BOSTON (CBS) — Seventy-five years ago today, Japanese military forces killed or wounded more than 3,500 Americans in a sneak attack on the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor.
It was, as President Roosevelt put it in his speech urging a declaration of war the next day, “a date which will live in infamy.” It ended the domestic resistance to involvement in World War II, a war that ended four years later after the combat deaths of nearly 300,000 Americans.
Why did they attack us?
The Japanese invasions of China and French Indochina had prompted the US to slap trade restrictions on them, including a ban on oil exports. The Empire thought the Pearl Harbor attack would paralyze us, preventing interference with their plans to seize oil and other embargoed goods from other Pacific nations.
They were wrong.
As Roosevelt put it in that famous speech, “we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.”
But while we went on to win the wars with Japan and Germany, the rest of Roosevelt’s prophecy did not come true.
We were successfully attacked again on 9/11/2001, and again we were drawn into long, costly military conflict.
And when we look back on an anniversary like this one, we can see that other terrible aspects of that era remain unchanged. Fanatical despots and their blood-crazed followers continue to slaughter innocents, practice genocide, and blame others for their savagery.
Why would we expect otherwise?
Man remains an imperfect animal, to say the least.
And it’s only been 75 years since the monster that lurks within reminded us that there is no such thing as a Fortress America.
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