It seems strange that we consider this event not on the anniversary
of the date that it occurred nearly 60 years ago, but during the
release of a summer movie. Whatever the reason, it is appropriate
that Americans not forget Pearl Harbor.
Criticism that Hollywood overdid it, that the movie “lacked
a surprise ending,” or that the “ships differed in profile”
from those that were in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, should
be ignored by moviegoers.
Instead, remember the event, the shock that shook America out of
its isolationism, the courage and bravery of men such as Dorie Miller
(Navy Cross) and the more than 2,400 men and women who died that
December day. What happened at Pearl Harbor is worth further examination
after you leave the theater.
An outstanding book that puts the movie into perspective is “Pearl
Harbor: The Movie and the Moment,” published by Hyperion Books
($35). This collaborative effort by Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay
and Randall Wallace is lavishly illustrated and relates incidents
that make the film come alive.
Few people (including historians) ever knew that two pilots actually
drove to a remote landing field, got into the air and each shot
down four Japanese aircraft. Their achievement is portrayed in the
book, but the movie creates a fictional love triangle between the
pilots and a military nurse.
National Geographic Society’s “Remember Pearl Harbor,”
by Thomas B. Allan ($17.95), is a beautifully illustrated book specifically
for children, yet equally interesting for adults. This is a great
book that helps children understand what Pearl Harbor was all about.
It is truly a shame that few schools—even high schools—teach
anything about World War II, much less Pearl Harbor.
The History Channel provides a unique source of information with
“Pearl Harbor” on DVD (two volumes). This is an outstanding
new medium that includes Pearl Harbor facts, interactive menus and
scene selections, such as Adm. Chester Nimitz’s rebuilding
of the Pacific Fleet. The History Channel also is airing two specials—“Tora!
Tora! Tora! The True Story of Pearl Harbor” and “Unsung
Heroes of Pearl Harbor.“
In addition, video tapes of the movie—“Tora! Tora!
Tora!”—are back on the shelves in VHS and DVD format.
This movie is a historic review of events as seen from both Japanese
and American eyes. Japanese-language dialogue, with English-language
subtitles, lend an air of realism to the movie.
Soft-cover books are represented by the Osprey Military Campaign
series No. 62, “Pearl Harbor: The Day of Infamy,” by
Carl Smith ($17.95). History buffs will enjoy the full-color map
of Pearl Harbor and especially the three-dimensional, full-color
views of each phase and element of the attack. Appendices provide
the reader with both U.S. and Japanese orders of battle.
World War II Magazine, in response to the movie and the 60th anniversary,
has published a commemorative issue. The magazine ($4.99) provides
a pullout timeline chart and many first-hand articles, including
one by David Kahn that answers the question, “Why Weren’t
Historical background can be found in “Pearl Harbor,”
by H.P. Willmott, produced by Cassell & Co. via Sterling Publishing
Co., of New York. This $30 volume contains photographs and dimensional
maps. Events that led up to the battle also are described in “Pearl
Harbor: The Day of Infamy—An Illustrated History,” by
Dan van der Vat ($39.95). Basic Books, part of the Perseus Books
Group, co-published this volume with Madison Press. With more than
250 images, paintings and maps, the narrative sets the stage for
arguments that abound to this day.
“Pearl Harbor Ghosts: The Legacy of December 7, 1941,”
by Thurston Clarke ($15 in paperback). This 60th anniversary edition,
revised and updated by the Ballantine Publishing Group, adds a tapestry
of extensive interviews with survivors, memories and insights, plus
black and white photographs.
Conspiracy theories concerning Pearl Harbor remain widespread.
Perhaps most notable is “Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR
and Pearl Harbor,” by Robert Stinnett. Available both from
Simon & Schuster Trade and Free Press (Touchstone Books) in
paperback for $16 or hardcover for $26, this book is conspiracy
theory to the max.
Too often, revisionist historians and the uninformed—those
that appear regularly on TV talk shows—quote this text as
if it was the Bible. But it ignores such details as the difference
of intelligence derived from “Purple” (diplomatic code)
and “Magic” (represented by JN-25c, the Japanese naval
operational code). It purports to deliberate deletion of the “Winds”
messages, and it ignores the fact that Roosevelt loved the Navy
and would not partake in its destruction, just to get America into
the war. This book has lots of “facts,” but uses them
to create unprovable theories, built more on conjecture than actual
Putting all of the conspiracy theories to bed are two texts from
Penguin Books. “Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History,”
by Gordon Prange with Donald Goldstein and Katherine Dillon ($20),
is a sequel to “At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl
Harbor.” The same authors and Penguin Books have published
a 60th anniversary edition of “At Dawn We Slept” that
helps to counter the spate of revisionist conspiracy theories.
To buttress this anti-revisionist movement, there is “Pearl
Harbor: Final Judgment,” by Henry Clausen and Bruce Lee, published
by Da Capo Press ($19, paperback). Often overlooked is the part
played by Secretary of War Henry Stimson’s 1944-45 investigation.
Here, we learn that, for most of the war, many intercepted Japanese
messages were never decrypted or evaluated because of a shortage
of personnel trained in decryption methods or fluent in the Japanese
language. In fact, many messages were left undeciphered until after
Further, the two services (Army and Navy) did not coordinate their
intelligence-gathering efforts or share the results. Stimson concluded
that what we knew later in the war was not available on December
Dr. David LL. Silbergeld is a member of the Special Operations
and Low-Intensity Conflict Division of the National Defense Industrial
Association. His e-mail address is email@example.com.