Attack of the Pearl Harbor: Historical Reality and Significance
To the United States of America
The decade of the 1940’s can be considered as the historic and legendary turning point of the American battle spirit as the United States entered the miserable era of the Second World War. Blood, violence, hatred, ethnicism and wars of ideologies shrouded the world’s battlefields. This era has been continuously regarded in history as the lowest and most depressed state of the world—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
It was on the 7th day of December in 1941 when the Japanese Empire assaulted and bombed the U.S. Navy battle field, taking advantage of the U.S. army’s state of weakness and vulnerability where it was unsuspecting of any possible attack (Naval Historical Center). This moment in the world history would become popularly known throughout the ages as the Attack of the Pearl Harbor. This was the call that put the American force into the world battle for expansion in the World War II. The United States of America went through great turbulence and crisis in several sectors like the economy, government, and most importantly, the innocent public sector. The battle had struck the nation and struck the faith of the citizens through the relentless wrath and fury which surrounded the United States and other concerned countries. In looking back to these miserable memoirs of the war, it may be disheartening to remember the rage between nations, yet it can be at the same time uplifting for the American nationalism spirit that a challenge like that of the Attack of the Pearl Harbor strengthened and unified their fighting spirits for their country instead of straying to different paths in loss of faith to future national peace.
Impact of the Attack of the Pearl Harbor in the Formation of U.S. History
The aftermath of the attack has as much impact on the shape of U.S. history as the main event of Japanese assault to the American Battle Navy. On the following day of the infamous attack, the rage of the Japanese Empire victimized a lot of other nations aside from the U.S. like the British Malaya, Hong Kong, Philippines, Wake Island, and Thailand. This put the world in serious instability, and it further put America in a serious outrage caused by the deceitful battles started by the Japanese troupes (Global Oneness). This was the time when the U.S. put the whole nation into a war economy. William Henry Chafe recognized the entry of America into World War II as the turning point of the U.S. history. His views about the significance of the war were expressed in his historical analysis of the war in his book, “The Unfinished Journey: America since World War II.” Chafe states that the bombing at the Pearl Harbor was the point where America realized that a major panic and destruction like that was indeed possible to destabilize a great nation like itself. It was the time when people started mobilizing in order to participate in the defense power of the country through the home front level (Chafe 3). The public was utterly alarmed, and even the young men were forced to enlist to civil defense programs in order to prepare the cities for any unwanted attacks. During this period of time, the American society was transformed into a movement wherein people themselves acted on how to preserve morality and humanity for the next generations. The war became a reality even at the quiet homes of American families (Chafe 4). During those dark days, the only connection the home front and the battlefield had between each other was the dehumanizing emotional and psychological images of lives lost and inhumanity. Chafe even quoted a part of a radio drama which expressed how a father struggled to find justice in the death of his innocent son during the war: “The House I live in, A plot of earth, a street / The grocer and the butcher and the people that I meet; / The children in the playground, the faces that I see; / All races, all religions, that’s America to me” (Part of a radio drama qtd. in Chafe 5)
Thus, the general atmosphere of that part of American history was an immortally depressing one for every American. However, it was inspiring in the sense that it was during that time of war when the people were gathered together to share each other’s fears and anxieties for what may come ahead. People were under this collective emotion and psychological state where they could not feel yet how to anticipate with hope; rather, they all felt like there ought to be someone or something to blame why all those things have happened (Cooke 19). The people of America were united despite the diversity in religion, race, roots, lineage, and color; thus, it was a remarkable point in the U.S. history. However, it was also during this time when women’s roles were reinvented and transformed. During this time of war, the American women underwent a major turn with regard to their function in the society. The women of war were characterized to be the most work-oriented women population in the entire U.S. history since they had to suffice the necessities of the family in the absence of the men who were forced to reinforce the American war force (Adams 134). Because of the war, women abruptly became the working force in history, although most of them still wished they could go back to what they were trained to do, which was to run the households. However, it was the war and its consequences which caused this major transformation in women’s roles which eventually destabilized the normal courses of American homes during that point of history (134).
It was generally the collective depression and anger which characterized the spirits of Americans during that point in history. The Attack of the Pearl Harbor caused a shared hatred towards the Japanese Americans who the people feared might participate in any way in the growing hostility between America and Japan (Neal 5). The Japanese Americans became the immediate subject of the Americans’ growing collective sense of rage about what they were currently going through. In reviewing these accounts, it may appear that in some ways, the Attack of the Pearl Harbor made some impairment to the long lived innocence and righteousness of America. As how Erenberg and Hirsch expressed it in their book, “The War in American Culture,” after the war, the view about America being “an anointed nation; America as a special moral force in the world; America as a society with unique mission, born of its righteousness” was relived as its virtues and beliefs were put to challenge and question by the adversities of war (323). Indeed, the Pearl Harbor Attack, as well as the other events in the World War II, made a distinct mark in the U.S. history in several ways. All the rage, battle spirit, and sense of oneness shall forever be symbols of how the war changed the lives and course of history for all the Americans (Erenberg and Hirsch 323).
