Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Day of Infamy

 It's December 7, Australian time, the anniversary of the "day that will live in infamy", as described by US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. December 7 1941. A day that changed the world.

 There  are few people, even today who have not heard of the Japanese navy's surprise attack on the Pearl Harbour naval base on this day in 1941. It opened the account of the United States in World War Two and dragged them once and for all into the maelstrom of history's worst armed conflict.

 Conspiracy theories abound about the attack on the US Pacific Fleet that day. Most are too silly to even consider and I won't go into detail about any of them but suffice to say it was not the killer blow to United States naval power in the Pacific that the Japanese had intended it to be. The aircraft carriers which would be vital to the US war effort in the coming years were far out to sea when the Japanese torpedo bombers struck and thus the US Navy was able to keep the strike power of their greatest assets intact for the trial to come.

 Britain had of course been up to it's neck in the fight from late 1939 and if not for the indomitable spirit of Winston Churchill and the guts and skill of the Royal Air Force, it's quite possible that the Nazi yoke would have smothered the whole of Europe by then. And the future of Europe would have been very black indeed.

 The United States had played a key role in keeping the Allied war effort alive up until this point. They had provided money and equipment to the British who had lost much of their military hardware on the beaches of France after withdrawing from the continent in the face of the devastating Nazi advance. The Soviets too were at this point flying American planes and the Red Army was being transported across the vast Russian steppes by American trains and trucks. Facts too easily forgotten by revisionist historians today who seek to downplay the involvement of the United States in World War Two and who seem to wish to hand the laurels of victory solely to the Communists. The Americans had kept the Allies in the game.

 December ,7 1941 forced a nation, previously reticent to get involved in the conflict, onto a war footing.  Blood had been spilt in defence of the nation. It was time to strike back.

 It took four years of hard graft, blood, sweat, tears, doubts and fears but the western Allies eventually prevailed and the world entered a period of "Pax Americana" which was only broken by the bloodless standoff of the Cold War and the satellite conflicts fought by proxy in Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East and elsewhere. But conflict between the major powers has been avoided ever since. This may be the greatest legacy to come from the "day that will live in infamy."

 Peace and tranquility are a staple diet of our everyday lives today. World War Two and the men and women who endured and gave their lives fighting it bequeathed  it to us.

 So, today, as we mourn the loss of a great humanitarian, let us also remember the courage of other leaders of the 20th century who had to take a stand and make hard decisions. They deserve our admiration too.

 Have a nice day. 

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