Remembering Pearl Harbour

Last Sunday was Pearl Harbour Day, a day my late father always remembered and pointed out to me each year, as it was a day of massive significance to him and to Australia.

Before 7 December 1941, the Japanese had been rampaging through China for years, and immediately after that day, they charged through South-East Asia sweeping all before them to take Malaya, Vietnam, Burma, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, a good chunk of Papua New Guinea, a host of Pacific Islands and threatened India and Australia. By the end of 1942 they’d certainly demonstrated that they were a major power against whom the British Empire was virtually powerless.

They could just as easily have done most of this without bombing Pearl Harbour and, if they’d stayed clear of the Philippines and the few scattered US possessions in the Pacific, it’s quite possible that the USA wouldn’t have entered the war against Japan at all, or at least not for a long time.

Imagine how different things would have been for the world if Japan hadn’t decided to try to take out the US Pacific Fleet with one daring mission? A mission that ultimately failed because its main target, the aircraft carriers Lexington and Yorktown, were out of port on the day of the raid? It’s too awful to contemplate.

This is why my father and I always celebrated Peal Harbour Day. We’d go out to lunch and toast the soldiers, sailors and pilots who died that day and thank them for their sacrifice. He was 15 years old in 1941, and he came to see later that this was the most important day of the war, because it was the day the Japanese made their one big mistake, the mistake that would cost them the war in the end, the mistake that would save Australia from occupation.

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