Sunday, January 31, 2016

Did the Public Schools Kill Mickey Mouse?

If you work in the public schools you’ve heard these kinds of lines a thousand times. America’s schools are failing. We’re not preparing kids to compete in a global economy.

The nation’s young are doomed!

Well—doomed if we don’t jam Common Core down their throats—doomed if we don’t get Teach for America “game-changers” into classrooms across the land—and doomed, doomed, doomed, if we don’t let Big Corporations break the public school monopoly and start schools and run them according to healthy business principles, i.e., piling up profits for Big Corporations.

I’m increasingly having my doubts. According to multiple sources the U. S. economy is not on the verge of collapse. Housing starts last year were the highest since 2007. The stock market is up 10,000 points since March 9, 2009, when it last bottomed out. Car sales set a record for numbers, 17.5 million units sold, and value, $570 billion worth of new wheels, in 2015. Almost 300,000 jobs were added in December. According to Forbes the numbers were good all year:

The numbers were also impressive in 2014. According to CNN 2.95 million jobs were added, the best figure since 1999.

Of course, we’ve also been told repeatedly that teachers in Finland are doing a stupendous job—whereas our teachers are not! Finnish schools are amazing! Everyone graduates! Some kids even graduate twice!! Boy, oh, boy, everyone in Finland is prepared to compete in a global economy.

That’s why Finnish unemployment stood at 9.4 % in November 2015, almost double our rate.

The biggest, baddest school reformers keep insisting we must prepare students to compete in a global economy. But what if problems facing U. S. workers today—stagnant wages, declining benefits, lost pensions—have nothing to do with our system of education? Let’s consider scores for the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for 2012, the last year available.

Sure. Finland looked good:

True…the United States was mired in the middle of the pack:

But look at Mexico! Mexican teachers weren’t exactly tearing it up when it came to preparing kids to compete in a global economy. They finished 53rd in mathematics, 55th in science, and 52nd in reading.

Yet none of it mattered. The Mexican unemployment rate at the end of 2015 was just under four percent. That means Mexico was doing better than a number of countries scoring in the top ten on PISA tests, including The Netherlands, 6.6%, Canada, 7.1%, Ireland, 8.8%, and Poland, 9.8%.

And Finland, too.

We know jobs in the U. S. auto industry rebounded between 2009 and 2013, from 560,000 to 690,000, a 23% bump. But the educational preparation of students had little to do with the jump. Jobs in Mexican auto plants soared during those years, from 368,000 to 589,000, a gain of 60%. We know, too, since 2009, that U. S. wages in the auto sector have fallen by 12.7%. It doesn’t take a renowned economist to explain that teachers are blameless in any of this. Jobs in the auto industry drained from the U. S., not because our students aren’t prepared to compete and Mexican students are. It boils down to manufacturing costs in the U. S. (wages plus benefits) which averaged $35.67 per hour in 2013. Companies could send jobs to Mexico and spend $6.36.

The idea that bad U. S. schools are to blame for current economic woes is absurd on its face and harmful in effects. Do we really believe, for example, that it’s going to turn out great if we let Big Corporations sink their greedy claws into our schools? To put it plainly, the people who run the Big Corporations are the very people we should be most worried about. From steel to electronics to women’s underwear, the story is the same, of jobs lost, sent overseas.

In 1992 U. S. textile and apparel industries employed 1.8 million workers in the USA. Fourteen years later 576,000 jobs remained. Were teachers in Bangladesh, where many of those jobs ended up, doing really great? In 2013 workers in the textile and apparel industries there saw a whopping 77 % increase in wages and benefits. It had to be the schools! And the teachers! And maybe it had to do with the fact that, even with that raise, workers in Bangladesh were earning an average of $67.40 per month.

In the end, if we want to help America’s next generation we can start by focusing on the hypocrisy underlying the blame-the-schools game. We can expose all the lies. We need to point the finger in a proper direction and elect men and women who want to protect the American middle class.

It might even help if we stopped buying goods and services from Big Corporations that keep outsourcing jobs.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, between 2001 and 2013, 3.2 million American jobs were eliminated or displaced as a result of a trade imbalance with China. Who then, we should ask, loves producing in and/or buying Chinese-made products and selling them to us? Who loves doing business in China even if the Chinese government arrests a hundred human rights lawyers in a single weekend? Who loves sucking up to communist officials, building “good business relationships,” even when those officials turn around and kidnap publishers who criticize corrupt communist rule? And which Big Corporations are only too happy to turn a blind eye, if profits are high, when China’s chief of naval operations warns that the U. S. is in danger of touching off a war with “provocative acts” in the South China Sea?

Who loves doing business with China? Walmart does. Loews Hardware does. Apple does, too.

The Big Corporations cry in their beer over all the “lousy” graduates American schools send their way. “Oh, we do wish we could hire more of them!” they wail. “But, they’re just not well-enough prepared.”

Also: they want to earn more than $67.40 per month.

