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SLUG: 7-35282 Dateline-Pearl Harbor Redux


TYPE=English Programs Feature


TITLE=Dateline: Pearl Harbor Redux

BYLINE=Ted Landphair



EDITOR=Neal Lavon




INTRO When suicidal hijackers crashed airliners into targets in New York City and Washington last Tuesday, killing thousands, U-S Senator Charles Hagel of Nebraska was in Florida with President Bush. "This is the second Pearl Harbor," Senator Hagel exclaimed when he heard the news. It's an analogy that has been repeated many times since. But does the sneak attack upon the U-S Pacific Fleet in Hawaii that pulled the United States into World War Two really equate with last week's terrorist attacks? In this Dateline report, VOA's Ted Landphair examines the comparison.

ANCR 1 With smoke still billowing from the rubble at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a crater left by a hijacked passenger jet that crashed in Pennsylvania, the Washington Times newspaper rushed out a special edition. Splashed in startling type across its front page was a single word.

"Infamy!" read the headline.

Many, perhaps even most, adult Americans would instantly understand the significance of that word. It took them back to another sunny and quiet morning almost sixty years ago.


(ESTABLISH BRIEFLY, and allow to play out under CUT TWO)


"We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin. The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by air, President Roosevelt has just announced."

ANCR 2 A day later, as Congress declared war, Mr. Roosevelt spoke to a shocked and outraged nation.


[Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn] "The President of the United States.

[Roosevelt] "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. With the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God."

MUS-1 "We Did it Before (And We'll Do It Again)" from The Words & Music of World War II," cut 1, CDP-5258.

"We've got a heckuva job to do

"But you can bet that we'll see it through.

"We did it before, and we can do it again.

"And we will do it again . . . :14 to here; take under and out

ANCR 3 Similar expressions of resolve have followed the recent carefully orchestrated attacks on an unsuspecting nation, leading to the comparisons with Pearl Harbor. Do these parallels stand up?

In many ways, yes, says Daniel Goldstein [GOLD-steen], a public-policy historian at the University of Pittsburgh, who has written four books on Pearl Harbor. Dr. Goldstein says there are early indications that last week's sneak attacks will unite a nation. The Japanese assault of sixty years ago certainly did, he says, as no other event ever had.


"Even in the American Revolution, one-third were against it, one-third was for it, and one-third fought it."

ANCR 4 Professor Goldstein says there's an unfortunate link, as well, between the terrorist attacks and Pearl Harbor.


"Pearl Harbor was an intelligence failure if there ever was one. Lot of messages out there. Lot of things we should have known about. Lotta would-a, should-a, could-a's. This is the same thing. We got caught short and cannot figure out why. After Pearl Harbor we created the Central Intelligence Agency, which was going to be the thing that was going to save us from these intelligence problems. Well, after this one, I think we're going to have to create a new agency to really get our intelligence back in shape."

ANCR 5 University of Florida historian Michael Gannon has just published a book about Pearl Harbor called A True Story About a Man and a Nation Under Attack. The man was Admiral Husband Kimmel, commander of the U-S Pacific Fleet. He was vilified for the loss of more than 24-hundred men and several battleships. Professor Gannon says it's likely that an angry nation will again look for someone to blame for the breakdowns in intelligence that may have contributed to the astounding success of the recent terrorist missions.


"For example in the trial of the men who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, it was developed that these men had a more extended plan than just bombing one of the towers of the trade center. They had a plan that incorporated the flying of aircraft into those towers. And people just passed over that as, I guess, dreaming. Similarly, Senator Warren Rudman and others presented a report to the United States Congress in February of this year in which they predicted that within a short amount of time there would be a major terrorist attack on some installation in the United States. Now were those warnings of sufficient clarity and force that we can blame somebody for not taking heed? I'm not sure."

ANCR 6 Many retrospectives about Pearl Harbor recalled the scene of Japanese pilots returning jubilantly to their carriers, where they found Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto brooding rather than celebrating. The old warrior warned, "I fear that all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill it with a desire for vengeance."

Michael Gannon points out that the sailors at Pearl Harbor were not really sleeping. Most ships were fully armed and staffed. But because of the failure of Naval Operations to forward intercepted messages, the men were blissfully unaware of what was about to befall them. But Dr. Gannon says the United States was surely not nave about the threat that Japan posed.


"We had instituted the military draft in the United States. Our industries were gearing up for the manufacture of ships and tanks and aircraft. Munitions were pouring off the assembly lines. We knew that we were going to get into this war someday, somehow. So I think Yamamoto's characterization of us as being a sleeping giant are not correct. He angered the American people. He surely did, because until December 7th, half of our population at least was isolationist, not desiring to become engaged in any war European or Asian. And Yamamoto, by his unprecedented action in attacking us without warning so aroused the American public that isolationists just went by the board [lost favor]. You know, prior to December 7th, one of the popular songs was 'Rock-a-bye My Baby, There Ain't Gonna Be No War.' And after December 7th, everybody was singing, 'Let's Remember Pearl Harbor.'"

MUS-2 "Let's Remember Pearl Harbor" from The Words & Music of World War II," cut 1, CDP-5258.

(brief fanfare, then)

"Let's remember Pearl Harbor as we go to meet the foe . . ." :12 to here; take under and out

ANCR 7 As investigators announce more and more links between the dead and captured terrorists and radical Muslim Osama Bin Laden, Arab-American and religious leaders have pleaded with the nation not to repeat scenes of hatred and suspicion that marked the treatment of Japanese-Americans in the days after World War Two.

As for differences between December 7th, 1941 and September 11th, 2001, one for sure is the nature of the attacks. Military pilots bombed and strafed a military target at Pearl Harbor. Civilian hijackers rained terror on everyday office workers in New York, relatively defenseless civilian and military officials at the Pentagon, and ordinary travelers and crews in the air. Following the attack on Hawaii, it was easy to define the Axis foe. Today's elusive enemy is trickier to identify, locate, and destroy.

Some observers have also pointed out that since the attack upon Pearl Harbor took place in far-off Hawaii, and last week's assaults directly into the belly of the nation's business and military complexes, a greater sense of unease and vulnerability pervades the United States today than in 1941.

Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg points to the considerable differences in styles between the men in charge of the nation then and now. Franklin Roosevelt, he says, was an erudite writer and speaker. Plain-talking George Bush is a former businessman.


"He is not a great speaker, he is a reader. He reads copy that he may have helped write, or somebody else may have written. I think it comes across, it lacks an extemporaneous quality and some emotional quality. Obviously, he has to be his own man. That means using his own words and speaking his own way. But look, the events to some extent have already rallied the country the anger that we see in all parts of the U-S as a result of the terrorist activities."

ANCR 8 Donald Goldstein at the University of Pittsburgh says Pearl Harbor changed more than warfare. It changed American life.


"It put us into NATO. It gave us the bomb. It freed women [by putting them in the workplace]. It changed our ways. This is going to do similar things. We're not going to be going to the airport and just get on any more. They're probably going to be checking us at the movies one day. Some of our freedoms are going to be given up."

MUS-3 "We Did it Before (And We'll Do It Again)" excerpt 2 -- from The Words & Music of World War II," cut 1, CDP-5258. :10

"We did it before, and we'll do it again."

ANCR 9 Last week's terrorist rampage, or what President Bush has called the "first war of the 21st Century," has, in the eyes of many observers, robbed the world's mightiest power of some of its smugness and feelings of invulnerability. But others point out that the attacks may have also, in Pearl Harbor fashion, awakened and unleashed a furious giant.

For Dateline, [signed]


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