Argus Leader: History Professor Remarks on Lessons from Pearl Harbor
Monday, December 8, 2008
History Professor Dr. Michael Mullin made the following remarks about lessons we can take from Pearl Harbor.
Attack 'marked end to American isolationsim'
As we look back at Pearl Harbor, we must separate the attack on Pearl Harbor from what Pearl Harbor has become.
In 1941, Hawaii was a territory, just like the Philippines. But Hawaii became a state, and therefore the attack against Pearl Harbor took on a very different character than the Americans trapped and killed in the Philippines.
There is no single lesson to be learned from Pearl Harbor. Instead, there are many lessons.
First, we must remember that Pearl Harbor did more than just determine our official entry into World War II. It marked the end of American isolationism. The United States never returned to its historic policy of isolation and neutrality. Instead, we became internationalists - NATO. and SEATO. (Southeast Asian Treaty Organization) - were two examples of this.
Pearl Harbor, even today, reminds every visitor of the cost of defending the nation. Anyone who has visited the USS Arizona memorial learns to appreciate that. Pearl Harbor ought to remind us that there are, as George F. Kennan argued years ago, neither permanent enemies nor permanent allies. President George H. Bush, made that point explicitly when he spoke on the 50th anniversary of the attack.
Pearl Harbor also teaches us about American resiliency. We were not prepared for the initial attack, but we recovered far quicker than Japanese planners had assumed (or needed). Whether it was the salvage operation of the ships sunk in 1941, or the retooling of American factories on the mainland, Americans rallied to the flag and did what needed to be done. Even those the nation discriminated against came to her rescue.
When I think of Pearl Harbor, I do not think of just the attack against our ports and airfields; I think of the Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a regiment comprised of Americans of Japanese ancestry.
One of those who served in the 442nd was Daniel Inouye, currently the senior senator from Hawaii, and a man who, though wounded in combat, was denied a haircut in Washington, D.C., on account of his ancestry. As one American of Japanese ancestry said after the attack on Pearl Harbor, "Now we are all haoles (foreigners)."
Pearl Harbor indirectly opened doors for integrating the nation. Perhaps it is appropriate that our president-elect, the first non-Caucasian president elected, hails from the island of Oahu, home to Pearl Harbor
- Michael Mullin, history professor at Augustana College
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