So let’s turn our attention, finally, to the Magic Kingdom and see how this line of hooey almost always plays out. Last fall, Disney Corporation cooked up an elaborate cost-cutting scheme. Disney would hire an outsourcing firm in India to send 250 workers to Florida, all on temporary visas. Once here they would be trained by their American counterparts, the very workers the U. S. public schools supposedly cannot produce. Then Disney would get rid of the American workers, send the Indians home, and let them work from a call center overseas. “I just couldn’t believe they would fly people in to sit at our desks and take over our jobs,” said one newly-unemployed American worker. Yet they did. And if some Big Corporation type can ever figure out how to outsource Mickey’s job, good old Mickey will be out on his ear.

Don’t let yourself be fooled by those who keep trying to pin the blame for economic woes on America’s public schools. 

Sorry, Mickey, we're outsourcing your job!

Monday, January 18, 2016

In Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Today: 100 Examples from Jim Crow Days

If you aren’t old enough to remember what it was like in this country before Martin Luther King, Jr. went to work, the following list might open your eyes.

While slavery ended officially in 1865, many barriers still existed or were put in place to keep African Americans down.

1. Lunch counter sit-in 1960s; protesters were trained not to react to abuse.

2. In 1887 the State of Florida ordered blacks and whites segregated on all railroad cars. Many states followed, although most made one exception: when a black nursemaid was caring for a white child.

3. Jackson, Mississippi instituted “Jim Crow” rules for city cemeteries in 1890.

4. Alabama and Georgia had separate homes for the deaf, the blind, and the mentally ill.

5. The races were divided on chain gangs and in prisons.

6. By 1905 Georgia had separate parks.

7. Louisiana decided it would be best if audiences at circus shows did not mix.

8. After 1915, Oklahoma required “separate phone booths for white and colored patrons.”

9. South Carolina factory workers were paid at different windows, used different stairways and could not use the same “drinking water buckets, cups, dippers or glasses.”

10. Birmingham, Alabama made it “unlawful for a Negro and a white person to play together” at dominoes.

11. Checkers was also forbidden.

12. In Southern courtrooms there were two Bibles, one for blacks to touch, the other for whites.

13. The black man went to court to stand up for his rights. Then he had to sit in back on a bench marked “Colored Only.”

14. Sheriffs (elected) and members of juries (chosen from lists of voters) were almost always white.

15. Black judges were unknown. 

16. Theaters in Akron, Ohio required “darkies” to sit in the balcony. (That one is on my Grandfather Winter.)

17. Dance halls denied entrance.

18. Hotels would not register African Americans.

19. Country clubs would not accept them as members.

20. The Illinois legislature attempted to pass laws against inter-racial marriage in 1913. (The last of these laws were not overturned by the U. S. Supreme Court until 1967 in Loving v. Virginia.)

21. Chicago set up beaches for “Whites Only.” When a black boy crossed the line in 1919 he was attacked with rocks and drowned.

Make this #22.

23. Mobile, Alabama had a 10 p.m. curfew in place in 1909: for blacks only.

24. The 1911 the Encyclopedia Britannica added this to any debate: “The mental condition of the negro [adult] is very similar to that of a child.”

25. After 1926 Atlanta forbid Negro barbers to cut white women’s hair.

26. Thirteen years later the city would not allow a Hattie McDaniel who starred in the movie, “Gone with the Wind,” to attend opening night.

27. By 1940 Atlanta ordinances stated: “There shall be white drivers for carrying white passengers [in taxis] and colored drivers for carrying colored passengers.”

28. Elevators were segregated. 

29. In Washington, D. C. a black workman helping lay the foundation for the Justice Department Building in 1935 found it necessary to walk two miles to find a restaurant that would serve a glass of water.

30. In the same city the Corcoran Art Gallery admitted a student after viewing samples of her work. When school officials got a view of the artist and found out she was not white the decision was reversed.

31. As late as 1948 the National Press Club refused to serve a black man who attended lunch with a white friend.

32. For many years, blacks could not visit Mt. Vernon to see the home of George Washington.

33. In shoe stores they might try on a pair of shoes. Then they had to buy them.

34. Oklahoma decided the races should have different boating and fishing areas.

35. Arkansas separated them at race tracks.

36. Virginia created separate waiting rooms at airports.

37. Blood banks kept Negro blood separated.

38. Public libraries in the South denied blacks the right to check out books.

39. Southern gas stations in the 1960s had three bathrooms. One was for “WHITE MEN,” one for “WHITE WOMEN.” A third was marked “COLORED.”

40. In Montgomery, Alabama blacks had to sit in the back of the bus. If the “Whites Only” section filled the driver (only whites were hired) could order black passengers to give up their seats.

41. If the “Colored” section filled and seats in the “White” section were empty African Americans must still stand.

42. Busses had two doors. Blacks entered in front to pay. Then they got off and went to the rear to board. Drivers sometimes thought it was funny to let them pay and then drive away.

43. God god, this should count for a hundred by itself;
after 1882, 3,446 African Americans were lynched.
Why not complain to the sheriff? See #14.

44. In almost every state school boards spent less on Negro schools, offered Negro teachers lower pay, provided worse equipment and fewer repairs.

