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Connections, Misconceptions About Pearl Harbor Attack on 75th Anniv for one Syracuse Historian


The focus on this 75th anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor was the visit of the Japanese Prime Minister.  But one Syracuse historian is making some comparisons to other U-S events.  S-U Maxwell School History Professor Alan Allport compares President Obama’s visit on the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan.

“The precise language that’s used, the  significance of individual words is often taken into account, particularly when you’re dealing with translations.  Japan has had a difficult relationship with its own past, the extent to which the Japanese government has acknowledged  the actions of its predecessors in the 1940s.   As President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima shows, this is still a controversial issue in this country to some extent.  On the other hand, japan is our primary ally in the region and that’s an important strategic relationship.  They have a great deal of desire trip goes off successfully and that improves relations there.  We’ve recently seen President-elect Trump’s call to the Taiwanese Prime Minister, we could be entering a new and perhaps more unstable situation in East Asia.  Diplomats in Washington I’m sure want to make sure that if nothing else, that American-Japanese relations are very good.”

The USS Arizona memorial is a national park

Allport also makes some comparisons between Pearl Harbor and the nine-eleven terrorist attacks.  He says in 1941 there were warnings of an attack by Japan…but military leaders thought it would be against U-S forces in the Philippines.

“To some extent they were kind of locked into that particular scenario.  They overlooked evidence, for those who wished to see it, that the Japanese might be planning something quite different and more audacious than that.  In the same way there was some evidence that Al Qaeda might be planning something along the lines of what they did.  But for a number of reasons the intelligence community in this country entirely missed what was going to happen.”

He also highlights one misconception.  The attack on Pearl Harbor drew the U-S into war…but was not as devastating as memories and images might suggest.

“It wasn’t the military success they hoped.  They sank four American battle ships and damaged four more.  Only one of those ships was permanently destroyed; it was the Arizona, that’s where the memorial is.  .Most of the rest continued to serve in World War II, but not in any important role.  Thing about the ships attacked on that day was that they were mostly old, World War 1 vintage, very slow and under-armored.  The Japanese were very unlucky and the Americans were very lucky that they didn’t catch the American Aircraft Carriers.  By pure by chance, the Aircraft Carriers were not in Pearl Harbor that day.  Had they been there, and had they been sunk, that really might have changed the balance of power in the Pacific.”

Professor Alan Allport offers some context on what was going on with the war in Europe at the time of the Pearl Harbor Attacks...and how the US entered the conflicts.

The USS Arizona after it was attacked

The surprise of the attack, he suggests, set off a great deal of anger and resentment, which led to war in the Pacific and internment of Japanese Americans in the U-S.  

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.