December 7th 1951

This is a previous blog post I originally published on September 11, 2011. In light of the Pearl Harbor anniversary, I thought I would republish it today.

While I am sitting here typing and reflecting on the events on September 11th 2001 from a decade’s hindsight, my thoughts wandered to the 10 year anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1951.  So I asked…

Almost immediately, I received a response. Someone suggested using Google News Archive to look for information from newspapers on that date. I had no idea Google had been scanning newspapers, but it made sense to me, considering all of the other scanning they are doing. I went to the site and found a whole paper from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from December 7th 1951. You can view the paper by clicking below. [Note: Use the toolbar at the top to zoom out or request a full page view.] This is an image of page 38 of 42. The story was not a focus of the media. If you go to the link and read the left and right columns, you will find some odd human interest stories, but not central news. From a cultural perspective, notice also the number of advertisements and their focus (heavily influencing women to buy).

Within this page, there are three small columns concerning the Pearl Harbor attack that brought the US to declare war on Japan and formally enter World War 2. Notice the titles.(You can click on the images for a larger viewing, in order to read the text.)

The article that makes me think the most as a historian is this one. “Gone is the sublime and wonderful confidence that American boys plus American arms plus American production, can make short work of any and all enemies.” “Today they know that a killer-nation is not likely to observe the amenities and conform to etiquette.” Is the journalist referring to the nuclear age that cast a shadow over the world, especially in the midst of the Korean War (as December 7th 1951 was), or do they recall the surprise attack on the “day that will live in infamy”?

The article below also reflects a new reality concerning war: dissent and public opinion. I found it fascinating that a rally was held in which President Roosevelt was denounced as “Chief American warmonger” at an America First rally. What would have been the reaction to rallies against the invasion of Iraq that occurred in January and February of 2003 if the 9/11 attacks had happened in their midst? As the editors stated, “Nothing could have united the American people so immediately and completely.”

While my TV shows every network focusing on the memorial events of the World Trade Center, as well as at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, I wonder if some consider the “penalties of leadership” written above to reflect our future, not just that of 1951. Did we ever have that “sublime and wonderful confidence”? Will we? Should we? These are questions I hope to introduce in my US History classes this week.