If the Attack Never Occurred…
The Attack of the Pearl Harbor shall forever be marked in world history. It changed not just the spirits of the Americans about their love for their motherland and fellow Americans, not just the authority of the United States in the world wide politics, but also in the overall course of peace in the world. If the Pearl Harbor bombing did not take place, there would not be a signal for the United States to join the Second World War; hence, the nation shall not have the greater chance of linking and making allies with other powerful nations like the United Kingdom (Global Oneness). If it was not because of the U.S.’ entrance to the World War II, Axis powers may still reign, and there might possibly be no peace within the international politics since the Japanese Empire might have not learned the lesson. Moreover, the Pearl Harbor bombing also made the aircraft carriers as the most important features of naval power today. This was brought about by the role played by these lethal weapons during the fight for peace against the World War II antagonists. Ever since the historic bombing in Hawaii, breakthroughs have never been the same in the world’s naval power (Global Oneness).
Effects of the Pearl Harbor Attack to the course of World War II
Looking back at the roots of the World War II, it may appear in popular accounts in history that the urge for greater power and expansion of empires and scope are the major underlying forces of the countries that took part in the World War II. This wretched world conflict was started by Germany during 1939 which complicated the then fired up commotion between the first two battling areas of the world, Japan and China (Weinberg 6). While it was started by Germany, the war continued as the powerful Japanese Empire sought for larger colonization. This was the start of the World War II. United States joined the battle when they were provoked by the treacherous bombing made by the Japanese empire to the U.S. Naval ship in Hawaii. Consequently, the rage of the United States ignited its long held urge to teach Japan a lesson and stop the world wide turbulence. These events all geared up America for the years of fight against the reckless wars for power. However, considering America’s natural wealth and ability to turn tides, it was able to attain its objective and weaken its antagonists during the dawn of the Second World War in 1945. Thus, looking at what had been the decade of chaos, the determination of the American army to stop the then mighty Japanese Empire would not have been ignited if they were not provoked by the bombing at the Pearl Harbor. Both the histories of the world and the history of America would state that the attack was indeed the defining moment of the U.S. resolution to join the world’s battle for peace in 1942 (Naval Historical Center). Thus, aside from the sacrificed lives and dignity during the war, the battle of the Pearl Harbor also led to the loss of possible connection and pleasant nation-to-nation relation between the United States and Japan. This political and racial divergence has been very vivid and observable in a lot of films and expressive materials about the war and its consequent events. It will therefore appear evident that if it were not for the Pearl Harbor incident, the outcome of the World War II would be different. If the American military force was not empowered by anger due to the treacherous bombing, they might not have been successful in accomplishing their objective to stop the Japanese Empire from its expansion and world order destructive agendas. Moreover, if the life and stability of the American military were not challenged by the attack, the government must have been assured that their act of getting their hands off the warring countries was just right. However, since the major stability and peace of the United States was disturbed, an emperor of Japan was indeed right when he once said that they woke up a sleeping giant who can forever change the course of the world in the persona of America or American Military force (Global Oneness).
The Attack of the Pearl Harbor was just one of the best events in world history which teaches the current generation a very significant moral: any nation must never ignite a war which it can never be able defend against a more powerful and able state. To some, this might appear common sense; however, if people will just look deeper into the course of the Second World War using a much simpler perspective, it may appear that this was the major idea dropped by the Japanese Empire’s battle plan when they went against the very able United States of America. Nevertheless, because of the lives and morality sacrificed by the United States during this miserable era, it may also seem that Japan has also been successful in attacking the weaker points of the U.S. The urge for power and totalitarianism over other weaker nations may still seem inevitable in the current time, and the possibility of another event like the Attack of the Pearl Harbor to happen may not be ruled out. Nevertheless, these accounts and tales of great fights and battles for peace shall forever provide the world of the reality that there may always be evil and treachery, but the good hearts and spirits that fight for common peace and justice shall forever reign.
Adams, Michael C. The Best War Ever: America and World War II. Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins University Press, 1994.
Chafe, William Henry. The Unfinished Journey: America Since World War II. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Cooke, Alistair. The American Home Front, 1941-1942. New York: Grove Press, 2006.
Erenberg, Lewis A. & Hirsch, Susan E. The War in American Culture: Society and Consciousness During World War II. Chicago Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1996.
Global Oneness. “Attack on Pearl Harbor- Immediate Aftermath.” Global Oneness Foundation. 27 November 2008 <http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Attack_on_Pearl_Harbor/id/1921479>.
Neal, Arthur G. National Trauma and Collective Memory: Extraordinary Events in the American Experience. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2005.
Naval Historical Center. Pearl Harbor Raid, 7 December 1941. 16 January 2001. Washington Navy Yard, Department of the Navy. 27 November 2008. <http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/wwii-pac/pearlhbr/pearlhbr.htm>.
Weinberg, Gerhard L. A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.