Friday, November 17, 2017

Pearl Harbor 2018

Japanese Zero
Flying Heritage Collection, Everett WA

On Sunday December 7, 1941, seventy-seven years ago, planes of the Imperial Japanese Navy streaked over Pearl Harbor bombing and torpedoing the American fleet at anchor.  Over 2,400 Americans were killed that day.  President Roosevelt quickly called it a “Day of Infamy."

George H.W. Bush Airport / Houston
 That attack changed the life of the late George H.W. Bush who became the youngest naval aviator to serve in the US Navy.  It also altered the lives of millions of his fellow Americans. 

The “Day of Infamy” was followed by several months of fear – particularly on the West coast of the United States.  Japanese submarines prowled off the West coast.  The 1942 Rose Bowl was initially cancelled but then moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina where Oregon State beat Duke, 20 to 16.

In February  of 1942 a Japanese submarine shelled the Ellwood oil refinery near Santa Barbara with its 140mm deck guns.  In June of that year Fort Stephens in Oregon was bombarded by the deck guns of a Japanese submarine.  That same month two remote Aleutian islands, Attu and Kiska, were invaded and occupied by Japanese troops.  Dutch Harbor in Alaska was bombed.

Panic swept the West coast.  Japanese-Americans were shipped to internment camps and denied their constitutional rights.  This was a gross overreaction by the US government but the threat and the danger from Japan were real.

Seventy-six years ago the threat came from Imperial Japan.  Today the threat comes from a blustering dictator in North Korea.

We Americans often assume that we are invulnerable to invasion and attack.  Are we not protected by the great moats of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans?  We tend to forget that these “moats” have also been highways for invasion and attack.

Successive waves of invasions have shaped our country in countless ways.  The English founded Jamestown while the Spanish held Florida and the French tried to establish settlements in Texas and Louisiana (“Nouvelle Orleans”).  The Russians colonized Alaska and even built Fort Ross in Northern California near what is now called the “Russian River”.  They occupied Fort Ross for thirty years from 1812 to 1842 attempting to grow crops that would sustain their Alaskan possession.

Nor is Kim Jung Un’s threat to attack the US with intercontinental weapons without historic precedent.  In the last two years of World War II Japan launched thousands of Fu-Go balloon bombs carrying incendiary explosives.  They hoped to set American forests ablaze.  The Jet stream transported these devices to at least fifteen America states including Wyoming and Iowa.  In May 1945 six people were killed in Oregon by a Japanese balloon bomb.

In 2003 the US went to war in Iraq largely over concern with weapons of mass destruction.  Today we know that Kim Jung Un is already capable of exploding crude atomic devices.  Two North Korean missiles have been fired through Japanese airspace.

Pearl Harbor famously united public opinion in the United States.  “Remember Pearl Harbor” became a rallying cry.  A nation that was woefully unprepared on December 7, 1941 was rapidly transformed into a vast arsenal of democracy.

Seventy-six years have changed the tempo and potential devastation of modern warfare.  Kim Jung Un’s grandfather launched the Korean War in 1950 with a devastating invasion of the south.  His grandson has the capacity to launch multiple Hiroshimas.  While the 2018 meeting between President Trump and Kim Jung Un was encouraging it seems that North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons.

Surveying the threat matrix for future Pearl Harbor-style attacks, we must continue to be vigilant about North Korea and other outside powers.  Isis, though- severely weakened, has announced its intention to launch sniper attacks in New York City.

Surveying the political landscape today, our nation seems more divided than ever.  Will we have the wisdom to recognize the threats which face us, to remain vigilant and to preserve peace in a world troubled by murderous dictators?  Will our leaders have the wisdom to meet bluster, not with more bluster but with strength?

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You'll find my interview with the Conservative Commandos 32 minutes in