72 years after "The Day which will live in Infamy", Dec. 7, 1941, myths still surround the Japanese attack that plunged the US into WWII.
MYTH ONE: The US Government had no prior knowledge that the Japan would attack before December 7.
Despite the fact that Japan had been at war with most of their Asian neighbors for years, and their expansionist aggression spreading, the US War Department had intercepted and decoded secret cables between Tokyo and the Japanese Embassy in Washington. They believe initally the Japanese would attack Hawaii on Sunday, Nov. 30. A Hawaii newspaper even warned, in blaring headlines, of a possible attack.
Just two days before the attack on Dec. 4, Pres. Roosevelt received a 26-page “Confidential“ memo from the Office of Naval Intelligence detailing Japanese espionage efforts. The outbreak of war is mentioned, followed by this: “The focal point of the Japanese Espionage effort is the determination of the total strength of the United States.
"In anticipation of possible open conflict with this country, Japan is vigorously utilizing every available agency to secure military, naval and commercial information, paying particular attention to the West Coast, the Panama Canal and the Territory of Hawaii."
MYTH TWO: THE Japanese attacked ONLY Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th.
Japanese forces also attacked the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam, Malaya (NOW Malaysia) , Thailand and Midway Island. The Philippines campaign lasted until January 1942, when the country fell to the Japanese, Wake Island was shelled by Japanese aircraft and ships until Dec. 11th.
MYTH THREE: THE US responded swiftly and decisively to the sneak attacks.
In the aftermath of a crippling blow to the American psyche, rumors flew fast and furious many without credence. The Navy was allegedly chasing the Japanese fleet up and down the Pacific when in reality there was no assistance for General MacArthur in the Phillipines and he was forced to flee to Australia in the wake of their fall.
For months after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. suffered defeat after defeat in the Pacific. The first significant U.S. offensive did not come until February 1942, when the US Navy began counter-attacks on the Gilbert and Marshall islands.