

    Incredible book! It really goes into the minds of people as they experienced this most cowardly of sneak attacks. Even though we all know the outcome of this battle, reading through this book makes you look at it a whole diffrent way. The anticipation of the Japanese pilots, the confusion of the sailors as they saw the airplanes, and the heroism that was commonplace that day, is all explained in great detail. If only Hollywood could have taken the time to read this, the movie could have been so much better. And if they had taken out the stupid love plot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2001

    Like I Was There.....

    Outstanding, outstanding, outstanding!!! This book is a must read for anyone who has the slightest interest in the history of the Pearl Harbor attack. From the planning stages of the Japanese attack to the response and eventual declaration of war by the United States, it is all covered here. Lord has done a fantastic job of getting all sides to the story and truly puts you in Oahu on December 7, 1941. The courage shown by U.S. military personnel and civilians is inspiring and, in their own way, the courage of the Japanes pilots who participated in the attack also shines through. Put this book on your to buy list!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2001

    An outstanding account of the Pearl Harbor attack

    This is one of the best books written about the attack on Pearl Harbor. This book is based on historical documents and the personal accounts of soldiers, sailors, and civilians; both American and Japanese. The planning behind the attack by the Japanese high command and the launch and the almost perfect execution of the attack are described in riveting detail. The observations by the crewmen on the Japanese war ships and the crews of the attacking aircraft are educational. Admiral Nagumo, commander of the attacking forces could have launched a second attack and caused even more destruction, but fortunately for us, he was over cautious. There is no attempt to hide the many mistakes made by the American commanders or the missed opportunities to foil the attack or at least blunt the devastating effects. Submarines were spotted and attacked and the incoming aircraft were spotted by radar, but nobody took notice. When the actual attack was under way, many thought if was some sort of drill. A lot of good men lost their lives and there were incredible acts of heroism. This book contains many tales of bravery, terror, and determination. 2403 Americans lost their lives on December 7th, 1941. The Japanese lost 5 midget submarines, on large submarine, and 29 aircraft with 55 crewmen. It was a small price to pay for such an overwhelming victory, but the cost to Japan in the long run we all know.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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