Seventy-three years ago today, our world changed forever. The Empire of Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and set forth the entrance of the United States in the World War II. We will always mourn those lost that day and swell with pride of the introduction of the Greatest Generation Ever. However, the attack on Pearl did more than just catapult the US into a war effort. Pearl forced America to make changes that we had never seen before. America was still a sleepy, farming community. The industrial machine had been started years before the war, but it was not on full throttle. This war changed our needs in regard to manpower, machines, and goods. The changes that followed America’s entrance into World War II changed our society, technology, and the role internationally that the United States now plays.
America had no desire to be a part of World War II. The carnage from World War I was still fresh in the psyche of the people. There are stories and such of Roosevelt’s desire to bring America into the war as being a reason for “allowing” Japan to attack Pearl. I believe that to be nonsense. While Roosevelt was correct in America needing to be battle ready, allowing an attack is ridiculous. He was a former navy man himself and had 4 sons that could face war.
The attack on Pearl had been building for quite some time. The governments of the United States and Japan had been tenuous for months when the US had cut off selling oil to Japan in July of 1940 under the Export Control Act. For years, the US had issues with Japan’s form of imperial expansion. Japan, having limited resources, had to import 90% of its oil and 80% of that came from the US. Of what was imported, most went to Japan’s navy and military. The US felt the Act would curtail Japan’s expansion efforts. However, Japan aligned with the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler via the Tripartite Act of September 1940 and relations further deteriorated. The attack on Pearl was one of economic necessity as Japan had been studying America’s military infrastructure for years and believed the US to be an inferior opponent in military strength.
The attack on Pearl galvanized the society. American citizens knew that a response must come, it would be long, and it would be bloody. Eleanor Roosevelt actually delivered such a message via her normal Sunday broadcast after news of Pearl. This message came before her husband’s stirring speech before Congress the next day. Our volunteers came in droves for the military needs. The role of what had been defining woman changed as men left factories to fight the war. Women stepped in and help to create the industrial machine that helped American win the war. America became a nation united.
The technological changes that came as a byproduct of the attack on Pearl are many. Improvements to radar, the invention of sonar, the eventual creation of jet propulsion, and the introduction of the atomic age are just a few technologies created in the war. The first computers, improvement in communications in both equipment and infrastructure all laid the foundation for the 24 hour on demand network we have today. When Pearl was bombed in 1941, they Naval commander on the base was sent a message from intelligence of a possible attack in the Pacific theater. Problem was that message got there about 90 minutes too late. President Roosevelt did not have a full assessment of what happened at Pearl for nearly 6 hours. Today, satellite imaging and fiber optics make impact assessments almost instantaneous. When compared to today’s high tech, that era can almost be viewed as Cro-Magnon.
Perhaps the largest impact for the United States was on our military size, strength, and scope of responsibilities. In 1941, the US was considered a 3rd world power. In comparison to Japan, the US had greater number of ships; the Japanese had better quality and size of ships with a vastly more experienced crew. At the time of the bombing of Pearl, America had one division of troops ready for battle compared to 100 such divisions for Japan. The needs of the war effort change our military to not only one of the largest, but without a doubt the best in the world. Like it or not, the US is the superpower that is now the world’s police. Doubt it – watch the navy’s commercial on “Being a Global Force for Good”…
So, when you remember today in reverence (as you should), remember to do the following:
Remember to say a prayer today for those that died 73 years ago.
Remember to say a prayer for those that died defending freedom in World War II and all of our conflicts since.
Remember that our military today are the offspring of that terrible day and good can come from heartbreak and despair. Please pray for their safety.
Remember to thank God that you live in the greatest, most adaptive and creative society ever built on this great planet.
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