45. In Northern cities attendance lines were drawn so black neighborhoods were assigned to “black schools,” white neighborhoods to “white schools.”

46. North Carolina and Florida topped everyone, ordering textbooks used by black and white kids to be stacked separately at the end of each year. 

47. In Northern states black and white kids found themselves in the same buildings, but not always treated the same. One witness remembered a teacher who announced to her class that a dance would be held the following day. An excited little black girl appeared next morning in her best dress, with price of admission in hand. She offered her money to the teacher. With a look of surprise, the white woman replied, “Why, Rosa, I didn’t mean you.” The little girl did not attend.

48. In the 1950s, courts began ordering segregated schools and universities to open their doors. When the University of Oklahoma lost a fight to block the admission of a black man, G. W. McLaurin, officials had to think fast. Instead of accepting the situation, they admitted McLaurin but continued segregating him in the lunchroom, classroom and library. “RESERVED FOR COLORED” signs helped him understand which seats were meant for him.

49. In Mansfield, Texas three African Americans enrolled in the high school in 1956. An angry mob broke in, carrying signs: $2 A DOZEN FOR NIGGER EARS. 

50. Thousands of U. S. soldiers were called out to protect nine black kids who wished to attend Little Rock High School, in Arkansas in 1957. (The commander of those troops was a racist, himself, but had to follow orders.)

51. The governor of Arkansas finally closed the schools rather that allow “race-mixing.” They did not reopen again during the entire 1958-59 school year.

52. When Charlayne Hunter crossed the “color line” at the University of Georgia she was spat upon. The window in her dorm room was shattered by a brick before she unpacked.

53. James Meredith, first to attend the University of Mississippi in 1962, was protected by hundreds of U. S. Marshals. Campus riots exploded, ending only after two men were killed and scores injured.

54. Vowing to support, “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” Governor George Wallace tried to block the admission of black students to the University of Alabama in 1963. He literally stood in the doorway of the enrollment office.

55. In 1968, Governor Wallace ran for President of the United States as a third party candidate and received 9.9 million votes (13% of the total). He even won the electoral votes of five states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

56. Violence swept Boston, Massachusetts in 1974 after the city integrated its schools.

57. In 1914 six Texas towns, five in Oklahoma, and two in Alabama refused to let blacks live within their boundaries.

58. Baltimore, Maryland and Indianapolis, Indiana required blacks to live on certain blocks.

59. Levittown, New York, one of the first “suburbs” built, refused to offer homes to Negroes.

60. In California, homeowners signed “racial covenants” agreeing not to sell their houses to African Americans.

61. Arresting dangerous protestors, as the six-year-old (see above).

62. Texas forbade interracial boxing and wrestling.

63. When Jim Brown entered Syracuse University on a football scholarship he had to live in a different dormitory than other players.

64. Two years later, a young tennis player named Arthur Ashe attempted to step onto a court in Richmond, Virginia. City officials turned him back and cut down the nets to insure he would not return.

65. Voter intimidation was common for many years.

66. By 1961 black men like Henry Aaron were having a huge impact in professional baseball. Yet a Bradenton, Florida restaurant (where Aaron’s team held spring training) refused to serve him unless he sat behind a special partition.

67. The Washington Redskins of the NFL were the last pro football team to integrate in 1962.

68. Meanwhile, the University of Kentucky flatly refused to recruit a single African American to play basketball until 1970. Tom Payne was the only black ever to suit up for an Adolph Rupp team.
69. Even those willing to spill red blood for their country found skin color mattered. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, the 10th U. S. Cavalry (all black) was loading from docks in Tampa, Florida, headed to Cuba to fight. Restaurants in town refused to serve food to the troops, even though their flag was red, white and blue.

70. The United States Navy had no black officers in 1940. Negro sailors served only as “mess stewards,” cleaning up trays, washing dishes, and working in the kitchen.

(Dorie Miller was a hero at Pearl Harbor when he put down his mop and manned a machinegun to blaze away at attacking Japanese planes.)

71. Over a million African Americans fought against Germany and Japan. Not one won the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for bravery. Lieutenant Vernon Baker was nominated after leading his troops up a mountain under heavy fire, losing 18 of 25 men in the process. Baker, himself, killed seven Germans and helped destroy the enemy defenses. It was January 1997 before our government would admit it was wrong. Half a century later, Baker finally received the Medal of Honor.

72. No African American ever served with the Marines before 1942.

73. It was not until 1948 that the United States military integrated all units.

74. Long after slavery ended blacks were held back in area of employment. Some companies flatly refused to hire them.

75. Until the 1960s, most craft unions refused to admit African Americans. On construction sights the only black workers were “laborers.” These were the men digging ditches, carrying heavy material, doing jobs that required little thought. It was menial work, the kind of job whites believed blacks were meant to do. In 1950 the average black worker made .52 cents for every dollar a white worker earned.

76. As late as 2011, average household income for black families was 59.1% of the average for whites.

77. Early movies and television refused to cast blacks in starring roles.

78. Advertisers avoided using them in commercials. (I once saw my first wife’s mother jump out of her chair and click off the TV when she noticed a dark-skinned in a commercial for laundry soap.)

79. The FBI would not hire agents who were not white. Blacks could serve only as FBI chauffeurs.

80. Airlines employed black baggage handlers. Pilots were always white.

81. Law schools and medical schools denied admission.

82. Public schools often refused to let blacks teach white kids. Loveland, Ohio did not hire a black educator to work with white kids until 1975. A school board member promptly labeled the new teacher a “nigger.” 

83. No large American city elected a black mayor until 1967. 

84. No state elected a black governor till 1990.

85. Only two African Americans have ever served on the U. S. Supreme Court.
86. Until 2008 there had never been a black president. (Yeah, my wife and I voted for President Obama twice!)

87. The best method for denying the ballot proved to be a series of literacy tests. Negroes who wished to vote were required to read and explain the state constitution before registering.

88. To insure that white voters weren’t denied the vote states added a “grandfather clause.”  This allowed a person to vote if he couldn’t read as long as he could show proof his grandfather voted. This was impossible for blacks whose ancestors had been slaves.

89. An additional hurdle was put in place when Southern states began charging a poll tax to vote. Many poor Negroes could not afford to pay.

90. Tricks, pressure and outright violence kept African Americans out of voting booths for almost a century. Did the voter have his receipt showing he had paid the poll tax? If not, no ballot would be given. Was there a spelling mistake on his registration form? Then the vote was denied.

92. A black man showed up to vote. His white boss heard. The “boy” was fired.

93. If the “colored fellow” was stubborn, and insisted on voting, the Ku Klux Klan might visit him in the night.

94. In 1900, Ben Tillman admitted on the floor of the U. S. Senate: “We took the government away. We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them [the African Americans]. We are not ashamed of it…We called a constitutional convention, and we eliminated, as I said, all of the colored people whom we could under the 14th and 15th amendments.”

95. Turning dogs loose on peaceful protestors.

96. In 1896 Louisiana had 130,324 registered black voters. By 1904, after new laws were enacted, only 1,342 remained.

97. Alabama had 181,471 Negroes of voting age in 1900. Only 3,000 were registered.

98. Carroll County, Mississippi had a black population of 8,836 in 1959. Total registered Negro voters: 0.

99. Terrill County, Georgia, in 1960, kept all but 48 African Americans away from the polls, out of a voting-age population of 5,000.

100. Louisiana listed anyone with as much as 1/16th African American blood as African American on voting rolls.

If you don't think the vote matters, you don't know.

That should do it for today. And thank you, Dr. King, and so many others, who fought to bring greater justice today.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Fagots, Faggots, Ted Cruz and a Homeschooling Fool

Most Americans, liberal and conservative are in strong agreement where religious freedom is concerned. 

If you choose to go to a church, or synagogue or mosque, or sleep in late and ignore the condition of your soul, you have that fundamental right. You can pray in any way you like. You can read the Book of Mormon. Or not. If you are Amish, you can remove your children from school after eighth grade. 

There are limits, of course. You can’t claim to practice the religion of the Aztecs and sacrifice annoying neighbors. Human sacrifice is taboo. 

And—here we have more disagreement—you can’t bring the Bible into public schools. The reason is fairly simple: a Catholic teacher may not read from the Latin Vulgate Bible in his or her classroom, may not proselytize, may not jam his or her religious views down the throats of Jewish kids. A Mormon teacher cannot read from the Book of Mormon to Muslim kids and a Muslim teacher cannot read passages of the Qu’ran to Presbyterian kids. Nor may a non-religiously inclined educator mock the views of children of various faiths. That’s pretty much the rule. Nor may a public school educator say to some gay or lesbian student, “You deserve to burn in hell.”

What brings this matter to mind is discovery that GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, a stalwart defender of religious liberties of all kinds, at least in his own mind, attended the National Religious Liberties Conference a few weeks ago. This gathering was organized by Pastor Kevin Swanson of the Reformation Church of Elizabeth, Colorado. And if it is important to know the company candidates keep, we know that Pastor Swanson has “called for the punishment of homosexuality by death.” 

Swanson is no savage, of course. He does remind listeners the time for strong action is “not yet.” 

No, no. Stay they hand. For now.

The gays must be allowed a chance “to repent and convert.”

Well, what is it, exactly, that has Pastor Swanson all fired and brimstoned up? He believes gays and lesbians are taking over the country. Harry Potter is evil! Princess Elsa is part of a nefarious, Walt Disney-driven plot. He has made his fears clear, including during a radio discussion in 2014, when he explained the dangers of watching Elsa in Frozen, to co-host Steve Vaughn: “You know, I think this cute little movie is going to indoctrinate my 5-year-old to be a lesbian or treat homosexuality or bestiality in a light sort of way.”

Oh woe, woe, woe. Even horses and cows will be at risk!!!!

To watch Swanson come unhinged—talking about America being messed up—but not catching the irony of his own statements, follow this link. You almost wish you could imagine Swanson has been taken out of context by liberals involved in some terrible campaign to slander the poor fool. Sadly, it does not appear so. By his words we shall know him, they say, and by these words we must place Pastor Swanson in the same camp as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, who once forced gays to wear pink triangles and tried castration and other “cures” on Nazi Germany’s homosexual population.

(Before we give Pastor Swanson any ideas, we should note that even Nazi doctors had to admit that such cures failed miserably.)

For educators, of course, it’s an added “thrill” to learn Swanson is a fervent believer in homeschooling. You know: to keep the evils of American culture at bay. Harry Potter and all that.

He even has a book for sale, about how to use the Bible to illustrate important lessons in values and character-building.

Lesson 1: Kill the gays!
Lesson 2: Stone adulterers? (Well, that’s in Leviticus, too.)
Lesson 3: Who knows? Maybe, we should start burning witches. After all, the Bible is clear on that matter, as well: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

So grab some fagots. No, not faggots! Fagots: The ones that burn.

Technically, in Pastor Swanson’s warped view of the world, I suppose there’s no real difference at all.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Story of Pearl Harbor

“Air Raid, Pearl Harbor...
This is no Drill”

            IT WAS NOT YET EIGHT IN THE MORNING but bright sunlight already sparkled across Pearl Harbor. Slowly, Sunday, December 7, 1941, the United States Pacific Fleet was coming to life. Leslie Short was up early, addressing Christmas cards. Aboard battleship USS Maryland Felder Crawford lay in his bunk reading the funny pages. Joe Whitt, aboard the cruiser San Francisco was sitting down to his first guitar lesson, having paid another sailor $5 to give him lessons. The band on Nevada was gathering to play the national anthem and raise the flag. 

YG-17, a ship that sailors jokingly labeled the “honey barge,” was under way, picking up garbage and waste from the great warships moored [tied up] along “Battleship Row.” 

            Here and there, soldiers with splitting heads awoke, cursing themselves for drinking too much the night before. At her nearby home, Geneva Willey laid in bed with husband Jim, a young Army officer. Neither felt like getting up. So they enjoyed a few quiet moments together. Jerry Morton, 13, and brother Don, 11, were already up and dangling fishing lines in the harbor. Mary Ann Ramsey, 16, finished curling her hair and then headed for church. A pair of Army pilots were “up” early too. Neither George Welch nor Kenneth Taylor had ever gone to bed.

After an all-night poker game they were deciding whether to go for a swim or hit the sack.

            Coming in fast from the north, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida of the Japanese Imperial Navy was focused and alert. At this moment, had any American thought to look, Fuchida’s wave of 183 planes would have been clearly visible as tiny specks on the horizon. 

            Japan was about to strike Pearl Harbor in one of the greatest surprise attacks in history.


            The story of this terrible attack begins in early 1941, when Japanese planners began working out a plan to strike U. S. forces in Hawaii. Many top officers doubted if it could be done. The Hawaiian Islands were far away from Japan. Fueling the attack fleet at sea would be nearly impossible. The waters at Pearl Harbor were shallow and no torpedoes could be used. American forces were certain to be on guard. So the Japanese fleet might sail into a trap, instead of the reverse. A strike at Pearl Harbor, many Japanese officers argued, was madness.

            Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the Imperial Navy, believed the plan could work. Yamamoto respected Americans. He knew his enemy’s strength. As a young officer he had studied at Harvard. Later he spent time in Washington, D. C., where he read about and came to admire Abraham Lincoln. He also understood that the United States was a sleeping giant. He had traveled across the country and he could do the math.  America had twice Japan’s population. The U. S. had more resources. American industry would be able to produce more tanks, planes, ships and guns than Japan ever possibly could.

            Yamamoto hoped war could be avoided. He also believed it was coming fast. If so, Japan had one chance. If he could throw a sudden knockout punch he might destroy U. S. carrier and battleship forces in the Pacific. With the U. S. Navy crippled Japan might be able to sweep to quick victory, in a short war. “In the first six months,” he explained to his top commanders, “I will run wild and win victory after victory.”  Then he added gloomy warning: “If war continues two or three years...I have no confidence in our ultimate victory.” 

            The Japanese set to work. In the months leading up to the attack every obstacle was met and overcome. Improved bombs were developed to puncture heavy battleship armor. New torpedoes, for use in shallow water, were designed. Bomber crews practiced hard to increase accuracy. Torpedo plane pilots learned to come in low on targets. Often they practiced over Japanese coastal towns, coming in so close they blew laundry off backyard lines. 

To improve chances for surprise, Japanese planners mapped a long route across the empty north Pacific. Meanwhile, not even pilots or sailors knew where the punch they were preparing might land. In the fall of 1941, as final preparations began, the men were issued light summer and heavy winter uniforms. When sailors asked why, officers told them that if war came they might be needed anywhere.

            By November 26, 1941 the most powerful naval strike force ever assembled was ready. Commanded by Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, the fleet put to sea and headed north and east. The muscle of this fleet would come mainly from six aircraft carriers and 350 attack planes.

            At last, with ships at sea, sailors were let in on the plan. Excitement swept the fleet like an electric charge. Pilots slapped each other on the back and talked about how lucky they were to be born at the right time in history! One sailor called the coming attack “a dream come true.”  

On the night of December 6, as the fleet moved into attack position, Iyozo Fujita found it impossible to sleep. In the best samurai tradition, he took a bath to cleanse himself. Then he drank a beer, stuck a picture of his parents in his pocket, and went to bed. 

            By dawn on December 7, the fleet was 220 miles north of Pearl Harbor. At 5:50 a.m. the carriers turned into the wind and began launching their aircraft. Twenty-five minutes later the first wave was on its way, including 40 torpedo planes, 49 high-level bombers, 51 dive bombers and covering fighters. Many sailors who watched the attacking force disappear in the early light felt moved enough to offer a prayer for success.


            Even now, with enemy planes streaking their way, it was not too late for Americans to awake. Sadly, bad luck, mistakes, and poor communication allowed the enemy to achieve complete surprise. 

Long before dawn, five Japanese midget submarines made an attempt to sneak into Pearl Harbor. Once inside they were supposed to lay low. They would join the attack once the planes arrived. But at 3:57 a.m., a U. S. mine sweeper spotted a mysterious craft prowling near the harbor mouth. The destroyer Ward came looking, found nothing, and failed to pass on a warning to higher command. Another report did come in from a patrol plane claiming to have attacked and sunk an unidentified sub. This time there was much calling back and forth among American officers and discussion about what it all meant. 

Sadly, no one took the report seriously.

            At 6:40 a.m. Ward was on the move again. Spotting what looked like a conning tower poking from the water, gun crews opened fire. Their second shot drilled the enemy sub and she disappeared from view. At 6:53 Ward reported this strange encounter. The message began working its way up the chain of command. Just after seven, the destroyer picked up another sub, moved in, and dropped depth charges. Lookouts spotted a large oil bubble rising to the surface. Once again Ward radioed report. By 7:40 a.m. U. S. commander Admiral Husband E. Kimmel had been alerted. “I’ll be right down,” he told worried officers, and began dressing for the drive to headquarters.

            Meanwhile, American forces had a second wake-up call. Again they ignored it and went back to “sleep.” This time two young radar operators, George Elliott, Jr. and Joseph Lockard, sounded an alert. Radar was brand new in 1941 and the two operators had risen early to practice with their sets. At 7:02 they began tracking something “completely out of the ordinary.”  A large blip [radar mark], approaching from the north, seemed to indicate at least fifty planes were headed their way. 
Concerned, they telephoned their commander at Fort Shafter. The officer on duty told them not to worry. A flight of U. S. bombers was scheduled from California this morning. Still unsure what it meant, Elliot and Lockard followed the blip until 7:39 a.m., when it disappeared behind nearby hills.

            By 7:53 it no longer mattered. 


            Coming in fast at that moment, Commander Fuchida scanned the harbor for signs the Americans were ready. The blue sky was clear. He could see the battleships of the United States Pacific Fleet riding quietly at anchor. He felt a moment of stinging disappointment. None of the American aircraft carriers were in port. Fuchida, however, quickly shook off his disappointment. Then he radioed back to his waiting commanders the signal: “Tora!  Tora!  Tora!” This was the phrase which would indicate that total surprise had been achieved.

            Even now, those Americans who did see the planes coming assumed it was part of some drill. Frank Handler, standing on the deck of destroyer Helm, watched aircraft roar past. An enemy pilot glanced his way—and waved. Handler merely waved back. Other defenders noticed the red “meatball” symbols painted on plane wings but the truth dawned slowly.  On Ford Island, Commander Logan Ramsey saw a dive bomber coming fast. Thinking it must be a U. S. pilot showing off, he told another officer to get the fool’s number. 

Seconds later the first bombs exploded close by. “Never mind,” Commander Ramsey screamed, “it’s a Jap.”

            The first bomb to hit struck the destroyer Monaghan at 7:55. At 7:56 the cruiser Raleigh was blasted by a torpedo. On Nevada the band was striking up the “Star Spangled Banner” when enemy planes zoomed in for attack. Machinegun fire drowned out their music. But the sailors kept playing even as bullets shredded the flag. When fire from a second plane cut a line of holes in the wood deck the musicians finished up quick and sprinted for cover. On battleship Oklahoma men were called into action by an unusual command over the intercom: “Man your battle stations!” shouted an excited sailor. “This is no s---!”

            All across the island, defenders were caught unprepared. At one hospital Nurse Monica Conter dove for “cover,” holding a garbage can lid over her head. Ensign John Beardall was seen working an anti-aircraft gun in red pajamas. Others fought back with what came to hand. A marine fired a shotgun. Another American dueled enemy planes with a .45 pistol. Thomas Donahue was so angry he hurled wrenches at low-flying Japanese aircraft as they whizzed past. 

            Dozens of enemy planes swarmed the skies, flattening aircraft hangers, blasting vehicles and machine gunning men.  At Hickam Air Field a 500-pound bomb tore through the roof of a dining hall. The explosion killed thirty-five men sitting at breakfast.  Dozens more were injured, including a cook wounded by a flying mayonnaise jar.  Corporal Duane W. Shaw watched a line of parked planes burst into flame and jumped in his fire truck to save them. An enemy fighter roared low and shot out his back tires, putting an end to his run. 

