The unprovoked attack 81 years ago

The unprovoked attack 81 years ago

Column: Thoughts by Armenio Manuel

Unless you are in your late 80s or early 90s today, you may not have enough anecdotes to remember about December 7, 1941, in Hawaii, a supposedly easy Sunday, which was December 8 in the Philippines, given the different time zones.

Or if you are younger than 80, perhaps you still have some memories picked up from stories of your elders who might have experienced the war and the occupation of the Philippines by Japan’s Imperial Troops, whose civilian brothers and cousins had joined some of the urban centers in the guise of being merchants but were in fact spies for the authorities of the Land of the Rising Sun.

That date in December 1941, was one which President Franklin D. Roosevelt claimed would “live in infamy,” after the Imperial Japanese Navy conducted a surprise aerial assault on Pearl Harbor.

This unprovoked attack brought the United States into World War II, as it immediately declared war on Japan.

Much will be remembered, particularly by those who have relatives who were in the liberation forces of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur who returned on October 20 1944 to liberate the Philippines.

There in Leyte, in Palo Beach, is the MacArthur Leyte Landing Memorial National Park (also known as the Leyte Landing Memorial Park and MacArthur Park) which is a protected area of the Philippines.

That marks the historic landing of MacArthur in Leyte Gulf at the start of the campaign to recapture and liberate the Philippines from Japanese Occupation.

That event led to the largest naval battle of World War II, and also the world’s largest naval battle in terms of gross tonnage sunk, and Japan’s eventual defeat and surrender after almost three years.

By the time the first Japanese bomber appeared over Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, tensions between Japan and the United States had been mounting for the better part of a decade, making war seem inevitable.

Historical documents show that when Japanese bombers appeared in the skies over Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, the US military was completely unprepared for the devastating surprise attack, which dramatically altered the course of World War II, particularly in the Pacific theater.

But there were several key reasons for the bombing that, in hindsight, make it seem almost inevitable.

Destroying the Base at Pearl Harbor would mean Japan controlled the Pacific, according to war analysts.

In May 1940, the United States made Pearl Harbor the main base for its Pacific Fleet.

As Americans didn’t expect the Japanese to attack first in Hawaii, some 4,000 miles away from the Japanese mainland, the base at Pearl Harbor was left relatively undefended, making it an easy target.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto spent months planning an attack that aimed to destroy the Pacific Fleet and destroy morale in the US Navy so that it would not be able to fight back as Japanese forces began to advance on targets across the South Pacific.

Documents add that Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor would drive the United States out of isolation and into World War II, a conflict that would end with Japan’s surrender after the devastating atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

At first, however, the Pearl Harbor attack looked like a success for Japan.

Its bombers hit all eight US battleships, sinking four and damaging four others, destroying or damaging more than 300 aircraft, and killing some 2,400 Americans at Pearl Harbor.

Japanese forces went on to capture a string of current and former Western colonial possessions by early 1942 – including Burma (now Myanmar), British Malaya (Malaysia and Singapore), the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), and the Philippines – giving them access to these islands’ plentiful natural resources, including oil and rubber.

But the Pearl Harbor attack had failed in its objective to completely destroy the Pacific Fleet.

The Japanese bombers missed oil tanks, ammunition sites, and repair facilities, and not a single US aircraft carrier was present during the attack.

In June 1942, this failure came to haunt the Japanese, as US forces scored a major victory in the Battle of Midway, decisively turning the tide of war in the Pacific.

On December 7, 1941, over 350 Japanese aircraft attacked the US naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, destroying or badly damaging much of the US Pacific fleet and causing thousands of casualties.

US President Roosevelt called it ‘a date that would live in infamy.’

Today, the memories of that bloody attack at Pearl Harbor may have started to quickly disappear.

But it looks like man does not learn lessons very well – as noticed in the Ukraine-Russia War in Europe.

Humanity has not been shocked by the lives lost, among others, in different wars.


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