Born in 1917, Walter Lord was an outstanding historian and author. He wrote many books, most of which detail major historical events such as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He toured many parts of the world, interviewing hundreds of eyewitnesses about their experiences before, during, and after the event. He documented his findings in of his most popular books, Day of Infamy. Even though it is not one of his bestsellers, Day of Infamy is a pivotal book on America’s relations with Japan. The book, which unveils a minute by minute account of the events of December 7 1941, was re-published by Open Road Integrated Media in 2012.
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On this day, the Japanese Army staged surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor and left behind colossal collateral damage as well as untold human suffering. Following the attack, the then United States of America US President Roosevelt regretted that the event “will live in infamy” (Lord 104).
The Preface is written in simple language and reflects much of the intimacy through which the Lord portrays the events of that day. The same intimacy is captured in the first chapter, which emphasizes the beauty of the day and the serene atmosphere inside Pearl Harbor (Lord 7). Gradually, the serenity is eroded as the reader begins to experience anxiety and unease as events unfold into a full-blown war.
The book reveals several important issues. However, what captures my attention is the Lord’s ability to juxtapose the element of surprise, under which the attacks were carried, with the nonchalant response by the American Army. The author creates the impression that the Japanese might have employed guerilla tactics not only catching America by surprise but also creating confusion within the American military ranks. Furthermore, the American Army ignored crucial occurrences, such as the “strange white wave,” a sign that was casually dismissed by senior army officials (Lord 45). The role of army intelligence is also brought into focus.
Lord not only exposes the failure by the Army Intelligence to decipher crucial leads but also how the decision-making process was impeded by military bureaucracy. By the time the American Army knew what was about to happen, there was little that could have been done to prevent the attacks. Therefore, the combination of surprise attacks and the relaxed manner in which the army reacted are the two major factors that aggravated the events of December 7 1941.
Many critics of this book argue that Lord uses eyewitness reports to recreate the events of December 7 1941. Suffice to say that the author also utilizes a number of time-honored investigative methods. Therefore, he is able to produce verifiable and reliable facts.
Unlike other writers whose works delve into the conspiracy theories surrounding Pearl Harbor, Lord’s major concern was the human element. This does not mean that he totally overlooked the political as well as economic implications. He emphasized the varying feelings, thoughts, and personal experiences of those involved in this momentous event. Of importance is the unyielding support by the American people towards their army as well as the bitterness the American citizens held against Japan in the days following the event. While this gives the book a human touch evoking strong feelings from the reader, it makes the book interesting to read and is the reason why I agree with the author.
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Lord, Walter. Day of Infamy, New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2012. Print