A date which will live in infamy

On December 7th, 1941 at 7:48 AM Hawaiian time, the Japanese Empire launched its aerial assault on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor. By the time the attack ended, more than 2,000 American servicemen had been killed, hundreds of aircraft were destroyed or damaged and all of the Pacific Fleet’s battleships were either sunk or damaged. The attack’s key objectives, though — the Fleet’s aircraft carriers — were nowhere to be seen.

The next day, President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress for a formal declaration of war:

We remember Pearl Harbor.

  • MD Russ

    Thanks for the post, Norm. Pearl Harbor and World War II have begun to slip away into history in the minds of our newer generations. However, it was a far more significant transformation event in American history than 9-11 or any other modern war we have fought. It changed the structure of our armed forces immeasurably, created a national security and intelligence apparatus where none had existed before, and changed American society forever with the creation of the college-educated middle class.

    I’m not one to post book lists, but I strongly recommend Gordon Prange’s “At Dawn We Slept” to those who are curious about the real impact of December 7, 1941. We were quite literally trapped in the 19th Century until Pearl Harbor catapulted us into the 20th Century.

    • MD – in your opinion, how close are we to history repeating itself? Or are we going a different direction with a hyper-aware federal government that knows just about everything about its citizens and other enemies of the state?

      • MD Russ


        Good question. I would say the former rather than the latter. Our government is just not as omnipotent in domestic surveillance and intelligence as the conspiracy theorists would have us believe. If you look at all the counter-terrorism successes we have had, most if not all of them were the result of plain dumb luck rather than the FBI and other agencies detecting the plots through good intelligence work. As another example, fraud in Medcaid/Medicare is estimated at $24B per year. If the government knew just about everything about its citizens, then they would crack down on the fraud easily. In fact, the high-profile arrests that the Feds make from time-to-time more often result from insider whistle-bowers. Same thing with contract fraud in the DoD. Rarely, if ever, does the DoD detect contract fraud without inside informants.

        On the other hand, we seem to be almost completely ignoring the emergence of a peer competitor in the form of China. I remember during my first Pentagon tour in the early 90s how we got an intelligence report that the Chinese were conducting R&D on a carrier-based fighter-bomber. We got a good laugh out of that since the Chinese didn’t have any aircraft carriers and didn’t seem capable of building one. Then, the Soviet Union dissolved and the Chinese bought a decommissioned carrier from Russia. Last month the Chinese conducted flight operations off the Liaoning with their new J-15 jets, an aircraft with similar capabilities to an FA-18.

        Similarly, the Chinese have invested a huge amount of resources in Information Operations, both offensive and defensive. And that capability is now operational. Back in 2008, a subcontractor to Lockheed Martin reported that a file server containing the digital plans for a new Marine helicopter had been hacked and the files copied. The files were later located on a server in Iran. The experts I have talked to tell me that the Iranians didn’t have the capability to hack the server and that they probably got the files from China. There have been other cases of our Defense-related networks being successful breached or attacked that are too numerous to mention.

        You have certainly read of what cybersecurity people call an “Electronic Pearl Harbor.” I predict that the Chinese will be prepared within the next five years to challenge our forces in the western Pacific with a eye to neutralizing an American intervention in an invasion of Taiwan. Before they launch military forces, they will take down our critical networks, including our power grid. That will keep us too preoccupied to be concerned with what is happening in the Straits of Formosa.

        And the average American thinks that our Defense budget is bloated and needs to be the bill payer for deficit reduction. Right.

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