News / USA

70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Approaches

Two new books revisit devastating attack

The USS California, right, after being struck by a torpedo and a bomb during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The USS California, right, after being struck by a torpedo and a bomb during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Multimedia

Audio
Faiza Elmasry

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy staged a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. Five U.S. battleships sank or were severely damaged, several hundred warplanes were destroyed and more than 2,400 people died.  



In an historic speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called it "a date which will live in infamy."

As the United States prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, two new books revisit the the most devastating foreign attack on U.S. soil until the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001.  

Days that changed America

Historian Craig Shirley was born more than a decade after the end of World War II, but the war was ever-present during his childhood.

“I grew up in a family, a culture, where the point of reference for everybody in conversation was, before the war, during the war, and after the war." Shirley recalls. "Everybody in my family had been involved directly in the war, whether civilian or military.”

“December 1941, 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World,” by Craig Shirley, explores the days surrounding the Pearl Harbor attack and the US entry into World War II.
“December 1941, 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World,” by Craig Shirley, explores the days surrounding the Pearl Harbor attack and the US entry into World War II.

President Roosevelt had resisted joining the war in Europe. He had been re-elected to a third term. The nation was gradually climbing out of the Great Depression.  

“Franklin Roosevelt made public speeches saying to American mothers, ‘I’m not going to send your boys to fight a European war,'" Shirley says.

But all that changed when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. In his book, "December 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World," Shirley dedicates each chapter to a day, starting on Dec. 1.

On Dec. 8,  President Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress with his famous speech.

“Everything stopped at about one o’clock in the afternoon," Shirley says. "Everybody gathered around their radios, in their homes, in their libraries, in their churches. There were radio repair stores all over America that had radios out in front of their stores. They would have them on for passersby to listen to. The stock market stopped. Everybody stopped to listen to the president of the U.S.”

Forty minutes later, Congress declared war against Japan. On Dec. 11, Germany declared war on the U.S. and America joined the battle.    

Going to war, Shirley says, changed America.

“Women built airplanes, tanks and learned how to become firefighters," he says. The nation’s capital changed overnight.

In “December 1941: Twelve Days that Began a World War,
In “December 1941: Twelve Days that Began a World War," historian Evan Mawdsley explores how Pearl Harbor marked a turning point in the direction of the entire century.

“Tens of thousands of civilians and military personnel come into the city," Shirley explains. "New buildings sprang up every place. All the federal buildings have machine guns on top of them. There are navy and marine armed guards stationed at the entrance to every federal building in Washington, the Capitol, the White House, the State Department.”

America as a global power

While Shirley focuses mostly on what happened in the United States, another book, “December 1941: Twelve Days that Began a World War," offers an international perspective.

“The 12 days are really pivotal in terms of the war as a whole and in the 20th century as well," says author Evan Mawdsley, a history professor at the University of Glasgow. “In fact, the Japanese attacked the British before they attacked Pearl Harbor by about half an hour, when they attacked Malaya. The reason why they attacked Pearl Harbor is because they wanted to make sure that the American navy couldn’t intervene in their invasion of Malaya.”

According to Mawdsley, the world after Dec. 7 became fundamentally different from the world just one day before.  

“America as a global power, the real beginning of that, I think, does date back to the shock of Pearl Harbor," he explains. "Up till that time, the whole fate of the world was determined by the European powers. And from the first days of December, all of a sudden, the way it operates has become global. You could argue, I think, that the globalization almost dates back to this period of time.”

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs