December 7 marks the 66th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. It is certainly a day which will live in infamy, but it’s also a day that the free world should remember with gratitude. Up until December 7, while America had been helping England in sub rosa fashion, she had otherwise ostensibly sat out the war in Europe. The only country still fighting was England. Otherwise, Western, Northern, Central and parts of Eastern Europe were under Nazi control, while North Africa was held by the Italians and the Nazis. Every nation but England had either welcomed the Nazis, given up, or been destroyed into submission — and the sad truth was that England could not hold out much longer.
As John Meacham describes in the fascinating and delightful Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship, Churchill was desperately working on Roosevelt to try to get ever more American support, including an open declaration of war, but time was running out and Roosevelt was playing coy. It was the devastating Japanese attack on the Pacific Fleet that catapulted a formerly unwilling America into the War. The Japanese had awoken the wrong sleeping tiger. Although there were many times during the course of the War that it looked as if nothing could turn back the Nazi and Japanese tide, it is clear in retrospect that Japan’s decision to bring America into the conflict sounded the death knell for those totalitarian nations.
And so I remember Pearl Harbor and the 2,386 Americans who died that day. But as a citizen of the free world, I also remember Pearl Harbor as the day the sleeping American tiger was unleashed, so that it could defeat the dark stain spreading across the world.