I'm planning on going to see Pearl Harbor the day it opens, but not without some trepidation: you see, I'm going with my Significant Other, who is Japanese. Not Japanese-American, mind you, but Japanese-Japanese. So what's the problem?
The problem is fear. Floyd Mori, president of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), thinks the movie "could fuel hatred of Americans of Asian descent," according to news reports, "and he said Japanese groups around the United States have heightened security measures out of fear of a backlash." While this may seem like the usual victimological wallowing, I assure you it is not. We are talking about a country where a young Chinese-American man, Vincent Chin, was beaten to death with a baseball bat by thugs who thought he was Japanese it was, to their "minds" (and I use the term loosely), payback time for all those "American jobs" taken by Japanese auto makers during the eighties.
As they beat their victim senseless, one of these monsters was heard to yell out: "It's because of you mother******s, that we're out of work!" America is chock full of nutballs like that, who, rather than blame themselves for their life-failure, fixate on some random person who just happens to get in their path. And if ignorance of basic economics can rationalize murder in some idiot's mind there are no jobs that are specifically "American," or Japanese, for that matter then ignorance of history can be even deadlier: Can't you just imagine some crazed cretin shouting "You killed my [father-brother-uncle-whatever] at Pearl Harbor!" as he cut down his victim in cold blood?
Oh, c'mon, Justin you're thinking aren't you being just a little too . . . nervous? Butch it up! After all, it's not very likely that such a thing will occur: besides, the knowledge that they would get the book thrown at them deters would-be baseball-bat-wielding thugs from going on a rampage. There's only one problem with such a calm and reasoned argument: Vincent Chin's killers didn't get the book thrown at them. Instead, it seems, the judge re-wrote the book before gift-wrapping and delivering it on a silver platter. On March 16, 1983, Wayne County Circuit Judge Charles S. Kaufman didn't even bother hearing arguments from the prosecutor before he sentenced these two murderers to three years probation and fined each of them $3,000 plus $780 in fees. Ah, but don't worry: both of these racist cretins were allowed to "repay their debt" to society in monthly payments of $125. "These weren't the kind of men you send to jail," said Judge Kaufman, and who can contradict him? After all, if you're living in a sick society, where violent criminals are barely slapped on the wrist, then he's right, these aren't the kind of men you send to jail.
Can you see some war-maddened (or, more likely, media-maddened) loser actually paying for a heinous crime such as the Chin murder with his life? Since we only execute right-wing extremists, to avoid the death penalty for sure all a murderer has to do is shove a well-thumbed copy of The Nation into his back pocket, and then take out his victim. Call me nervous Nellie, but here's my question: where's the deterrence? And don't tell me jail is a deterrent. Some truly mad human beings long for life imprisonment like warriors of Allah long for Paradise: in both cases the price of entry being a willingness to commit some catalytic act of violence regardless of the known consequences. I don't know about you guys, but I'm going to show up at that theater cocked, locked, and ready to rock. . . .
JACL's Mori is understandably upset at one particular aspect of Pearl Harbor's plot development: a Japanese-American dentist who is depicted in the movie as a spy: "The movie infers that a Japanese American helps the enemy which is totally false," says Mori. "We want the inaccuracy deleted or for Disney to take full responsibility for any violence or anti-Asian sentiment resulting from it." Oh, the irony of it all is almost too much to bear, for there was, indeed, a Japanese spy involved in the attack on Pearl Harbor that is, a Japanese-Japanese spy, and, what's more, the US government knew all about him. Indeed, their intelligence regarding his movements and intentions, as Robert Stinnett reveals in his blockbuster book, Day of Deceit, is just one more reason why we can be certain that Franklin Roosevelt knew where and when the Japanese would strike.
Takeo Yoshikawa was a 27-year-old graduate of Japan's naval academy who, in the closing months of 1941, was dispatched to Oahu to spy on the Pacific Fleet. He was given the cover name of Tadashi Morimura, and assigned to the Japanese consulate in Honolulu. This immediately aroused the suspicions of Western intelligence agencies, who could find no Morimura in the diplomatic registries. Now, the Americans, you remember, had cracked the Japanese code, and were reading intercepted diplomatic and military messages: Morimura was tracked all the way to Honolulu and met on his arrival by at least one undercover agent. Documents uncovered by Stinnett through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that every move made by Morimura in Hawaii was observed, and his frequent and detailed reports to his superiors in Tokyo were known not only to the Navy, but were sent to Washington by priority dispatch.
