Friday, December 09, 2011

The attack on Pearl Harbor

Last Wednesday marked the 70th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a raid so secretly-planned and skillfully-executed by the Imperial Japanese Navy that dragged the US into the theaters of World War II. Years have passed but the enthusiasm of military historians has never ceased to excavate the truth of the attack, in which our history books entries always have the adjective sneaky added before it to highlight a military action launched before the war was declared. Maybe the biggest mystery lies at the reason why a naval base so strategically important could be so vulnerable. The unnoticed and unprepared peacetime American Pacific Fleet suffered 2400 killed, 1178 wounded, almost all of her battleships sunk along with 323 aircraft destroyed. Were any combat patrols deployed on the perimeter of the base? Did not the US intelligence service have any idea about Japanese military movement? Did not they know that Japanese Empire was planning to expand southward and getting rid of the US Fleet was a must because it posed an immediate threat to their achieving of the objective? Even a military layman who was born thirteen years after the attack would ask simple questions like these, why did not Americans know then?

Militarily speaking, no one would deny that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a masterpiece in terms of its planning and execution. The staff officers programming the whole scheme and the naval aviators sitting in the cockpits of attack planes were all elites of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Six of Japan’s first-line aircraft carriers with their escorts and auxiliary vessels formed the attack force with three types of carrier-based war planes: Mitsubishi Zero fighters, Aichi D3A1 “Val” dive bombers, and Nakajima B5N2 “Kate” torpedo bombers. These Japanese flyers completed their missions with impeccable professionalism and utmost dedication. They should not be compared with their army counterparts that had committed the war crime in the Rape of Nanking 1937 in China.

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