As a pastor, you had to talk about 9/11 that next Sunday. Since my congregation at that church was older, most of them remembered Pearl Harbor. Therefore, I decided to draw parallels between 9/11/01 and December 7, 1941, which was a few months short of being 60 years ago. I also attempted to answer the major question on most people’s minds: “Where was God?” In this post and the one to follow is the sermon I gave on the Sunday following the events of 9/11/01. I entitled it “Lessons from Pearl Harbor”.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001, is another date that will live in infamy. Many of you were alive at the time of Pearl Harbor, and I’m sure you recognize many of the emotions associated with Tuesday’s events. Since some are calling this a “Second Pearl Harbor” I would like to draw some comparisons to that event 60 years ago.
I find it interesting that after 60 years there is still strong interest in the Pearl Harbor attack as we see by the recent popular movie called “Pearl Harbor.”
•Both Pearl Harbor and the recent acts of terrorism were unprovoked, and both caught the US by surprise.
•Both took place in the morning, and both involved aircraft. The first bomb at Pearl Harbor fell at 7:55 and the first plane hit the WTC at 8:45.
•Both involved substantial property loss. At Pearl, 18 ships were sunk or seriously damaged, plus damage to buildings. In NYC, the entire WTC complex and many nearby buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged.
•Both involved a substantial loss of life. At Pearl, 2,403 men and women lost their lives, all but 68 were military. We don’t know the death toll yet, but I estimate Tuesday’s attacks will probably result in 6,000-7,000 deaths. (266 in airplanes, 200 at Pentagon, and 5,500-6,500 at WTC) Most of these deaths were civilians.
•Both attacks were personal to Americans. Hawaii was an American territory and the attack was against our military installations there. Many knew servicemen who lost their lives or were in Hawaii at the time.
Tuesday’s attack was even closer to home, and involved ordinary people at work, like any one of us. Many people were personally touched by these attacks, knowing people on the airplanes or in the buildings. My company had an office at the WTC. We lost 5 employees. We could see the burning buildings from our office in White Plains, knowing we had people there.
•Evil as it was, the Japanese had a strategic objective in attacking Pearl Harbor. Their objective was to neutralize our Pacific fleet so it would be out of commission for several years. This would allow the Japanese to continue their conquests in Asia without US interference. The US had become increasing hostile to Japan and had initiated trade and oil embargoes against it.
For the life of me, I can not find any strategic objective to an attack on civilian buildings such as we saw on Tuesday. That’s what makes Tuesday’s attacks senseless and diabolical.
Pearl Harbor a Strategic Failure
Interestingly, from a strategic point of view, the Pearl Harbor attack was a failure.
It failed in four ways:
1. The most important naval weapon, the aircraft carrier, was untouched in the attack. Not a single carrier was in port at the time. Within a few months our carriers had engaged the enemy in significant naval battles.
2. The second most important naval weapon, the submarine, was also untouched by the attack. The sub base at Pearl was only moderately damaged and was soon back in operation. US subs were attacking Japanese shipping all over the Pacific.
3. The enormous fuel depot at Pearl was completely untouched. Even if no ships had been sunk but the fuel depot had been destroyed, our fleet would have soon been rendered useless for a substantial period of time.
4. The Pearl Harbor attack united Americans as never before. I suspect the Japanese wanted to demoralize us, but the effect was just the opposite. We were resolved to defeat an enemy that was devastating Asia and had now hit our home shores.
Why was Pearl Harbor a failure to the Japanese? I believe it was because God protected us so that we could be instrumental in defeating the evil of Nazi and Japanese expansionism. Without the involvement of the US, I don’t believe these evil expansionist empires could have been stopped. Because of US involvement in the war, Europe was eventually liberated and large parts of Asia were freed from the harsh rule of the Japanese Empire.