On Dec. 7, 1941, the American military bases at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands were attacked by forces from the Imperial Japanese Navy. On Dec. 8, the United States declared war on Japan. A few days later, Japan’s allies in the Axis alliance, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, declared war on the United States.
World War II had become a truly global war.
One might ask, why did the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor in the first place? It turns out Japan had no intention of invading the United States. They were trying to buy time for their conquests in eastern Asia.
The war in the Pacific and Asia didn’t begin at Pearl Harbor. It actually began in June 1937, when Japan invaded China. The Japanese achieved many early victories, and atrocities abounded (look up the Rape of Nanking when you get a chance).
By 1941, however, the war had bogged down. The Chinese were simply refusing to give up, and they were using their huge population and the great size of their country to swallow up the Japanese.
Japan needed more resources to keep the war going. There were abundant resources in the region, but they were all under the control of foreign powers like Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and the United States. They also realized the only credible force that could oppose them was the U.S. Pacific Fleet, which had been moved from its bases on the West Coast to Hawaii.
Adm. Isoruku Yamamoto knew Japan could not win a protracted war with the United States. His plan was to deliver a massive, knockout blow to the Pacific Fleet. Japan would then mount a “blitzkrieg” over Asia. By the time the Americans recovered, the Japanese would be well-entrenched and the United States would have to agree to a negotiated settlement.
Curiously, the American government wasn’t sure how they would respond to Japanese aggression in Asia. Given the anti-war sentiment of much of the nation, it looked like there wouldn’t be much of a response at all, let alone an aggressive one.
However, with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the anti-war sentiments in the United States went out the window. We were angry and united as never before or since. The U.S. Pacific Fleet was back in business much sooner than expected, and, in 1942, with the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, began turning the Japanese back. They wouldn’t stop until the Japanese formally surrendered in 1945.
Ironically, by attacking Pearl Harbor, the Japanese brought on themselves the response from the Americans they were trying to prevent by making the attack.
So, what’s the point of all this? We need to remember what Americans can accomplish when we come together for a common goal. That’s what happened in World War II. We were united, and we became a force that terrified the Axis.
There is much that needs to be done in this country. However, so many Americans are yelling, screaming, pointing fingers and making accusations, grandstanding, and engaging in righteous indigestion that nothing gets done.
Instead of working together, we insist our way is the only way. We are righteous and holy, and the other side is crooked and foul. I hear this from both the left and the right. It’s like they’re more interested in destroying each other and making a fuss than actually getting something done.
I think of how President Franklin Roosevelt had Republicans in his cabinet in the war years. He wanted the war against the Axis to be an American endeavor, not a Democrat or Republican one. He had Republicans in his cabinet because he knew he’s need their input for the war effort to be successful.
Can you imagine one of our two major parties doing that today?
If there’s continued gridlock in Washington, maybe Americans at the state and local level will start to figure out how to do things for themselves. We will start working together at the local level. For many people, that would mean changing their whole way of thinking. In the end, however, it may prove to be a good thing.
Maybe if more Americans conclude they don’t need the Feds, the government might get the idea that they work for us.
Perhaps Americans can become united in reminding our leaders of that. It would be a start, anyway.