December 7, 2018, was the commemoration of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which occurred 77 years ago. That event propelled America into World War II in 1941 changing the course of world history.
The events leading to the attack reveal that Pearl Harbor Co-Commanders Admiral Kimmel and General Short ignored significant warnings from their superiors prior to the fateful Sunday. Moreover, other ignored warnings and mistakes in communication on the morning of December 7 increased the devastation.
What If It Never Happened?
What might have been the consequences if Pearl Harbor had never happened? For example, what if the warning given on November 27, 1941, had been taken more seriously,
The notice of November 27, to Kimmel, began, “This dispatch is to be considered a war warning,” went on to say that “negotiations have ceased,” and directed the admiral to “execute an appropriate defensive deployment.” Kimmel also was ordered to “undertake such reconnaissance and other measures as you deem necessary.” The communication of the same day to Short declared that “hostile action is possible at any moment” and, like its naval counterpart, urged “measures of reconnaissance.”
Perhaps the attack would have been called off if the Japanese saw the increased defensive preparation of the U.S. Navy 10 days before December 7. If that had been the case, the United States probably wouldn’t have entered WWII until later, possibly not for a long time.
Without the timely entry of America into the conflict, it is unlikely the Axis forces could have been defeated. At the very least, a victory would have cost far more in time, lives and destruction.
What Was Meant for Evil…
Let us make no mistake. The attack on Pearl Harbor was an evil act.
The bombing was a surprise attack resulting in a decisive victory for Japan. The American casualty toll was enormous, while Japan’s was very small.
2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded. … Japanese losses were light… 64 servicemen killed. One Japanese sailor, Kazuo Sakamaki, was captured.
Moreover, the intent was evil as well. It was meant to destroy the American fleet and allow the Empire of Japan free reign to perhaps conquer China and all of southeast Asia.
However, what was obviously meant for evil turned out to be critical to stopping the global evil of the Axis powers. Perhaps, what man meant for evil purposes was used by God for the triumph of good over evil.
Toward the end of the book of Genesis in the Old Testament, we find the story of Joseph, one of Jacob/Israel’s sons. As a young man, Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt by his own brothers. He serves faithfully and ends up in prison falsely accused of sexual crimes against his master’s wife.
Later, Joseph is released from prison by Pharoah himself in order to interpret some ominous dreams Pharoah has been having. Joseph is rewarded by being elevated to second-in-command of all of Egypt.
A few years pass and Joseph’s brothers are forced to look for food in Egypt because of a severe famine. Joseph meets them and at first, he is not recognized by his kin.
However, he reveals himself to his brothers and they respond with fear. They remember the harsh treatment they inflicted upon Joseph and fear now he will punish them from his new chair of authority.
Here is the account from chapter 50 of Genesis:
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:15-20
War Cannot Be Sanitized
The day of December 8, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan, and it was granted.
Almost four years later, WWII ended with the unconditional surrender of Japan after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945. The horror of a nuclear catastrophe became a real possibility from that moment.
Over seven decades have passed since then. Though the threat of nuclear war remains in this world, no use of these horrific weapons has as yet been employed.
In fact, once fearsome enemy Japan has now become one of America’s strongest allies in Asia. That is unquestionably a good thing for international relations and peace.
There are at least two great lessons to be garnered from Pearl Harbor and WWII. The first is that war cannot be a sanitized event.
Attempts to make war less destructive, while somewhat laudable, are also short-sighted. Attempting to prevent war is better than trying to make war more palatable once it is upon you.
A good illustration comes from the classic sci-fi series “Star Trek.” In an episode from season one of the original series, two planets are involved in a war by computer.
Computer attacks were launched and the results recorded how many casualties from each planet there would be. In accordance with a 500-year-old agreement, those numbers of people, randomly selected, were to be killed in disintegration chambers.
Captain Kirk destroys the war computer of one planet because his crew is selected as casualties. The horror of the Planet Council to this action is countered by Captain Kirk’s reasoning.
He tells the head of the Council that they have made war so clean that they have no reason to end it. It has resulted in 500 years of war the two planets had little real motivation to actually come to peace.
Death, destruction, disease, horror. That’s what war is all about. That’s what makes it a thing to be avoided! You’ve made it neat and painless. So painless, you’ve seen no reason to stop it. Since its the only way I can save my crew, I’m going to end it for you; one way or another.
Real war, once begun, must be ended as decisively as possible by victory as quickly as possible. The horror of the cost of such a victory should always give us pause.
Evil Didn’t Get The Last Word
A second great lesson from Pearl Harbor is that evil didn’t get the last word. No matter how hopeless it seems and horrible the situation is, God is still in control in ways beyond our fathoming.
The United States was ill-prepared for war with Japan, let alone Germany and Italy on December 7, 1941. I am convinced that somehow, God had a hand in the near-miraculous turn about in less than a year.
In fact, less than six months later, June 4, 1942, the Battle of Midway was a stunning victory of America over the Japanese Fleet.
During the four-day sea-and-air battle, the outnumbered U.S. Pacific Fleet succeeded in destroying four Japanese aircraft carriers while losing only one of its own, the Yorktown, to the previously invincible Japanese navy.
Man may intend much for evil, including world war. But with courage and faith in God, the evil can be defeated, as Pearl Harbor reminds us.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. Proverbs 19:21 [ESV]
Sources: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001
Featured and Top Image courtesy of Paul Walsh’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 1 courtesy of DVIDSHUB’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 2 courtesy of shehan peruma’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 3 courtesy of United Nations Photo’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 4 courtesy of Cassowary Colorizations’ Flickr page – Creative Commons License
All other sources linked or cited in the text
Originally published at TIL Journal