the alfmeister

a figment of reality's imagination

Book Review – Pearl Harbour

Pearl Harbour – The Day of Infamy, an Illustrated History by Dan Van Der Vat (cool name)


USS Oklahoma rolls over

I have read a few books on the surprise attack by the Japanese Imperial Forces in 1941, and this book would be the best I have read – an illustrated version of the classic war pic “Tora! Tora! Tora!” of the 70s. It does away with a lot of the pre and post-war history that, while it has relevance, it is not what a lot of readers want, or need to know about.

There are two reasons that this book is such a good read – to those who are well aware of the attack, and especially for those whose knowledge is just being able to name the battle in pub quizzes – it is in its illustrations and its ‘non-biased’ approach to getting the story across.

The plethora of photos (some I have never seen before) maps, and the brilliant paintings are a credit to this book, capturing the shock, scale, and awesomeness of the event. Some are those taken by Japanese pilots who took part in the attack and seem almost surreal or shots from a movie such is their impact.

Brilliant photo showing near miss on Battleship row

The writing is to the point and not full of jargon, giving the most ardent land-lubber and civilian the ability to keep pace. And with eye-witness accounts from all sides (American, Japanese, and civilian) these add different perspectives to the ensuing battle. In fact I would go so far as to say that you cannot help but show some respect for the antagonists for their own bravery, skill, and patriotism.

In closing I will no doubt upset some; it is with the immortal words from President Roosevelt; “…a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked…” – I have an issue with the use ‘suddenly’ – in reading any book on this subject it is clear to even the most layman of people who this term is hardly justified – the fact that the attack happened with such ferocity and impact was partly in due to the Japanese planning and execution (which in fact did not go entirely to plan, otherwise it could have been so much worse), but the inept ability and arrogance of the American forces who had enough pieces of the puzzle to know what was happening, where, and when. It was inevitable, they just failed in their task, yet another case of ‘how the hell did the Allies win the war?’ Not so much their winning, more the Axis losing in my mind…there will be debate whether America in fact bought it upon themselves (as has been repeated in many more instances since WWII) as their interjection into Manchuria  was the catalyst. But that’s another story for another time.


One of the great paintings - note the bomb dropping in from top centre - this is the mortal blow to USS Arizona

RIP to all who fell not just at Pearl Harbour, but WWII itself.


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