7 December: Infamy revisited—Pearl Harbour


The Shaw is sunk at Pearl Harbour . . . (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Shaw is sunk at Pearl Harbour . . . (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Seventy-four years later, the questions still animate, intrigue, trouble, and inspire, from historians of all stripes to simple students who become fascinated with the era.

The debates will always continue as to whether Pearl Harbour was a genuine sneak attack, or an act of retaliatory desperation following months of maneuvers and blockades. So will the debates as to whether the possibility was known in advance enough of terrible actuality.

This, however, now as always, is not the place to re-open intellectual debate on the Date That Would Live in Infamy. As every year, and God willing in the years to come, this is the place to remember and, in your own quiet manner, analyse and reflect upon the manner in which radio responded, from the hour Japanese aircraft swept into and bombed Pearl Harbour, provoking at last the United States’ active military entry into World War II.


The Oregon Journal extra's headline says it too well . . .

The Oregon Journal extra’s headline says it too well . . .

Today, in 2014, the living survivors of Pearl Harbour may be down to a handful. To you, to your fallen comrades, and to those who answered the challenge and fought the great and terrible fight, I say thank you for your service and your gallantry. To those of our elders who still live among us and were there to hear what’s been preserved for us below, not to mention to respond with the fortitude of a great nation, I say thank you for your perseverance and your heart.

To those only learning as history what the fallen, the survivors, and the elders knew first hand, I say listen, learn, read on. And pray we should never again need to go to war but that, if we absolutely must, our blood should run as strong as our parents and grandparents once the shock dissipates and the reality called a great nation—however she is to be brought aboard such a war—must show its mettle once more.

I have held for a long enough time that the purpose of this journal is never clanking nostalgia but living, breathing art. But today, as every year on this date, even less is the presentation geared to nostalgia. There really is nothing much truly nostalgic about war, however much nostalgia might be mulcted from its peripheral life.



We interrupt your regularly scheduled Philharmonic (CBS)—The New York Philharmonic wasn’t as lucky as popular bandleader Sammy Kaye—their Sunday performance, not Sammy Kaye’s swinging and swaying, would be interrupted by the Pearl Harbour bulletin from future What’s My Line host John Daly.

The breaking bulletinNBC breaks the news that stuns a citizenry.

The World Today: The Breaking Bulletin, continued (CBS)—Daly breaks into programming again, with a special The World Today bulletin tied to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first announcement of the Pearl Harbour attack.

“Bruiser Kenard made the tackle . . . we interrupt this broadcast” (Mutual)Once upon a time, there was a football team of Brooklyn Dodgers, and their game against the New York Giants is interrupted by this network bulletin.

The World Today: The Earliest Details (CBS)—Shortly after the attack is first known and reported, Albert Warner ponders the forthcoming White House statement and the likely response from FDR.

The Cabinet and Honolulu (NBC)—Within three hours of the Pearl Harbour attack’s beginning comes this report of a Cabinet meeting called by Roosevelt and concurrent attacks on Honolulu.

Continuing Coverage (NBC)—Before The Catholic Hour with the Rev. James Gillis airs its normal Sunday afternoon program, the network reports an emergency Japanese cabinet meeting and another Japanese bombing attack.

London listening (CBS)—Robert Trout reports the earliest British reaction to the news about Pearl Harbour.

Kaltenborn Edits the News: “They Have Made War Without Declaring It” (NBC)The distinguished, veteran commentator, whose regular Sunday night air slot was up, anyway, weighs in with a cool early analysis.

Listen, America: There Went the Good News (NBC)—This is one time the program that normally hailed its audience cheerfully enough (“We bring you good news!”), introducing what later generations would call soft news (one of today’s segments otherwise will feature an item about the popular radio soap Big Sister), is going to be interrupted for none-too-good news.

“Apparently confronted with a situation from which there was no escape except war” (CBS)—Major George Ellis, a CBS military analyst, delivers a striking early analysis of the possible why and wherefore of the Japanese attacks.

A formal declaration of war—A surviving Japanese radio broadcast, conveying Prime Minister Hideki Tojo’s declaration of war against the Allies.

“We are in an extreme crisis” (WNYC, New York)—Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the colourful and occasionally controversial mayor of New York City, addresses the metropolitan New York area on the city-owned radio station, accusing Nazi Germany of masterminding Japan’s politics all the way up to the Pearl Harbour attacks, and urging New York citizens of Japanese descent to stay put pending further U.S. Government action regarding Japanese diplomats and consulate.

Commentary: Drew Pearson & Robert S. Allen (NBC)—The once-fabled co-columnists of the original Washington Merry-Go-Round, Pearson and Allen review the bustle around Washington as Roosevelt, his Cabinet, and Congress gird for war; review the speculation on how many Japanese carriers were involved in launching the Pearl Harbour raid; and, review concurrent Japanese bombing attacks on British bases in the Pacific as well as a raid on Guam, as well as revealing cancellation of German and Japanese news credentials in Washington.

Roundtable Ruminations (NBC)—Some of the network’s signature news commentators—Kaltenborn, Max Jordan, Luther Schweitzer, Edward Tomlinson, Upton Close—give new analysis and commentary as the gravity of Pearl Harbour continues, if you’ll pardon the expression, sinking in in earnest.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is merely day one of a long and arduous haul, on the air, in the air, over the seas, and across the battlefields.


Further Channel Surfing . . .

Sunday Serenade (music; NBC)
Hour of Charm (music; NBC)
Manhattan Merry-Go-Round (variety; NBC)
The Parker Family (comedy; NBC)
The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Part Two (comedy; NBC)
The Chase & Sanborn Program with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy (comedy; NBC)
The Great Gildersleeve: Cousin Octavia Visits (comedy; NBC)

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