Days of Infamy

The newsprint expended in pursuit of what constitutes the “truth” about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is probably exceeded only by the investment in what happened in Dallas, Texas, in 1963. John Costello, however, examines the now familiar tale with a slightly different focus. He begins by wondering why Admiral Kimmel and General Short should be disgraced for what happened at Pearl Harbor whilst General Douglas MacArthur emerged from an equally catastrophic situation with his reputation unmarred. In the process of following that line of investigation, Costello concludes that Kimmel and Short were more victims rather than culprits—sinned against rather than guilty of the most egregious collection of military miscalculations since the Light Brigade charged the guns at Balaklava.

Costello exonerates Kimmel and Short, but he ignores the parable of the Good Samaritan and leaves Douglas MacArthur broken and bleeding in the historical ditch. Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt are excoriated for strategic and diplomatic errors of the first water, but theirs were sins largely of omission, while MacArthur is charged with the most base motives imaginable. Moreover, he insists that while an attack on Pearl harbor could not be prevented, only ameliorated, the catastrophe which was visited upon the Philippines was quite avoidable.

Costello insists that if history of the human community is restricted to nothing more than a bare recital of events it is of little value. Indeed, the historian must needs evaluate what occurred with reference to what might otherwise have been the case. To that end, DAYS OF INFAMY represents an impressive addition to the groaning shelf of “Pearl Harbor books.”