Passing on the lessons from Pearl Harbor
[Q]Passing on the lessons from Pearl Harbor
Those who lived through the attack and WWII reflect on impact of war
Matthew B. Stannard, Chronicle Staff Writer Sunday, December 7, 2003
On Dec. 7, 1941, six Japanese aircraft carriers positioned 200 miles north of Oahu launched 181 attack planes toward the slowly waking port of Pearl Harbor and at U.S. military airfields elsewhere on the island. The two- stage attack killed 2,403 Americans, including 68 civilians -- men, women and children.
The attack destroyed or damaged 21 ships of the U.S. Pacific fleet and 347 airplanes. The Japanese lost 29 planes.
As the 62nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor approached, The Chronicle asked some of those whose lives were changed by that day and its consequences what was the lesson of Dec. 7, 1941.
Bernard "Sandy" Santamoor was a private first class and assistant squad leader in the 27th U.S. Infantry Regiment donning his dress uniform for Catholic Mass when he heard machine guns firing. With a sergeant bellowing that this was not a dry run, he broke out two .30-caliber machine guns and opened fire on the planes, striking at least one, which crashed. After the battle, he painted rising suns -- the symbol on the Japanese battle flag --
on the barrels. Now 87, he lives in San Jose.
"We got hit pretty hard on a sneak attack. We weren't prepared. I think we learned one lesson: be prepared. They've got better things now, electronic devices and things like that that would have stopped things like that ... But I don't compare September 11 to Pearl Harbor. One is a terrorist attack. There's no defense against a terrorist attack. ... The other was a military strike. ... I try to keep Pearl Harbor in people's minds because I don't want it to happen again."
Use the intelligence
Frank Karas was an Army Air Corps buck private working as an orderly on Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941. He was sound asleep when bombs began falling on top of his building. As he and other soldiers rushed to get explosive ordnance out of the building, Japanese planes swept low, firing on the unarmed men. One bomb destroyed the mess hall, killing 300 men -- had he woken earlier, he would have been there. Now 82, he lives in Sunnyvale.
"We had cracked the code. Washington knew about it. It's been said for the last 62 years that Roosevelt knew about it, and that was the only way to (get the United States to enter the war) was let the Japanese attack us first. ... When we get intelligence, we've got to use it. Now they're saying, September 11, we had plenty of knowledge but nobody did nothing about it. The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. We get these people in office, and they don't know what the hell they are doing."
Do not forget
Warren Upton was a Navy radioman on the battleship Utah, asleep in his quarters when two torpedoes slammed into the ship's port side. He scrambled up two decks and escaped as the ship rolled over and sank with more than 50 sailors still on board. Now 84, he lives in San Jose.
"Be prepared. We should not let our guard down. ... There were signs of acts of terrorism (before Sept. 11), but they weren't looked into or investigated further. ... Unfortunately, I think that over the years, people tend to forget. It's just a natural thing. ... It was such a surprise that no one could forget it, particularly those of us who were there.''
'No more war'
Yuri Matsuda was 5 or 6 and living in Japan when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and can just remember her countrymen cheering. When she was 9, she was evacuated to a temple in the mountains along with her classmates in the third through sixth grade -- younger students stayed home, older ones served the country. She was still in the mountains when she heard an enormous roar from Hiroshima, but didn't know what had happened until a friend's father hiked to the temple and said the city was destroyed. Now 67, she lives in Porterville.
"We need to remember, no more war. That's my only comment. I just don't like war."
Eiichi Edward Sakauye was working his farm near San Jose when a neighbor told him about the attack on Pearl Harbor. At first he worried only about his parents, Japanese immigrants who were not eligible to become U.S. citizens, but soon found his own travel restricted, his bank account closed, and his home searched by three men who refused to identify themselves. When he complained to the FBI, he was asked if his parents were saboteurs. After Executive Order No. 9066 was issued in February 1942, he was evacuated to an internment camp. Now 91, he still lives in San Jose.
"The idea of giving up our homes, our property, our crops, was a great tragedy ... nowhere in history has anything like that happened ... I believe that if we had a little more understanding of each other, be compassionate, I don't think they would have done that. ... We were denied the rights of an American citizen. ... Our fathers, mothers sacrificed their sons and daughters for America."
