The Attack on Pearl Harbor Shapes American History
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy . . .” These famous lines were spoken the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave this speech to the U.S. Congress on December 8, 1941. Many criticized the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but the decision to attack America was wisely made. The Americans were going to enter the war sooner or later, and on the allies’ side. The attack on Pearl Harbor would hurt the United States’ strongest defense and kill many Americans. This was the first terrorist attack on the United States, by another country, which came as a total shock to many people.
One of the people who is rumored to have known about the attack was the president. President Roosevelt knew the attack against Pearl Harbor had to have been planned for a while, because of the distance, the organization, and telegrams that had been coming in. Japan was too far for the attack to be an accident or a spur of the moment type plan. The attack was well organized and the Japanese were prepared. The continental United States was receiving telegrams warning them that there would be an attack. Unfortunately, people in Hawaii were not warned; they were living their normal lives, doing things they were accustomed to doing such as going to parties, writing letters home, and just doing things that a man stationed in Hawaii would do. Many men wrote letters home to their girlfriend or parents or kept a journal. The following letter is an example. Doctor Paul E. Spangler wrote it:
"With my Pearl Harbor plates on I had the right of way and I was out there in nothing flat. ...I hurried up to the Surgery and already the casualties were pouring in...
It was hell for a while. These poor devils brought in all shot up and burned. Many of them hopeless. We gave them plenty of morphine and sent them out in the Wards to die. The others we patched up as best we could..." (Paul Spangler)
Many people remember exactly were they were when New York City was attacked. It is the same way with Pearl Harbor. Many men who were at Pearl Harbor know exactly where they were and whom they talked too. Pay Clerk D. L. Westfall, who was on the USS Oklahoma, said the following:
”At the time of the attack I was in my room shaving. The word was passed "Away Fire and Rescue Party;" just as I was leaving my room the second word was passed for all hands to man their General Quartets Stations closely followed by a shock of a hit. I glanced at my clock as I was leaving my room and noticed the time was a few minutes before 8:00 A.M. I started for my station in Radio Central; as I was passing along the third deck up a port ammunition passageway, I felt two more hits. The lights went out in the passageway except for one battle light and two panel lights in the boat crane machinery space. By the time I reached the compartment abreast the armory the ship had picked up a ten to...