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Members speak: Pearl Harbor

Monday, January 30, 2017

Dear Editor:

As the son of a Pearl Harbor survivor, I found David Vergun’s article on Remembering Pearl Harbor in the January AUSA News of great interest. (“Pearl Harbor attack: 75 years ago, 2,403 Americans killed,” by David Vergun, Army News Service)

My father was in his bunk reading the Sunday paper when the first of six torpedoes hit the ship.

By the time he got on deck, the captain had been mortally wounded, the ship was sinking, and the order had been given to abandon ship.

He swam through burning debris and bunker fuel to Ford Island and was reassigned to the USS Patterson on-board which he saw a lot of action in the Pacific.

He received a battlefield commission during the war and retired in 1957 as a lieutenant commander after 27 years of service.

However, I do take exception to the following statement attributed to James C. McNaughton: “What the Japanese misjudged was the tremendous anger of the American people, which gave President Roosevelt and Congress the excuse they were looking for to declare war against Japan as well as Germany, McNaughton noted.”

FDR and Congress did not want or expect war with Japan before the 7 December attack.

If there was any war that FDR wanted to enter, it was the war in Europe where the British had been fighting Germany for over two years. Congress declared war on Japan on 8 December but had no “excuse” to declare war on Germany until Germany declared war on us on 11 December at which time we reciprocated.

Thanks again for a great article.

- Col. (Ret.) Russ Olson

(Editor’s note: As reported in the aforementioned article, James C. McNaughton served as the command historian, U.S. Army Pacific, from 2001 to 2005, and is currently the director, Histories Division, U.S. Army Center of Military History.)