By Walter Lord

Henry Holt and Company, New York, May 2001

Reviewed for Keeping APAce by Byron D. Varner.

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 .. a date which will live in infamy .. the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan…” Those who heard these haunting words by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a national radio address before Congress on December 8, 1941 will never forget them. This catastrophic event changed the world overnight.

The nation had only recently begun recovery from the major financial disaster of the 1930s great depression and the military was at its peak of unpreparedness. The bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent swift losses of most American forces in the Philippines would soon emphasize that awful state of readiness. The average American had no idea of just how badly unprepared we were, nor how serious was the damage to our naval fleet during that surprise attack. Even now, those of us who remember it or have studied it find these revelations by author Walter Lord astonishing.

Many books have been published about Pearl Harbor during the past 60 years, but none capture the human drama as forcefully, meticulously or dramatically as has author Lord. The reader is right there with those officers, enlisteds, civilians, dependents, and enemy forces as the chronology of this fateful event unfolds.

Originally published in 1957, Henry Holt & Company has republished it in paperback form at a time in our history when all Americans, especially those in our government who make the laws and control our defenses, could use a strong dose of realism about what military unpreparedness can mean, especially in the atomic age.

The reader will be astounded by the human experiences — the heroism, stupidity, brilliance, gullibility, common sense, comedy of errors, laxity, security, false suppositions, rumors, inspiration, hopelessness, patriotism, defeatism, and all the other incredible actions and reactions that took place in such a short time span.

As author James Michner wrote in The New York Times, “It stuns the reader with the weight of reality.”