From the Archives — “A date which will live in infamy….” (updated)

NOTE: This article was originally published on December 7, 2011, on the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Some changes have taken place in Second Life, and so I have revised the article where needed to avoid confusion.

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USS Arizona sinking following explosion of her magazine, 7 Dec 1941; photo from U. S. Navy History and Heritage Command collection

USS Arizona sinking following explosion of her magazine, 7 Dec 1941; photo from U. S. Navy History and Heritage Command collection

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan….”— President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, December 8, 1941, speaking to a joint session of Congress.

The world changed — massively — for Americans on that December day.  While most of us were going about our Sunday routines — perhaps sitting in church for the day’s sermon or Sunday school, or getting out for brunch with friends — a squadron of Japanese aircraft carriers were turning into the wind and launching attack bombers.  Japan was stymied in its plans for expansion of its “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” by an American embargo on oil, machine parts and other needed goods, and afraid that the U. S. would respond if it attacked British interests in Southeast Asia, and planned a preventive strike against the American Pacific Fleet in Hawaii to forestall any action against it.  The Japanese had planned to shave its “notification” to the U. S. government of hostile intent as closely as possible to keep a warning from being sent to the American bases in and around Pearl Harbor; but clerical problems in decoding and typing the message eliminated any validity to their weak attempt to observe the niceties.

The Navy, which had been able to break the top Japanese diplomatic code, had a rough inkling that something was going to happen, and a copy of the Japanese response had been decoded and distributed to top American officials; however, nothing explicitly stating that the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor was ever sent or decoded by us.  If it had been, Pearl would have been notified, and the outcome of the battle would surely have been much different.

And so some 350 Japanese planes attacked the sleeping base early on Sunday morning, Honolulu time, in two waves.  Four out of the eight battleships at anchor, including the USS Arizona, were sunk, three more were damaged, and the last ran aground as it tried to make out of port into open water.  We also lost three other ships and nearly 200 planes; over 2,000 people were killed.  In this, the Japanese were successful; but no American aircraft carriers were in port, and so one of the planners’ main goals failed. The next day, President Roosevelt opened his speech to Congress with the words above, and they voted overwhelmingly to declare war on Japan.  Only one no vote was recorded, by Jeanette Rankin, who had also voted no to declaring war on Germany in 1917….

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As noted above, change has happened in Second Life since I originally wrote about this day.  The USS Arizona Memorial replica is now gone, along with Oahu region; but there are many memorials to our World War II veterans.  The Second Life Destination Guide will give you information on some of these places.

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