'Be willing to fight'
Marilyn Cosentino was a child when her uncle Manny Gonzalez died, but she remembers it vividly. Fulfilling a lifelong dream to be a pilot, he was flying an unarmed escort plane accompanying the carrier Enterprise back to Hawaii when the attack began, and he was shot down. A month later, his father died of a heart attack, and his pregnant wife later gave birth to a stillborn baby. The entire family, terrified of a Japanese invasion of California, moved to Paradise in Butte County for several years. Now 67, she lives in San Francisco.
"They got over it -- you do. And my aunt remarried, but I'll tell you what, it affected us dramatically. ... I don't think there's enough people left alive who remember it, and the terrible, terrible dangers like North Korea now ... the horrible things that people can do ... I think we have to be militarily prepared and be willing to fight. ... That's the lesson we learned."
David Perlman was a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle when Pearl Harbor was attacked. With San Francisco blacked out, he was sent to The Chronicle's clock tower to watch the night sky. After an hour, he spotted an object that seemed to be moving slowly toward the city. Convinced the object was an enemy balloon or blimp, he called the city desk to warn of an impending attack. The object was a star. Today he is The Chronicle's science editor.
"The moral: Hysteria is catching, so make sure of what you're seeing when you think you know."
'War is horrible'
Tom Sakamoto was drafted by the U.S. Army in February 1941, and while he was needed on the family farm, his Japanese American parents felt their oldest son had an obligation to serve. He was attending the Presidio Language School on Dec. 7 when he stopped at a gas station and noticed the attendant staring strangely at him. Turning on the radio, he was shocked to hear of the attack. He later went on to battle the Japanese in New Guinea and was part of the invasion of Japan, and was present for the surrender on the battleship Missouri. But his parents were forced to evacuate their farm and enter a camp. Now 85, he lives in Saratoga.
"We Japanese Americans did not take a negative stance. We took a positive stance that this is the only country we have and whatever the outcome we have to do our best and survive. ... As a result, the Japanese Americans' descendants were able to go to West Point and the Academy ... and politically we advanced our cause. It's a tough situation. ... For me, the path we chose was the correct one, but it really tests the will and loyalty of a man. Of course, the bottom line is, war is horrible."
John G. Little IV was just 5 months old when his father, John G. Little III, died on the battleship Utah. Too young to remember his father, he nevertheless learned his history from his mother, who wanted him to know who the man in the picture was. Now a 62-year-old chemistry teacher in Stockton, Little last year attended a memorial at the Utah, where he met the man who last saw his father alive.
"We just have to be aware that there is a real world out there. We've been awfully, awfully lucky. Even in view of September 11, that was awful, but it's only one. We've been incredibly lucky. ... The awareness that Pearl Harbor gave us is renewed by September 11. We as a public know more of what's going on now than we did then ... probably because of the events since Pearl Harbor. And I think that's a good thing. We have to be aware, and we have to respect that."
Keith Eiler was a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and remembers nothing but eagerness to get into the fight. He fought and was injured in World War II and went on to fight in Korea and also earned a doctorate in history from Harvard University. A research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, he recently wrote "Mobilizing America: Robert P. Patterson and the War Effort, 1940-1945." He is 83.
"It's been more or less our historical tendency to get all fired up and rearm and develop our intelligence apparatus, then the crisis passes and we disband them ... the lesson I think we should take is the importance of being more pro-active, and developing policy-making machinery in Washington that ... gives us a little more continuity in our policy-making,'' he said.
"Once the war was won in '45 it was amazingly rapid how fast we said the bad guys have all been eliminated and we can go back to normalcy and peace ... I think 9/11 illustrates in spades the crucial importance not only of intelligence, but of the instrumentalities of processing intelligence. We look back and say my God, here we go again ... like Pearl Harbor, we get zapped."
Quoting Mr. Santamoor: "There's no defense against a terrorist attack".
That´s what I always said.
This article is incredibly contradictory, almost to the point where is doesn't say anything.
I think it's more a retrospective than anything. Though they try and ram the "be prepared" message as much as they can.
Can't the lessons of a historic event be contradictory?
I suppose--what are you thinking exactly? Not exactly helpful from a policy standpoint, though, to suggest at the same time that "war is terrible" and we want "no more war" but "be prepared to fight." Which does he think?
"You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war." Albert Einstein
Oh sure bring HIM into it like he KNOWs anything:wink:
the article is too long. Einstein says in one sentence.
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