Sunday, December 24, 2023

Who Bombed Pearl Harbor

n December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his famous "day in infamy" speech describing Imperial Japan's "dastardly attack" on Pearl Harbor and condemning Tokyo's "surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area."

Immediately following the speech, the U.S. Senate declared war on Japan. A state of war with Germany was declared December 11, hours after Germany had declared war on the United States.

There was no official, national remembrance of the tragedy at Pearl Harbor until 1994. The 103rd Congress passed a joint resolution in 1994 designating December 7, 1993, as "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day." President Bill Clinton signed it into law (Public Law 103-308) on August 23rd. The law states: December 7 of each year is designated as "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day" and the President is authorized and requested— (1) to issue annually a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities; and (2) to urge all Federal agencies, and interested organizations, groups, and individuals, to fly the flag of the United States at halfstaff" each December 7 in honor of the individuals who died as a result of their service at Pearl Harbor.

Historians will wonder why the law identifies the nonexistent Japanese "Air Force" as the aggressor and is not specific about the number of casualties at Pearl Harbor. At the time, Japan did not have an independent Air Force. It was the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service that attacked Hawaii. In addition, unlike in President Roosevelt's speech, there is no mention of Japan's other lightning strikes throughout the Pacific on December 7th. These attacks famously destroyed the American Asiatic Fleet and the Army's Far East Air Force while cutting off U.S. outposts in the Pacific from the mainland and resuplly.

The Proclamations
The first proclamation was issued by President Clinton on November 29, 1994, 53 years after the Pearl Harbor attack. His 1994 proclamation, as all that followed, did little to enlighten Americans about the day's history. Notably, it began the "tradition" of not identifying who "attacked" U.S. Forces in Hawaii that day. All that we learn is that the attack "involved America in a worldwide battle against the forces of fascism and oppression."

In an examination of the 30 Pearl Harbor Presidential proclamations made since 1994, 11 have no mention of Japan. In other words, the "enemy" who attacked the American territory is not identified. It could have been any of the Axis powers. Thailand had a modern, able air force, albeit no aircraft carriers.

President George W. Bush (43) recognized Japan in only two of his eight Pearl Harbor Day commemorative statements. His administration had a close relationship with Japan and notably squashed a joint congressional resolution remembering the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII and the defeat of Japan. President Biden, who lost his uncle and a cousin to the Japanese, has mentioned Japan in only one of his three statements. Here is the link to this year's Proclamation. (I have a memo outlining all 30 statements. If interested, email me.)

California Governor Gavin Newson's 2023 Pearl Harbor Day proclamation clearly mentions Japan. His grandfather, Arthur Menzies, was a soldier on Corregidor with the 60th Coast Artillery Regiment (AntiAircraft) K Battery and endured a hellship and nearly four years in Japanese POW Camps. He was not on the Bataan Death March as some reports say. Sadly, while experiencing a flashback in 1973, he threatened to kill Newsom's mother and her twin sister. When he realized that they were not Japanese prison guards, he turned the gun on himself.

I have not found any member of congress, even members of the Veterans Affairs Committees in the House and Senate who have publicly remembered Pearl Harbor Day. If you find one, please tell me.

Also missing in the proclamations is mention of all the other attacks Japan made that day throughout the Pacific, especially against the American territories of Wake Island, Guam, Midway, and Howland Island. I leave to my loyal readers to figure out how many other Americans died that day in battle (tell me if you run the numbers). President Roosevelt, in contrast, was quite clear in his speech to Congress that December 7th was a day of multiple Japanese attacks in the Asia-Pacific (territories in continental Asia were bombed as well as islands in the Pacific).

To be sure, Pearl Harbor saw the greatest number of casualties and Medal of Honor (MoH) honorees among the American territories in the Pacific attacked that day. For their actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor, 15 sailors in the U.S. Navy (from seven ships and one Naval Air Station) and 1 Marine were awarded Medals of Honor. The 16 recipients held a wide range of ranks, from seaman to rear admiral. Eleven (69%) received their awards posthumously.

The first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II was killed on Midway, December 7, 1941. First Lieutenant George H. Cannon, USMC, from Michigan, remained at his post until all of his wounded men were evacuated, though severely wounded himself. His selfless action and concern for his men was an inspiration.

When war began, the American Embassy rushed to burn documents before the Kempeitai arrested and interned them. Niles W. Bond was a consular officer in Yokohama, Japan from 1940-1942 and was there during the attack on Pearl Harbor. His accounts of the time make interesting reading.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

December 14, 1944, Palawan Massacre

Plaza Cuartel Park
main square next to
the Palawan Survivors
Memorial (POW Camp 10A).
It was not rain that dampened their skin. It was airplane fuel. Buckets of it were tossed on the 150 emaciated POWs hunched down in narrow air raid trenches. The Japanese guards quickly followed with torches to light the men on fire.

The trench with the officers was the first to be set ablaze. The POWs in two other trenches tried to escape. But if grenades did not stop them, then the machine guns that had been positioned outside did. Wounded survivors were tortured by having their fingers and toes set afire. Their begging to be shot provoked more laughter from their tormentors.

If a man somehow made it past all the attacks, he was hunted down and killed. Of the 30-some who tried to escape the conflagration, only 11 actually were able to swim across the bay to be rescued by Filipino guerillas.

Such was the December 14th afternoon at Puerto Princesa, on the Philippine island of Palawan facing the South China Sea. The POWs had been there since August 1942. They were Marines, soldiers, tankers, and airmen captured months before when Bataan and Corregidor fell.

With only hand tools and one wheelbarrow they cleared the jungle and broke up the coral to build an airfield for the Imperial Japanese Army. Today, the airstrip they constructed rests below the Antonio Bautista Air Base, an important anchor of the U.S.-Philippines alliance and focal point for joint maneuvers with Japan.

It may be by coincidence that the Japanese selected December 14th to murder the POWs. And maybe not. For on December 14, 1799, George Washington died at his Mt. Vernon home after five decades of service to his country.

To learn more about the Palawan Massacre read Last Man Out or As Good as Dead.

Most important, please leave a tribute or a flower at the Find A Grave site for the Palawan Massacre. Most of the men are buried in a mass grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Missouri. Click here for the virtual memorial.

Never Forget