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Day of Infamy is Walter Lord's gripping, vivid re-creation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941. In brilliant detail Walter Lord traces the human drama of the great attack: the spies behind it; the Japanese pilots; the crews on the stricken warships; the men at the airfields and the bases; the Japanese pilot who captured an island single-handedly when he could not get back to his carrier; the generals, the sailors, the housewives, and the children who responded to the attack with anger, numbness, and magnificent courage. In compiling his masterpiece, Lord traveled over fourteen thousand miles and spoke or corresponded with over five hundred individuals on both sides who were there, creating the best account we have of one of the epic events in American history.
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There may not be a better book on what happened at Pearl Harbor than Day of Infamy--and it's not as if the Pearl Harbor story has lacked chroniclers. Walter Lord is best known for A Night to Remember, his book on the voyage of the Titanic. Day of Infamy deserves to stand beside that classic as a gripping narrative, and the subject matter, of course, is infinitely more important.
Lord begins by showing how Japanese admirals, three months before their notorious sneak attack, "tested the idea on the game board at the Naval War College." (It didn't go nearly as well there as it did in real life.) Then he proceeds briskly through the preparations for the assault and delivers a minute-by-minute account about those fateful hours in Oahu. The detail is incredible. The Japanese scan Hawaiian radio stations to see if their moves have been detected; a U.S. naval officer on "his first night on his first patrol on his first command" spots a Japanese submarine just hours before the strike; when the surprise attack finally does arrive, an excited Japanese commander shouts "Tora! Tora! Tora!" ("Victory!") before even the first bombs have fallen. The whole assault lasted about two hours. Thousands of Americans were killed or wounded. The Navy lost the U.S.S. Arizona, which blew up about 15 minutes into the raid, and 17 other ships were either sunk or crippled. Hundreds of planes were destroyed or damaged. The Japanese, by contrast, lost only 29 planes. It must be considered one of the most lopsided battles in all history--and "battle" probably isn't the best word to describe it. Pearl Harbor was closer to a massacre. Whatever the label, Pearl Harbor was a turning-point moment in American history, and it gave rise, the very next day, to some of the most famous words ever spoken by an American president: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked...." If you intend to read only a single book on Pearl Harbor, this is the one for you. --John J. MillerAbout the Author:
Walter Lord (1917-2002), American author of numerous nonfiction books, was a graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School, served in the OSS during World War II, and became an editor and advertising copywriter. He is known for his book A Night to Remember, about the sinking of the Titanic, and he served as consultant in the making of the movie Titanic.
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