By Oliver North
Washington, DC, December 7, 2013 – Seventy-two years ago today, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida led an airborne strike force of 49 “Kate” bombers, 40 torpedo bombers, 51 “Val” dive-bombers and 43 “Zeke” fighters on the first wave of an assault on Pearl Harbor and plunged America into World War II. At 0945 that terrible Sunday morning, a second wave of 167 aircraft added to the devastation. When the surprise attack was over, 3,581 Americans were dead or wounded; the largest naval anchorage in the Pacific was littered with sunken and burning U.S. warships; the best dry-dock and ship repair facilities west of California were in shambles and 1ess than 25 percent of U.S. military aircraft based in Hawaii were still operational.
The December 7, 1941 raid was but the first blow in a cascade of disasters. The following day, as Imperial troops invaded the Philippines, Congress declared war on Japan. Three days later, on December 11, fascist Italy and Nazi Germany declared war on the U.S. in support of their Axis partner in Tokyo. By then nearly half a million young Americans had already visited military recruiting stations, volunteering to fight and the phrase “Remember Pearl Harbor” was a watchword. When the conflagration finally ended in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, more than 16 million men and women had served in the U.S. armed forces.
Today, few Americans recognize the significance of what happened at Pearl Harbor. It’s now “politically incorrect” to recall the surprise attack – or why President Franklin Delano Roosevelt deemed the date to be a “day of infamy.” Ignoring the lessons of history may be convenient for modern politicians; but it’s potentially catastrophic for our nation’s security. As George Santayana famously warned in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
The few who still commemorate that dreadful day in Hawaii predictably praise the courage and resolve of the Americans who were there. Yet, none acknowledge the massive intelligence failures and lack of “situational awareness” in Washington that allowed such a horrific surprise attack to occur. Nor do they mention that America’s poor preparations for war resulted in the loss of every engagement with the Japanese from December 7, 1941 until the battle of Midway in June 4, 1942.
Absent from reflections on what happened at Pearl Harbor are acknowledgements of culpability for officials in Washington who dismissed Japanese communications intercepted and decrypted at “Station Hypo” that would have forewarned the defenders in Hawaii and the Philippines. Unmentioned in today’s observances are the shortages of weapons, personnel – even searchlights – that prompted commanders to park scores of U.S. aircraft on Oahu wingtip to wingtip so they could be protected from sabotage.
No one cares to explain how a paucity of spare parts, fuel and navigation equipment – the consequence of inadequate appropriations – sorely limited how many long-range patrol aircraft could be dispatched simultaneously to provide early warning. Nor does anyone address how President Roosevelt and his closest advisors simply ignored warnings from Dutch and British military officers and his own Pacific Fleet Commander, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, about Japanese threats to U.S. security.
Perhaps today’s “leaders” choose not to mention these matters contributing to the devastation at Pearl Harbor because they would cause Americans to reflect on what is now transpiring in our nation’s capital. In a manner akin to FDR dismissing allied alarums about the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Obama White House discounts warnings from Israel about existential threats from Iran.
When Imperial Japan joined Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in the Tripartite Pact” in September 1940, European leaders – already at war – forecast a global conflict. In Washington, the State Department predicted a “lack of common ground” among the Axis partners would somehow mitigate the risk to the U.S. It was a naïve hope.
So too is the “interim agreement” consummated with Tehran in Geneva two weeks ago. The Obama administration tells us it’s a “necessary first step” in convincing the Ayatollahs to “cease and desist” from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. Unfortunately, the “Geneva deal” completely ignores a decade of increasingly close cooperation between Iran and North Korea on how to build atomic warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Apparently the O-Team in Washington missed the lessons of December 7, 1941. While America’s defenses are being gutted, Tehran and Pyongyang have teamed up to build weapons that threaten not only our ally Israel – but U.S. territory as well. The next Pearl Harbor could well be – Pearl Harbor.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel and author of the bestselling American Heroes book series. He’s also co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.