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Lest We Forget: Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941

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Were American Leaders Aware of the Attack in Advance?
Lest We Forget: Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

Department of the Navy - Naval Historical Center
While history is unchangeable there is often lack of agreement by historians of the precise details of many major events. Historians will forever argue over how aware the U.S. government was of the impending attack. There is even strong speculation that our leaders were well aware of the attack in advance and did nothing to prevent it. Had the attack on Pearl Harbor not occurred, public and political sentiment might not have allowed U.S. involvement in the war until it was too late.

Much of history is based on one's perspective, and dependent on the outcome of the event. Many of us have grown up being taught that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a "cowardly sneak attack" upon an unsuspecting nation. How many times have we all heard those words in Franklin D. Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor Speech describing December 7, 1941 as "a date which will live in infamy"?

In reality, the attack on Pearl Harbor was a brilliantly designed and well executed plan, devised by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese combined fleet. The failure was not in the plan or the execution of the attack. The failure was on the part of those in power in Japan to understand that such an attack, while providing a great victory, would so unite and arouse a nation and so stir their resolve, that the defeat of Japan was as inevitable as the war itself. Had the Japanese, however, won the war, the attack on Pearl Harbor would be viewed in much different light.

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