At Bellows Air Field attackers killed a U. S. pilot as he scrambled into his cockpit. Two other planes were knocked down as soon as they left the ground. Sgt. Wilbur Hunt put a machine gun into action, firing from a handy bomb crater. Another blast tore a corner off the guard house. Prisoners came running to help. A third bomb destroyed an ice cream truck. This time soldiers dashed from hiding to pick up free treats. 

            In general, the Americans were almost completely unable to put up an organized defense. “It was,” said one Japanese pilot later, “more like a practice run than actual combat.” 

            Except in practice no one is killed.


            The reality of December 7 was much more terrible. “Battleship Row” was now a scene of horror. R. L. Hooton was lying in his bunk on West Virginia, looking at pictures of his new baby, when the ship rocked from a bomb hit. Ed Jacoby’s battle lasted only a few moments. Then a blast sent a metal locker crashing over on his head, knocking him cold. The ship’s captain was mortally wounded when a shell splinter sliced through his abdomen. 

Dorie Miller, a hard-nosed black mess steward, helped carry him to better cover before he died. The U. S. Navy treated black sailors poorly in 1941. Most found themselves in lowly, unskilled jobs. Now Miller had a chance to do something besides clean dishes and cook and he took it. Without hesitating, he grabbed hold of one of the ship’s anti-aircraft guns and began firing. A white sailor realized it was the first time he had seen Miller smile since he had won the ship’s boxing championship. Despite the crew’s best efforts, however, West Virginia was struck again and again. Wrapped in sheets of burning oil, the mighty battleship sank slowly, settling into the muddy harbor bottom.

            Not far away, Oklahoma was taking an awful beating. Hiejro Abe, a Japanese pilot, let loose his 1,760-pound bomb and saw it tear into the ship. Excitement over-whelmed him and he felt tears come to his eyes. Then four torpedoes slammed into the vessel, ripping open her hull. Oklahoma took on water and began rolling over. Below decks a sailor remembered seeing two men in the pharmacy hit by a cascade of falling medicine bottles. Slipping and sliding, they fell amid the broken glass. Then they jumped up and ran off, hoping to escape. Inside the main gun turrets there were scenes of incredible horror. Huge shells, some weighing more than a ton, broke loose and rolled down the slanting deck, crushing anyone in their path. Other crewmen were more fortunate. A marine managed to walk up the side of the vessel as it rolled over. Then he stepped into a waiting lifeboat, without wetting his feet. Three brothers, Tom, Pat and Terry Armstrong, reached safety without a scratch among them.

            Eight minutes after the first bomb hit Oklahoma rolled over, her hull sticking out of the water like a giant turtle. George DeLong and seven other men found temporary safety from the water by closing off hatches [doors] and plugging leaking air vents with mattresses. Still the sea continued to pour in till it reached their waists. Terrified and unsure what had happened, they began pounding out an “S. O. S.” with a wrench. Splashing down a flooded passage, George Murphy entered a room with a strange tile “ceiling.”  Neither he nor any of the sailors gathered with him could understand what had happened. 

But hundreds of men were trapped inside a topsy-turvy steel prison. 

            For the Japanese, the attack was a dream come true. Lt. Jinichi Goto came in low, released his torpedo, and heard his observer shout, “Atarimashita!” (It hit!) Juzo Mori zoomed down, fifteen feet above the harbor waters. Black puffs of smoke from American guns filled the sky. His torpedo went streaking for the side of California and exploded in a fountain of water and black smoke. As he pulled up, Mori almost rammed another attacking plane. A string of American bullets ripped his craft like angry wasps. Yet his luck held.

            He survived.

            At almost that same moment bombs slammed into the USS Arizona. One ripped through the battleship’s armored deck, touching off a fire near the ammunition room. Suddenly, a million pounds of explosives blew up like a volcano. Fuchida saw the vessel explode beneath him. The blast rocked his plane like a toy and a pillar of dark red smoke rose a thousand feet in the air. Other witnesses watched the ship jump fifteen feet out of the water and then split in two

            Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh and 1,176 members of the crew died almost instantly.


            Shocked, stunned, filled with anger, defenders did whatever they could. One sailor came running from a hanger, firing a BAR [Browning Automatic Rifle] at a low flying Zero. The pilot, Lt. Fusata Iida, returned fire. The American ducked a stream of bullets. Witnesses saw the enemy plane climb and come round again, leaking gas as Iida zoomed in for the kill. Both men fired once more. Then—to the astonishment of all who witnessed the duel—the crippled plane plowed into the ground and disintegrated. 

John Finn grabbed a machinegun from a parked plane, propped it on a pile of lumber, and blazed away. Shrapnel [bomb fragments] tore into his stomach, chest, arms and foot. Ignoring his many wounds, Finn kept firing as long as any attackers were in sight.

