Pearl Harbor Ghosts: A Journey to Hawaii Then and Now

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though bloodier battles have been long forgotten, Pearl Harbor, 50 years after the fact, is remembered with a vengeance. Clarke ( Equator ) undertakes to explain why. Examining the physical and emotional legacies of the Japanese strike on December 7, 1941, he contrasts the arrogant boastfulness of U.S. military authorities before the attack with the search for scapegoats that began immediately after. His emphasis is on the profound shock of that day: it was inconceivable to seemingly everyone on the islands but the Japanese that Asians could attack Caucasians; some witnesses swore the planes were piloted by Germans. Clarke comments bluntly on the insensitive behavior of present-day Japanese tourists on Oahu, especially those who visit the Arizona Memorial where the bones of 1102 U.S. sailors rest, and describes many failed reconciliations between former enemies (``sabotaged by thick-skinned Japanese or thin-skinned Americans''). The Japanese as a whole, observes Clarke, are becoming increasingly the object of ill-will on the islands ``as Hawaii becomes an economic colony of Japan.'' This is a strangely disturbing book about ``a unique act of treachery, difficult to forgive,'' and wounds that have yet to heal. Photos. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Marking the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, Clarke's ``journey'' is an interesting combination of travelog, historical analysis, and anecdotal experiences reminiscent of Walter Lord's classic Day of Infamy ( LJ 3/15/57; scheduled for reissue this December by Holt; ISBN 0-8050-1898-0, $24.95), and an attempt to understand anti-Japanese attitudes before, during, and 50 years after the event. There are some new details for Pearl Harbor buffs, but most intriguing is Clarke's look at feelings toward Japanese Americans (and Japan) in Hawaii. Although the topic is not fully developed, suffering from sometimes rambling discourse and the author's own conflicting emotional responses, Pearl Harbor Ghosts serves as a useful supplement to Gary Okihiro's more comprehensive and scholarly Cane Fires ( LJ 4/15/91). Recommended for public libraries and comprehensive subject collections.-- Kenneth W. Berger, Duke Univ. Lib., Durham, N.C.
Kirkus Reviews
Exploration in great human depth of a pivotal American and Japanese event, by Clarke (Equator, 1988; By Blood and Fire, 1981, etc.). Innocence and the ever-present Japanese are Clarke's themes in this meticulously researched meditation on FDR's "day that will live in infamy." Clarke's images of Hawaiian colonial torpor and American military ineptitude, based on eyewitness reports and interviews, are unforgettable. Between the carefully crafted lines is the pre-WW II America that felt itself invulnerable: "General Short did not understand [radar] nor think it was necessary"; fighter aircraft were "disarmed and rolled into a tight anti-sabotage formation on the tarmac, making it impossible to arm and launch them all in under four hours." Meanwhile, in Washington, the final act of a deadly drama is playing out as last-minute information is fumbled by both US and Japanese bureaucracies. Above Hawaii in a small plane, Ensign Tadeo Yoshikawa, a.k.a. Vice Consul Yaeishi Morimura, is finishing his work as "the most effective and important spy in the world with many contenders for that title." (He also washes dishes to eavesdrop on blue-collar help, observes from a glass- bottomed boat, and swims in the harbor mouth looking for submarine nets.) Clarke is masterful in the personal realities—the shell-shock and heroism; the ripping apart of close, Japanese-American relationships; the still-inadmissable division of Nisei loyalties; and the hysterical reactions. (An officer loses it and is carried away on a stretcher; a woman imagines herself dead, and her husband with another woman; observers write detailed descriptions of nonexistent German planes and pilots.) Woven into the dreamliketapestry are sharp, provocative bits on contemporary Japanese-US realities, several connected with insensitive Japanese tourists at the Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor, and angry American reactions—including the author's. Powerful, compelling prose lays this ghost to rest with dignity and painstaking honesty. (Thirty-two b&w photographs—not seen.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688083014
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/1991
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 352

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