Pearl Harbor, Seven Years Later

The magazine of the USS Shaw exploding in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. (Wikimedia) ( )
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

This morning, to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack, Adrienne quoted two former U.S. senators who witnessed the bombings firsthand. In 1948, the official in charge of the Military Information Division on that fateful day in December 1941, Sherman Miles, wrote his own retrospective in The Atlantic. Miles reflected not on that day, but all that led up to it:

The last twenty-four hours in Washington before the bombs fell have come in for much scrutiny. Why did the President, with most of the Japanese final answer before him, conclude that it meant war and then, after a fitful attempt to reach Admiral Stark by telephone, quietly go to bed? Why was he in seclusion the following morning? Why was no action taken on the Japanese reply by the Secretaries of State, War, and Navy when they met on that Sunday morning? Why did they not consult the President, or he send for them? Where was everybody, including my humble self?

Why, in short, didn’t someone stage a last-minute rescue, in good Western style?

He tackles those questions here.