From now on, this weekly Newsletter will be called ROBERT A. MILLS'S OP-ED COLUMN. Access it and enjoy!
Newsletter Dated: 12/7/2013 6:43:26 AM
Subject: PEARL - December 7
I was just ten years old in December 1941 when the Japanese sneak attack in Hawaii took place. I finally got to the Islands many years later, and the first thing I did was take one of the tour boats out to the USS Arizona Memorial.
Unfortunately, I missed the ferry and had to wait an hour for the next one, so I went into the nearby gift shop where I bought a book called REFLECTIONS ON PEARL HARBOR by Admiral Chester Nimitz.
I wrote my own book years later, CIRCLES!, about that fateful Sunday in December. In my book, US Army General William Wild Bill Donovan, a Medal of Honor recipient while serving in the Fighting 69th during WWI, was attending a NY Giants’ football game, while Nimitz was at a concert in the nation’s capitol. Both were paged to pick up a secure telephone.
The calls came from the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Both were told to report immediately to their division headquarters. Nimitz was told he was now the Commander of the Pacific Fleet and to fly posthaste to Hawaii. The country was at war.
Adm. Nimitz landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve that year and found the place so deep in despair, dejection and defeat you might have thought Japan had already won the war — and it was not much different on the Mainland.
On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Huge sunken battleships, navy vessels — and bodies — still cluttered the waters everywhere you looked.
As the tour boat returned to the pier, the young helmsman of the boat asked, Well, Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?
Nimitz's reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice. He said, The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could have ever made, or else God was really taking care of America. Which do you think it was?
The young helmsman was surprised and asked, Sir, what were their three biggest makes?
Nimitz explained: Mistake number one was attacking on a Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen was ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured out to sea and been sunk, we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.
Mistake number two: when the Japanese saw all those battleships lined up in a row, they got so carried away bombing and sinking them, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to the Mainland to be repaired.
As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can easily pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America-proper. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.
Mistake number three: there are fuel storage tanks, the admiral said, atop the ground less than five miles away, over a nearby hill. A single attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply, blowing all our reserves to smithereens.
That is why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make. Either that, or God was taking care of America.
I still have that book by Admiral Chester Nimitz, and I still look at it from time to time; it is a tremendous reference work.
Both Nimitz and Wild Bill Donovan were born optimists, and FDR chose the right men for their respective contributions to World War II.
(Wild Bill, a nickname Donovan had been given by his teammates as quarterback for the Columbia Lions, and which stuck with him for life, and about which classmate FDR once remarked, Although you are a member of the wrong party, you, Wild Bill, could be the first Roman Catholic president of the United States).
General Donovan became the Director of the OSS (later called the CIA); those men were able to see the silver lining where most of us saw, at first, only despair and defeatism.
(I will never forget my maternal grandmother running through the apartment in Syracuse that Sunday morning screaming in her distinctive Cockney accent: The Japs! Those people fight with knives! We’ll all be slaughtered in our beds, our throats slit! S’wounds, they will come from Shanghai to kill us all! . . . For some reason, she thought all Orientals came from Shanghai.)
We desperately needed men like Donovan, Nimitz, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Patton and Halsey, plus many others too numerous to mention, men and women who saw a silver lining in the clouds of dejection, despair and defeatism.
There is a reason that out national motto is IN GOD WE TRUST. I think I know why.
Robert A. Mills
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