My first and only visit to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor was thirty-two years ago last month. I was 15 and part of a marching band trip to Oahu. Although I was just a moron high-school kid and wasn’t super interested in the side trip to the Naval Base – as there were massive quantities of bikini-clad hotties at the beach by my hotel on Waikiki – I went along because attendance was required.
I was so glad that I did. Standing on the platform, considering what was beneath my feet and what had occurred there almost forty-three years before, was incredibly moving. The horror of what happened and the still-rippling impact of that day gripped me.
As per usual practice when a guest with a new book is on the docket, I read up on the author and the book itself.
Occasionally I’ll be sent a copy of the book, but usually I’m left with reading reviews, the online bookstore summaries, and perhaps details from the writer’s own website. I did all of these things and posted an announcement on my own website, copying and pasting what seemed to me to be the pertinent details that would assist in an entertaining and informative interview segment.
I knew I was going to be very engaged in the conversation for two reasons:
- I’m getting sick of the constant conversations about the two staggeringly
subpar and grotesquely unfitpresidential candidates.
- Everything I read about the book indicated that it is fantastic.
Escaping talking about Donald or Hillary was perhaps inducement enough. One, the other, or both of them have been a daily topic since I started the show in January and also every day for my previous show’s one-year run.
Equally as compelling, however, were facts, stories, and themes the book contained, which I obtained from the author’s publicist as well as Amazon’s description:
- America’s diplomatic missteps contributed to Pearl Harbor in the months leading up to the attacks.
- The United States government overestimated its military strength in Hawaii.
- The opening sentence: The America we live in today was born, not on July 4, 1776, but on December 7, 1941, when an armada of 354 Japanese warplanes supported by aircraft carriers, destroyers, and midget submarines suddenly and savagely attacked the United States, killing 2,403 men—and forced America’s entry into World War II.
- The book’s preparation: 5 years of research and compilation of over a million pages of pertinent documents.
On the show, Nelson did an incredible job of pitching the book: I bought it within 5 minutes of the conclusion of the segment.
One tidbit during our conversation gave me chills: his recounting the discovery of a photo from 1914, with the then-Undersecretary of the Navy Franklin Roosevelt (not yet afflicted by polio) at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, for the keel-laying of U.S.S Battleship #39. Number 39 would later be christened the U.S.S. Arizona.
Here’s the picture:
I’ve gotten into the habit this year of consuming books in audio form. While driving, working out, or riding my bike, rather than listen to music, live talkshow radio or podcasts, I now prefer hearing a book read aloud. I’ve yet to listen to a fiction book, but have come to love what are functionally super-long podcasts, without advertisement or distraction.
I’m now mid-chapter 5 and absolutely loving the book. At this point, it’s not even close to the actual events of December 7, 1941. So far, it’s all background and set-up.
It starts out describing the initial U.S.-Japan interactions in 1852 and 1853, when Matthew Perry was sent by President Fillmore to establish trade relations. The deal struck back then was very Vito Corleone-esque: trade with us or we’ll attack you. This is history of which if I had awareness, it was long forgotten.
Very quickly it moves to the 20th century, going through the various political and military situations within both countries, as well as how they were impacted by the other influential countries around the glove. What’s striking is that there was so much misinformation accepted as fact by both sides and how this caused subsequent actions that culminated in the attack.
So far, there seems to be significant blame to be allocated to both sides in the lead-up. On the other hand, Nelson has been careful to clearly avoid any sense of moral equivalence in his general comments about the war with Japan. There is no sense of “yeah, they attacked Pearl but then we atom-bombed two of their cities, so we’re no angels here either.” In fact, early on he compares the inscriptions at the U.S.S Arizona Memorial with those in Japan at one of the bombing sites.
If you are interested in some seriously interesting and massively impactful history (and a respite from “I’m with Hillary!” or “Board the Trump Train!”), I would strongly suggest giving the book a shot.
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
And here’s my interview with Craig:
Thank you for reading and please share!