It was clear from the content of the spy messages that the Japanese were scouting out Pearl Harbor as a target. Yet when word got out about the consul's extracurricular activities, the US government denied it in public, and privately tried to quash the whole matter by handing the investigation over to the Navy. Not only local authorities but also the FBI was cut out of the loop, and J. Edgar Hoover was furious: he pressured FDR to arrest or deport the spies, but Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle made the argument that to expel them would compromise America's most closely guarded secret: that the Japanese code had been broken. The whole Morimura affair was hushed up, and the investigation walled off: the Japanese spy was allowed to proceed to phase two of his mission.
One would think that, starting on August 21, 1941, when Morimura began to send Tokyo information used to map a grid for a bomber attack on Pearl Harbor naval base, alarm bells would have gone off somewhere. Wiretapped seven ways from Sunday, his every spy message intercepted and read, Morimura and his pals at the consulate engaged in espionage by day, and caroused in the bars at night, their every movement tracked, recorded, and documented by American officials at the highest level. And it wasn't only the FBI that was kept out of the loop: Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, and General Walter Short, charged with the security of the naval base, were also kept in the dark. On December 2, Morimura sent Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, the leader of the air attack, the following message, which Fuchida received aboard the Akagi: "No changes observed by afternoon of 2 December. So far they do not seem to have been alerted. Shore leave as usual."
Yet the spies were not arrested, nor were Kimmel and Short informed of the increasingly obvious Japanese plan to bomb Pearl Harbor, not even when, on Saturday, December 6, Morimura explicitly informed his superiors that the Hawaiian islands were vulnerable to a surprise attack: "There are no barrage balloons up and there is an opportunity left for a surprise attack against these places," Morimura wrote.
This message was almost immediately intercepted at San Francisco's Presidio military base and forwarded to Washington. But somehow, back at Pearl Harbor, the man responsible for forwarding it to Admiral Kimmel, Joseph J. Rochefort, head of naval intelligence in the region, never got around to decoding this particular message, nor any of the other spy messages in his bin during this crucial period: but plenty of routine business messages which had been intercepted were decoded. Admiral Kimmel never saw this message, nor any of the spy messages that US intelligence had access to. Rochefort deliberately hid evidence from later investigators indicating that he had sat on this vitally important information.
It was only after the attack that Rochefort got around to decoding and translating Morimura's December 6 message, and, although there were no errors in any of the other translations, somehow there were no less than 88 decryption errors in the transcription of this particular message. This matter wasn't gone into until 1945, when the decrypter was briefly brought before a board of inquiry: Navy Lieutenant Joseph Finnegan could not explain how, in this one instance, his abilities had deserted him so completely.
There the matter was dropped, and it laid there for 50 years until Stinnett uncovered it yet director Michael Bay, ignorant Hollywood airhead that he is, arrogantly dismisses all such talk as "b*llsh*t," while screenwriter Randall Wallace tells an interviewer what inspired him to write the Pearl Harbor script:
"When I look at the story, my emotions get stirred up and I get fascinated by certain elements. The first being that America was isolationistic. It's such a surprise for somebody who grew up in the post-war era to realize that before Pearl Harbor, America didn't want any part of the war. The other is that of America's response to Pearl Harbor. The event itself is one thing and it's fairly straightforward. We were there; we weren't expecting an attack; the Japanese attacked us and achieved pretty much total surprise and killed a whole lot of people. But what makes that important was America's response."
Yes, it's so hard to imagine how life must have been back in America's pre-imperial era, in those low-tech days before the media could whip us up into a war frenzy within hours. Why can you believe it but in that horse-and-buggy era, no one thought to call soldiers "peacekeepers"! To these "isolationistic" Neanderthals, war was hell instead of a humanitarian intervention, and they didn't want any part of Europe's endless quarrels. What primitives!
In Hollyweird, "pretty much total surprise" is pretty much all you'll get in the way of an admission that this whole movie is based on a lie. For pretty much everybody but the President of the United States and his immediate advisors were kept in the dark in effect, lied to and the whole thing was covered up for 50 years. Now, with this movie, and the flood of "patriotic" pro-war pro-FDR propaganda being churned out on this central theme of the all-around goodness of World War II, they hope to cover up the truth about Pearl Harbor for another 50 years.
What strikes me, in the end, is that the truth about Pearl Harbor is far more interesting than the rather pedestrian little fable dreamed up Bay, Wallace, and all the "creative" talent the biggest budget in Hollywood history could buy. The truth is a dramatic and fascinating story, involving all the most interesting human predicaments and emotions: A desperate President puts one over on the nation, and kills a few thousand of his own sailors and soldiers, all in the name of a greater good getting us into the war. This is a far more interesting and realistic tale than the rather prosaic blood-drenched "love story" we have come to expect as standard Hollywood product. The real story of Pearl Harbor, alas, is more colorful and convincing than all the lies Hollywood can muster.
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