June 2001

The Day of Infamy lives on: Pearl Harbor remembered

By Dan Van Freeman
By H.P. Willmott
By Wilbur D. Jones
By Shelley Tanaka
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In our media-oriented culture, history equals big business. Dissected, deconstructed, glorified and, of course, relived on the big screen, the past is a major money-maker. Now, as we approach its 60th anniversary, one of World War II's biggest events the bombing of Pearl Harbor proves to be the media event of the summer, inspiring a full-length feature film as well as a host of new books.

Pearl Harbor: The Movie and the Moment is an illustrated volume about the making of the movie Pearl Harbor and peripherally about the historical event the movie portrays. It's a fascinating look at the reality behind some jaw-dropping special effects, the growth of a story and the origins of characterizations, costumes and period settings. If you have seen the movie and want to learn more about the filmmakers' secrets and about the real events that inspired them, this is the book for you. Included is a minute-by-minute timeline of the fateful day, along with drawings, charts and photographs (most from the movie) that graphically portray the terror and destruction.

Dan Van Der Vat, along with painter Tom Freeman, has given us the ideal coffee table book on the subject. Pearl Harbor: The Day of Infamy An Illustrated History is richly illustrated, in much the same manner as the popular Titanic books. It features intelligent diagrams, enlightening illustrations, vivid contemporary photographs alongside vintage shots and gorgeous paintings. The clear, interesting narrative briefly sets the scene, both historically and physically, then leads you through the events of the attack in words and pictures. Freeman's detailed paintings along with easy-to-understand diagrams show you just how, when and why things happened as they did.

The most in-depth of the books is Pearl Harbor, by British military historian H. P. Willmott. This one looks like a coffee table book, but appearances can be deceiving. Although it is filled with hundreds of photographs some surprising and unusual and scores of richly detailed charts, diagrams, maps and blueprints, this is a serious, weighty book, and the serious student of history will find it a delight. History doesn't move in a straight line, and neither does Willmott. He answers the unasked question, for instance, of why a small island nation would intentionally provoke the largest industrialized nation in the world.

Hawaii Goes to War: The Aftermath of Pearl Harbor, offers a unique look at how the military and civilians on the island coped with the crisis. Drawing from military and civilian records, Wilbur D. Jones and his wife create a picture of paradise plunged into war. Jones' best witness to what happened is his co-author and wife, Carroll Robbins Jones, who was actually there. Arriving at Pearl on November 25 to live with her father, a Navy officer, Carroll and her family survived the attack. Her mother, a gutsy combination of Margaret Bourke-White and Jacqueline Kennedy, became the Associated Press' main photographer in those frantic first months of the war, and dragging her kids along, she recorded it on film. More than 100 of her photographs are included in the book, documenting the aftermath of the attack in dramatic fashion.

Finally, if you know a child or pre-teen who would like to learn more about this chapter in our country's history, an excellent new children's book will provide the answers. Attack on Pearl Harbor: The True Story of the Day America Entered World War IIis a book the history student in your family will enjoy and probably never forget. Shelley Tanaka's narrative takes no sides in the tragedy; it simply tells the story of young people caught up in the events. An 11-year-old witnesses the attack on Kaneohe Naval Air Station from a friend's house; a 19-year-old sailor on the battleship Oklahoma struggles to survive when his ship is torpedoed; a 23-year-old Japanese sailor prepares to die in his midget submarine and ends up becoming a POW; a 14-year-old Hawaiian girl gets caught up in the confused and frightening aftermath of the attack. Featuring photos, vivid illustrations by David Craig and understandable diagrams, this is a book parent and child will want to share.

James Neal Webb is the proud son of a Navy veteran.


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