            As soon as the first bombs hit, pilots Welch and Taylor forgot their discussion about whether to go for a swim or head for bed. Jumping into their car they raced to a nearby airstrip. Then they roared into the sky. Soon they found themselves engaged in a high-speed battle. One enemy fighter got on Taylor’s tail. Welch shot him loose. Taylor knocked down a Japanese plane and watched it clip the top off a eucalyptus tree before exploding in a ball of flame. Looking for trouble, they found plenty of fresh targets over Ewa Air Field. It was “a picnic,” and they shot down four more Japanese. Taylor was wounded and forced to land. Welch finished the day by downing a seventh Japanese aircraft on his own.


            Even heroic effort could not halt the terrible destruction. A second Japanese wave—this time 168 planes—struck hard at the American fleet, adding to the horrible toll. Nevada was hit hard and avoided sinking only by running aground. Battleship Pennsylvania, in dry-dock, was badly damaged. George Walters, a civilian worker, did his best to protect the ship, running a tall crane back and forth along a rail to block low- flying aircraft. The destroyer Shaw was hit at 9:30 a.m. A huge orange fireball marked the spot where the vessel had been. Bodies, mattresses, and pieces of ship flew high in the air and came crashing back to earth. 

            By 10:00 a.m. the skies had cleared. The last Japanese aircraft vanished to the north. The damage they left was incredible. Eighteen ships had been sunk or reduced to junk, including all of the U. S. Navy’s battleships. A total of 188 American planes were destroyed, another 159 damaged. Most had been caught, by surprise, on the ground.

            Worst of all was the human toll. All day and all that night Nurse Dorothy Young watched trucks deliver bloody cargo to the hospital. Again and again, she gave injured soldiers and marines shots of morphine, marking each man’s forehead with an “M.” Burt Amgwert, a pharmacist’s mate at the Naval Hospital, would never forget the aftermath of battle. That night, in a facility meant to hold 300, he helped care for nearly a thousand men. Meanwhile, bodies piled up in stacks. Young Mary Ann Ramsey volunteered to help. The sight of burned and mangled sailors filled her with horror. But she swallowed her fear and held cigarettes to the lips of those too badly injured to hold them for themselves. 

            The final count at Pearl Harbor showed 2,403 Americans dead. Another 1,178 were wounded.         


            At 3:00 p. m. (Eastern Standard Time) radio stations across the United States broadcast the terrible news. Fans attending pro football games fell silent. Families eating Sunday dinners put down forks and stared at loved ones. Little children at play stopped to wonder what it meant. 

            Tens of millions of adults understood all too well. 

            The U. S. was now a part of what would prove to be the bloodiest war in human history.


JAPANESE LOSSES ON DECEMBER 7 WERE LIGHT. All five midget submarines were sunk, as well as one large sub. Twenty-nine planes were downed and 129 men killed.

Aboard carrier Akagi reports of the damage caused were so good Japanese officers hugged each other and cried. Pilots begged Admiral Nagumo to make a third strike but he refused to take a chance. Commander Fuchida was so angered by this decision he dared not speak to the admiral afterwards. In Tokyo excited crowds gathered to applaud the news.


 TRAPPED IN A STEEL PRISON. In the moments before the Japanese struck, Stephen B. Young, a cook on Oklahoma, was cleaning up after breakfast. He and his Hawaiian girlfriend had a picnic planned for that afternoon. A quick glance out a porthole told him weather was perfect.  Young smiled, realizing he had money for a change. A ten dollar bill and a single were tucked safely in his wallet.

            When the ship was hit and turned over, Young and thirty others took shelter in a partly flooded passage. He himself dived underwater and reached another compartment, searching for a way out. Floating bodies and mattresses blocked his way. He saw a fat dead man stuck in a small porthole. Eventually, Young and the other trapped sailors settled down and waited for rescue. Now and then, as the hours passed, one or another would leave to look for an escape route. None returned. The waters rose, inch by inch, round those who remained.

            Young thought about home and family. Even under these awful conditions his memories made him happy. Then he prayed. Someone else joked: “Join the Navy and see the world—from the bottom of Pearl Harbor!” 

            The hours passed. Gradually, men lost hope. Young and a friend made bets how they might die, though both knew they could not live to collect. Then, on December 8, they heard hammering above. Rescue crews cut their way through the steel hull and pulled Young and the rest to safety.


            An even worse fate awaited three sailors aboard West Virginia. As with Oklahoma, when West Virginia went down, many men were trapped below deck. In the days that followed, Marine guards near the wreck could hear a tireless banging coming from deep inside the ship. It was awful to think about the poor sailors’ fate and combat-hardened Marines covered their ears and tried not to hear.

            Among those trapped inside were North Dakota friends, Ronald Endicott, 18; Clifford Olds, 20; and Louis “Buddy” Costin, 21. We know that they sealed off a large storage room, surviving for more than two weeks. Months would pass. The battered battleship would be raised, repaired, and put back into service. When workers opened the room where the three friend’s bodies lay they found sixteen days crossed off a calendar in red pencil. Flashlight batteries and food containers littered the floor. A manhole cover over a passage leading to a supply of fresh water was pushed aside.

            These last three victims of the attack on Pearl Harbor had survived until two days before Christmas.

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