Pearl Harbor: It Was More Than a Movie

By Silbergeld, David Ll. | National Defense, August 2001 | Go to article overview

Pearl Harbor: It Was More Than a Movie


Silbergeld, David Ll., National Defense


It seems strange that we consider this event not on the anniversary of the date that it occurred nearly 60 years ago, but during the release of a summer movie. Whatever the reason, it is appropriate that Americans not forget Pearl Harbor.

Criticism that Hollywood overdid it, that the movie "lacked a surprise ending," or that the "ships differed in profile" from those that were in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, should be ignored by moviegoers.

Instead, remember the event, the shock that shook America out of its isolationism, the courage and bravery of men such as Dorie Miller (Navy Cross) and the more than 2,400 men and women who died that December day. What happened at Pearl Harbor is worth further examination after you leave the theater.

An outstanding book that puts the movie into perspective is "Pearl Harbor: The Movie and the Moment," published by Hyperion Books ($35). This collaborative effort by Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay and Randall Wallace is lavishly illustrated and relates incidents that make the film come alive.

Few people (including historians) ever knew that two pilots actually drove to a remote landing field, got into the air and each shot down four Japanese aircraft. Their achievement is portrayed in the book, but the movie creates a fictional love triangle between the pilots and a military nurse.

National Geographic Society's "Remember Pearl Harbor," by Thomas B. Allan ($17.95), is a beautifully illustrated book specifically for children, yet equally interesting for adults. This is a great book that helps children understand what Pearl Harbor was all about. It is truly a shame that few schools--even high schools--teach anything about World War II, much less Pearl Harbor.

The History Channel provides a unique source of information with "Pearl Harbor" on DVD (two volumes). This is an outstanding new medium that includes Pearl Harbor facts, interactive menus and scene selections, such as Adm. Chester Nimitz's rebuilding of the Pacific Fleet. The History Channel also is airing two specials--"Tora! Tora! Tora! The True Story of Pearl Harbor" and "Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor."

In addition, video tapes of the movie--"Tora! Tora! Tora!"--are back on the shelves in VHS and DVD format. This movie is a historic review of events as seen from both Japanese and American eyes. Japanese-language dialogue, with English-language subtitles, lend an air of realism to the movie.

Soft-cover books are represented by the Osprey Military Campaign series No. 62, "Pearl Harbor: The Day of Infamy," by Carl Smith ($17.95). History buffs will enjoy the full-color map of Pearl Harbor and especially the three-dimensional, full-color views of each phase and element of the attack. Appendices provide the reader with both U.S. and Japanese orders of battle.

World War II Magazine, in response to the movie and the 60th anniversary, has published a commemorative issue. The magazine ($4.99) provides a pullout timeline chart and many first-hand articles, including one by David Kahn that answers the question, "Why Weren't We Warned?"

Historical background can be found in "Pearl Harbor," by H. …

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