Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Voices of History: Pearl Harbor: A Primary Sources History by Jaqueline Laks Gorman

"It is now two years since World War II began.... There has been an effort to force the United States into the conflict.... We are on the verge of a war for which we are still unprepared, a war which cannot be won...."
----Charles Lindbergh (first Atlantic solo flight) (September 11, 1941)

"By Imperial Order the Chief of the Naval General Staff orders Yamamoto Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleets as follows:

Expecting to go to war with the United States, Britain, and the Netherlands early in December for self-preservation..., the Japanese Empire has decided to complete war preparations."
----Japanese Imperial Naval Command (November 5, 1941)

"Although we hope to achieve surprise, everyone should be prepared for terrific American resistance.... You may have to fight your way to the target."
----Admiral Isoroka Yamamoto to pilots (November 17, 1941)

"This dispatch is a war warning. Negotiations with Japan looking toward stabilization of conditions in the Pacific have ceased and an aggressive
move by Japan is expected in the next few days."
----U. S. Naval dispatch to Admiral Husband E. Kimmel (November 27, 1941)

"It was like the sky was filled with fireflies. It was a beautiful scene--183 aircraft in the dark sky...the most beautiful thing I have ever seen."
----Abo Zanji, Japanese bomber pilot (December 7, 1941)

"I saw a torpedo drop and our guns were firing before they'd even sounded general orders.... At one point we were all just standing there with tears in our eyes, watching the devastation."
----Crewman Bill Spears, aboard the cruiser Honolulu (December 7, 1941)

"Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!"
----Words of Navy Chaplain Howell Forgy, used in hit song by Frank Loeser, 1941.

"There were more bloody wounds than I had ever seen in my life. We started operating. The air-raid sirens blew. We had nowhere to go. We had a patient in the middle of an operation. The big bombers, heading for Pearl Harbor, flew so low that the vibrations shook the instruments on the table....
----Second Lieutenant Madelyn Blonskey, Army Nurse Corps (December 7, 1941)

"Yesterday, December 7, 1941--a day that will live in infamy--the United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."
----President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address to Congress (December 8, 1941)

With knowledge of what followed, it is chilling to read the very words which precipitated America's entrance into of World War II. In a time in which students may feel Google and Wikipedia are their primary sources of history, Jacqueline Laks Gorman's Pearl Harbor: A Primary Source History (In Their Own Words) (Gareth Stevens, 2009) lets the words of major players and eyewitnesses unfold to recount the story of the Pearl Harbor attack.

The purpose of this slim volume is to introduce students of World War II history to real primary sources, the written accounts of actual participants to the beginning of America's involvement in World War II. Gorman does offer a lucid and succinct narrative which ties together the events around the Japanese air attack on American soil, but her text boxes quoting actual participants great and small give immediacy to her look at this piece of world history.

Her narrative takes pains to put the Pearl Harbor attack in context, beginning with Admiral Perry's opening to relations with Japan in 1845 and Japan's invasions of Korea in 1910 and China in 1937 and Germany's takeover of Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland in 1938 and 1939. Despite America's initial attempt to remain neutral after Britain and France declared war on Germany, resistance to the war ended with the surprise assault on Pearl Harbor. This daring raid by the foreboding alliance of Japan and Germany--the Axis--instantly drew the United States into a war on two massive fronts.

The actual course of the war which followed is only given brief exposition, culminating with the defeat of the Nazis and the dropping of the first atomic bomb and call for surrender which followed:

"We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man. We have just begun to use this weapon against your homeland. If you still have any doubt, make inquiry as to what happened to Hiroshima."
----U.S. Air Force leaflet dropped on Japanese cities after August 6, 1945.

In addition to quotes drawn from government documents, newspapers, personal letters, and extracts from songs, poems, film, and interviews, author Gorman augments her text with period photos and a sidebar timeline on each double-page spread to keep the reader grounded. She also includes a "popular culture" segment which highlights films and books about the Pearl Harbor raid, and a "looking back" section which puts the experience in its present day context. Appended are brief biographies of "major figures," a glossary, and index.

Other books in this In Their Own Words series include September 11: A Primary Source History (In Their Own Words), The Holocaust: A Primary Source History (In Their Own Words), and Titanic: A Primary Source History (In Their Own Words).



  • I feel so interested with the information because world war is a nice topic to write a book.
    Jaqueline Laks Gorman is agreat person.

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