It was one of the darkest days in American history: December 7, 1941, the Japanese surprise attack on the U. S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor woke the sleeping giant of the United States armed forces and brought America into World War II. It would bring the nation into a war it had long tried to avoid (and ignore).
In this documentary, The History Channel explores the events that led up to Japan's attack on the U. S. Veterans of both sides are interviewed and offer their perspective on the attack and the larger role that the battle would play in each nation's war effort.
Many theories have circulated for years that the U. S. government had advance knowledge of the attack and that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had allowed the attack to occur in order to allow the U. S. to be drawn into the war. These theories are dealt with in detail and quickly dismissed as the true facts surrounding the attacks are revealed.
The filmmakers also spend a great deal of time focusing on the stories of those who survived the attack. Both U. S. and Japanese veterans are interviewed. Perhaps surprising is the Japanese pilots that admit they didn't think it was a good idea for them to attack the U. S. One of the best quotes from the veterans was from John Finn who won a Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor demonstrated during the attack. When asked how he survived he simply said "It just wasn't my day to die". In this simple statement, Finn demonstrates the humility of many of the World War II veterans.
The second disc of the set includes a documentary of Admiral Chester Nimitz who was named Commander of the Pacific fleet shortly after the attack occurred. As the film shows, Nimitz almost single-handedly rebuilt the Pacific fleet into a lethal fighting force. Nimitz's tactics help secure a swift victory in the Pacific theater that was unthinkable in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.
This documentary reminds us even in a post-9/11 world that there are dangers in ignoring events taking place around us that can put our security in peril. John F. DeVirgillo, the Hawaii Director of the Pearl Harbor Association summed it up this way: "You must remember Pearl Harbor. It is a lesson of being complacent. Don't let individualism blind you. We still need to think of the country as a whole. You must always be prepared. If you're not prepared, you'll pay in blood."
The History Channel's Pearl Harbor is available from the History Channel Store.