Awakening a sleeping giant

by chuckofish

Today is the 75 anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, that “date that will live in infamy.”

At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appeared out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into WWII. (



The battleships West Virginia and Tennessee burning

Wheeler Air Force Base under attack

Wheeler Army Air Field under attack

Here are more pictures.

Our parents were, of course, deeply affected by this horrific attack. Our mother was 15 and in high school. She never quite forgave the Japanese for their part in this event and she would be shocked, I know, that we own a Japanese car. Our 19-year-old father dropped out of college and joined the army just like scores of other young men.


ANC III in 1942, Miami Beach

He served throughout the war. I have no doubt that my 41-year old grandfather Bunker would have joined up if the powers that be had let him. Our other grandfather, the newspaper man, spent a good part of the war in London during the Blitz. (My DP probably knows more about what he was actually doing there.)

It was a long and traumatizing war that left its mark on several generations of Americans. Everyone I knew growing up had a father in the war (and a few mothers). As small children we would proudly compare branches of the service in which our fathers served. And, of course, we watched Combat! on television with a certain amount of sophistication.


My favorite character was PFC Kirby who carried the BAR. Yes, I was seven.

Today TCM is honoring the anniversary with a 24-hour tribute. I plan to watch Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), which I saw with my father when it was first released.


He, of course, found many mistakes in the film, as he always did, but he enjoyed it nonetheless. Among its stars is Jason Robards, who was a radioman, 3rd class, on the USS Northampton, which was about 100 miles off Hawaii at the time of the attack.

TCM is also showing They Were Expendable (1945) starring John Wayne, Donna Reed and Robert Montgomery, which is about American PT Boats (“those high powered canoes”) defending the Philippines in World War II. Directed by “John Ford, Captain U.S.N.R.”, it is blatantly propagandistic, but who cares?


This film is also noteworthy because John Wayne uncharacteristically wears a baseball cap through most of it (and he looks adorable.)


So pick a movie and toast the brave men and women who fought and died on December 7, 1941 and toast again for the rest who joined up shortly after.