(This is a true story: Day in American History)
1941- At 7:55 local time in Hawaii, “a date that will live in infamy,” nearly 200 Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, long considered the US “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” The raid, which lasted little more than one hour, left nearly 3,800 dead. Nearly the entire US Pacific Fleet was at anchor there and few ships escaped damage. Several were sunk or disabled, while 200 aircraft on the ground were destroyed.
The attack on Pearl Harbor brought about immediate US entry into World War II, a “Declaration of War” being requested by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, carried live on radio, and approved in a record time by the Congress, December 8, 1941, only a few hours after President Roosevelt address to a joint meeting of Congress.
December 11, Germany and Italy, in a pact with the Japanese, declared war against the United States. Misinterpreting the anti-war sentiment in the U.S., they thought we would not want to enter two separate wars, particularly with a decimated U.S. Navy and would leave Asia and Australia for Japan to conquer. They thought American's weak and without the will, particularly without the weapons to fight back.
( lower half of http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/dec07.html )
In reality, Former Admiral Chester Nimitz saw three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make:
Sunday, December 7th, 1941--Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the phone. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.
After making plans, organizing his staff, Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941. There was such a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat--you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war. On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters every where you looked.
As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, "Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?" Admiral Nimitz's reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice. Admiral Nimitz said, "The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?"
Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, "What do mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?" Nimitz explained:
Mistake number one : The Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk--we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.
Mistake number two : When the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.
Mistake number three : Every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That's why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America.
Anyway you look at it--Admiral Nimitz was able to see a silver lining in a situation and circumstance where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism.