REFLECTIONS OF PEARL HARBOR: AN ORAL HISTORY OF DECEMBER 7, 1941

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Hello.  My name is Kent Richardson and I want to introduce you to my newly released book- Reflections Of Pearl Harbor: An Oral History of December 7, 1941.  The book is an oral history of that fateful day with over 170 personal narratives describing a day in the life of America, from individuals who have not, and never will, forget that historic moment in world history. 

 

So devastating was the news to a country still in the throes of a depression, that over six decades later, most could still recall where they were, what they were wearing, and how they heard the news of an event that shocked the world.  Together, these ordinary Americans, both civilians from the forty-eight states, and military personnel, many along Battleship Row, paint a portrait of a nation stunned, but determined to rise again.

 

From the Foreword (written by Paul Stillwell):  “ It was a day that inflicted itself onto human consciousness.  Though no one’s memory is perfect, these stories ring true, for the day of infamy was far more memorable than almost any other.  Just as the events in far-away Hawaii influenced millions of American lives, those Americans in turn were to have their own influence on events.  By their shared sacrifices, willingness to serve, and patriotism, they were able to overturn the ambitions of the nation’s enemies.  This country has been a different place ever since that day.”

 

History of Reflections of Pearl Harbor

 

I began writing Reflections of Pearl Harbor: An Oral History of December 7, 1941, in late 1998.  The working title was 'The Date Which Lives In Infamy,' but Praeger Publishing felt the use of the word 'Infamy' had been over-used with respect to WWII titles.  They wanted the work to stand out and be noticed, and thus the title change.  I initially named the book as I did because that was going to be the premise of the book-to tell of an incident that so stunned a nation, that even six decades after the fact, those who were around during that time are still able to recall what they were doing, where they were, and how they heard the news that changed the world as we then knew it. 

 

Shortly into the process of collecting the first of the 170 personal accounts, Random House released Tom Brokaw's book ‘The Greatest Generation.’  I had to make the decision whether I would continue with the manuscript, or decide if it would be an exercise in futility due to the recent release.  At that point, I was twenty-five stories into the process, and decided that if the people who already contributed thought enough of the project to trust a stranger with a piece of their lives, their account of the day December 7, 1941, then I should continue on.   Looking back, Generation and Reflections have little in common in that Generation focuses on the entire span of years that generation encompassed, while Reflections main focal point is the actual day of December 7, 1941 and the fallout that resulted.    

 

I began the project by mailing out personally printed flyers to senior-citizen organizations, retirement centers, and armed service related institutions.  With two hundred flyers in the mail, I hoped to receive at least one response per flyer.  That would be an excellent start.  Was I ever surprised to find that the total was far less than I had anticipated-more like one response per twenty inquiries.  I returned to the word processor and ran off an additional two hundred copies.  Once again, the response ratio remained unchanged.  I began printing the inquiries in lots of five hundred, personally hand signing letters to each recipient, inserting the material, and hand stamping each envelope.  While my ratio of responses didn't change, the sheer number of flyers sent out increased the quantity of responses accordingly. 

 

I decided to tap the internet and found several senior citizen sites containing remembrance pages.  Those whose stories seemed to fit the manuscript's criteria were contacted and asked if they would like to share a more in-depth account with the future readers of my book.  Most agreed, and the web sites that were utilized raised no objection to the use of the material so long as the submitter granted permission. 

 

Several ads were placed in USA Today and the National Council on Aging's magazine soliciting input for the project, and those appeals brought in a few pieces of useful information.  Finally, a man from San Francisco, Marvin McDonald, spotted one of my flyers and contacted me.  He used to live in Hawaii and still had several long-time contacts on the Islands.  He put me in touch with over a half dozen people who were youngsters at that time and lived in and around Oahu.  Due to the time and distance involved, I called the potential contributors and conducted personal phone interviews ranging from fifteen minutes to nearly one hour.  I recorded their conversations, then assembled each in an accurate, detailed personal account of that tragic day. 

 

I made every attempt to be all-inclusive with the manuscript and did manage to collect stories from men and women, young and old, rich and poor, military and civilian.  I sent flyers and emails to several different ethnic and multi-cultural organizations with only limited success.  It wasn't an easy task as those who gave of their time and rememberances ranged in age from 65-83 years of age.

 

Several of the opening stories in Reflections were added during the final days of the editing process.  Paul Stillwell, noted historian and writer in his own right, reviewed the material and suggested that the manuscript needed additional input from those along Battleship Row.  I went back to the internet in hopes of locating people who would fit that category, and received a few names and addresses from my publisher as well.  That final effort added 'oomph' to the opening chapter, and put the event in better perspective.  Many of those stories took the reader right to 'ground zero' of the attack.  My original manuscript had the 'Eyewitnesses' chapter in the middle of the book, but those at Praeger Publishing felt that moving it to the beginning would 'grab the reader.'  And so it did.

 

Once completed around late 2001, the manuscript spent three years bouncing around between two different agencies as they attempted to land a publishing house.  Their efforts (or lack thereof) weren't up to my expectations, so I researched what an agent’s role actually is, then took on the task of representing myself.  I began researching publishers dealing in the American history and military genres, then sent query letters to those prospective publishers.  The rest is history-literally. 

 

My sincere appreciation goes out to all the people that contributed to my book by taking the time to sit down, take pen in hand, and search their memory to allow readers-now and in the future-to appreciate what each author experienced on that winter day some sixty years ago.  From the few reviews I have received early on, Reflections has moved more than one reader to tears.  And while some of the contributors have already left us, their story will be preserved as long as this manuscript exists in hard copy or cyber form. 

 

 

 

 

 

Click link below to see a modern day look at the USS Arizona.

Where to obtain Reflections of Pearl Harbor:

  • Any local bookstore can order Reflections of Pearl Harbor as Praeger Publishing is a major book printer/ seller/ distributor.
  • Call the parent publisher/distributor customer service- Greenwood Publishing Group Inc./Heinemann @ 1-800-225-5800 (FAX) 603-431-2214, order online at www.greenwood.com, or write Heinemann @ P.O. Box 6926 Portsmouth, NH  03802-6926
  • www.amazon.com
  • Barnes and Noble bookstores and online (www.barnesandnoble.com).
  • Joseph Beth bookstores and online (www.josephbeth.com/).

Click this Photo of the Arizona memorial to hear an actual radio broadcast of the attack on Pearl Harbor -------- >

REVIEWS 

  •  This collection of memories, told in the participants' own words, gathers accounts from both military personnel and civilians, children and adults, from different ethnic backgrounds and from all over the US. Together, these ordinary Americans paint a portrait of a nation stunned, but determined to rise again.
    Reference & Research Book News
    August 2005
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  • The collection of 170 narratives describes the day the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. In their own words, participants shared their memories with Richardson, allowing his book to recapture the fateful events of an American tragedy.
    Hamilton Journal News
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  • The most chilling testimonies are from witnesses of the attacks....But just as moving are the memories of ordinary Americans who were thousands of miles away from Hawaii when they received the news....A fine re-creation of a seminal moment in our history.
    Booklist
    June 1 & 15, 2005
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  • [A] broad sweep of accounts of a pivotal day in world history. The sense of disbelief and outrage resonates from the pages....[e]nables individuals normally overlooked by history to be heard.
    —Financial Times, London
    May 7, 2006
  • A fine re-creation of a seminal moment in our history. Jay Freeman, American Library Association.
  • It's an important resource and will rekindle memories of those of us whom live through it, and open the eyes of the younger folks. Get this book for both of them to read. Clevelandseniors.com
  • What Others Are Saying:  Readers' Feedback

     

     

  • Your book is a very meaningful and powerful work...Great job!  T.S. West Palm Beach, FL
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  • This is a thrilling book.  Congratulations!  C.K. Tierra Verde, FL
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  • Several of the recollections left me tear-filled-especially those of the Japanese American contributors.  L.P.  San Francisco, CA
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  • This book is a great gift to those whose memories are recorded in it, but an even greater gift to students of history...  E.R. South Portland, ME
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  • It was a great period, and more...people should read about it, particularly the younger generation.  A.W.  Norfolk, VA
  • It's a very important and fascinating resource. Very well done.  D.H. Cleveland, OH
  • Pearl Harbor Notes of Historical Significance

    Pearl Harbor Statistics (no source listed for reliability).


    On Sunday, December 7th, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack against the U.S. Forces stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  By planning this attack on a Sunday, the Japanese commander Admiral Nagumo, hoped to catch the entire fleet in port. As luck would have it, the Aircraft Carriers and one of the Battleships
    were not in port. (The USS Enterprise was returning from Wake Island , where it had just delivered some aircraft. The USS Lexington was ferrying aircraft to Midway, and the USS Saratoga and USS Colorado were undergoing repairs in the United States .
     
    In spite of the latest intelligence reports about the missing a aircraft carriers (his most important targets), Admiral Nagumo decided to continue the attack with his force of six carriers and 423 aircraft. At a range of 230 miles north of Oahu , he launched the first wave of a two-wave attack. Beginning at 0600 hours his first wave consisted of 183 fighters and torpedo bombers which struck at the fleet in Pearl Harbor and the airfields in Hickam, Kaneohe, and Ewa. The second strike, launched at 0715 hours, consisted of 167 aircraft, which again struck at the same targets.
    At 0753 hours the first wave consisting of 40 Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" torpedo bombers, 51 Aichi D3A1 "Val" dive bombers, 50 high altitude bombers and 43 Zeros struck airfields and Pearl Harbor Within the next hour, the second wave arrived and continued the attack.  When it was over, the U.S.losses were:


    Casualties
    USA : 218 KIA, 364 WIA.

    USN: 2,008 KIA, 710 WIA.
    USMC: 109 KIA, 69 WIA.
    Civilians: 68 KIA, 35 WIA.
    TOTAL: 2,403 KIA, 1,178 WIA.
    -------------------------------------------------

    Battleships
    USS Ari zona (BB-39) - total loss when a bomb hit her magazine.

    USS Oklahoma (BB-37) - Total loss when she capsized and sunk in the harbor.
    USS California (BB-44) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
    USS West Virginia (BB-48) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
    USS Nevada - (BB-36) Beached to prevent sinking. Later repaired.
    USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) - Light damage.
    USS Maryland (BB-46) - Light damage.
    USS Tennessee (BB-43) Light damage.
    USS Utah (AG-16) - (former battleship used as a target) - Sunk.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Cruisers
    USS New Orleans(CA-32) - Light Damage..
    USS San Francisco(CA38) - Light Damage.
    USS Detroit(CL-8) - Light Damage.
    USS Raleigh (CL-7) - Heavily damaged but repaired.
    USS Helena(CL-50) - Light Damage.
    USS Honolulu(CL-48) - Light Damage..
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Destroyers
    USS Downes (DD-375) - Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
    USS Cassin - (DD-37 2) Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
    USS Shaw (DD-373) - Very heavy damage.
    USS Helm (DD-388) - Light Damage.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Minelayer
    USS Ogala (CM-4) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Seaplane Tender
    USS Curtiss (AV-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Repair Ship
    USS Vestal (AR-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Harbor Tug
    USS Sotoyomo (YT-9) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Aircraft
    188 Aircraft destroyed (92 USN and 92 U.S. Army Air Corps)

    This page last updated December 13, 2011.