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Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed it "A day that will live in infamy"-December 7, 1941, the one date from the Second World War that almost every American knows by heart. Pearl Harbor is the definitive illustrated account of that momentous day. No other battle of the Pacific War was better documented in photographs than was Pearl Harbor. Everyone has seen some of these images, but few are aware of just how many there are-including many that have never been published. Official government photographers were busy ...
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Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed it "A day that will live in infamy"-December 7, 1941, the one date from the Second World War that almost every American knows by heart. Pearl Harbor is the definitive illustrated account of that momentous day. No other battle of the Pacific War was better documented in photographs than was Pearl Harbor. Everyone has seen some of these images, but few are aware of just how many there are-including many that have never been published. Official government photographers were busy that morning, but so were countless service personnel and shocked civilians. Even the Japanese navy photographed their preparations and the launch of the attack fleet. The visual record of the day includes not just stunning black-and-white shots but also vivid color photos showing the American fleet under attack and burning. Pearl Harbor makes lavish use of these historical photos to vividly re-create what it felt like to be there during every key moment of the battle. A compelling narrative by noted naval historian Dan Van der Vat explains the causes and background of the attack. Moving first-person reminiscences of persons who were there-Japanese and Americans, military and civilians, adults and children-give the pictures even greater immediacy.
The divisions in our society that existed in the period leading up to the Japanese attack on US forces at Pearl Harbor tend to be forgotten. Our collective memory appropriately takes pride in our achievements once mobilized for war. The book that follows, however, will serve as a reminder that the United States - the country that emerged from World War II the most powerful nation in history - entered the war unprepared and riven with internal divisions regarding our place in the world and a vision of where we wanted to go. It is an illustrated history. Its intention is to educate through narrative, pictorial history, and paintings inspired by the events discussed.
And those events changed the course of world history. The architect of Japan's bold stroke against American naval forces at Pearl Harbor, the respected Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, harbored few illusions regarding the nature of the country he was ordered to attack. Well versed in American culture and industrial capacity, Admiral Yamamoto prophetically proclaimed, upon receiving word of his magnificent victory at Pearl Harbor: "We have awakened a sleeping giant and have instilled in him a terrible resolve." The admiral's eventual death at the hands of American fighter pilots constituted an exclamation mark on his fateful prediction. Galvanized as a nation, the American people responded with a war effort that would take them to victory in the Pacific as Allied forces similarly drove to Berlin.
Both my grandfather and father fought in World War II. My grandfather stood on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay to witness the signing by the Japanese of the documents of surrender. In between the events at Pearl Harbor and that moment aboard the Missouri, the world, and the United States in particular, underwent a monumental transformation. Vicious battles under the most terrible conditions were the norm in the Pacific Theater. From Bougainvillaea to Corrigedor to Hiroshima, the United States avenged its humiliation and loss at Pearl Harbor with a tenacity and courage that should never be permitted to fade from our memory.
Ten years after the Persian Gulf War, I continue to marvel at the scale of that military victory and at the blessedly low number of American dead. It has become too easy to forget the sacrifices of an earlier generation in the struggle to rid the world of tyranny - a struggle manifest not just during World War II, but in Korea and Indochina as well. Twenty-four hundred American servicemen were killed at Pearl Harbor, a tragic prelude to the tens of thousands more who would perish in places few knew existed the day before the first bombs fell on Battleship Row.
Off Ford Island in Hawaii is the memorial to the USS Arizona, a ship named for the state I am honored to represent in Congress. Parts of its structure emerge from the waters of the bay like a cast-iron headstone. The Arizona remains the final resting place for 1,100 of its crew. Sixty years after Japanese bombs sent it to its watery grave, it continues to stand as a silent testament to the sacrifice of so many in defense of liberty. It also serves to remind us of the need to remain vigilant.
Dan van der Vat's book is an important contribution to the literature about the events leading up to World War II and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He has performed an admirable service by combining concise yet insightful narrative with a wealth of photographs and paintings in telling the story of what President Roosevelt famously termed in the attack's aftermath, "a day that will live in infamy." With each visit to the USS Arizona Memorial, I am compelled to reflect again on the tragedy that befell the men and women who perished in the attack on Pearl Harbor, and on those who died thousands of miles from home in the war that followed. In the caption accompanying one of the photographs, van der Vat quotes an officer serving aboard the Arizona the day before the Japanese attack. "By this time next week," Captain Frank Valkenburgh wrote, "we will be on our way home for Christmas." Nothing more need be said.