Craig Shirley-How Pearl Harbor and December 1941 Made America a Global Power

The bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941 killed over 2,400 Americans and led directly to the entry of the United States into World War II.

In his powerful, thickly researched new book, December 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World, Craig Shirley chronicles the day-by-day shifts in American culture, politics, and national identity through that horrible month. Before December, Shirley tells Reason's Nick Gillespie, a solid majority opposed entry into World War II and the "eminently respectable" America First movement was poised to help select the next president of the United States. Non-interventionism was so universal that Franklin Roosevelt himself had campaigned for his third term as president on a promise to keep "American boys" out of European wars.

By the start of 1942, says Shirley, the long tradition of isolationism was over, never to be seen again. The nation that had rejected the League of Nations after World War I helped create the United Nations and America quickly became not simply a global economic, political, and military power but the dominant player on the globe.

The author of many books, including two biographies of Ronald Reagan and a forthcoming book on Newt Gingrich, Shirley talks with Reason's Nick Gillespie about what was gained - and lost - in the historical hinge point that was December 1941.

 Approximately 8 minutes.

Camera by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein; produced by Bragg.

Visit Reason.tv for downloadable versions, and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube Channel to receive automatic updates when new material goes live.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Non-interventionism was so universal that Franklin Roosevelt himself had campaigned for his fourth term as president on a promise to keep "American boys" out of European wars.

    Uh. His fourth term did not begin until 1945.

  • ||

    That's his public fourth term. His secret fourth term is another matter altogether.

  • Gambol Lockdown...||

    ...is big-government interventionism.

  • ||

    Dude, no way man, who would have ever thought about it like that, I mean like wow.

    www.ano-toolz.tk

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeah, I know it's Pat Buchanan but still an interesting article about the run up to the war.

    http://www.humanevents.com/art.....962&s=rcmp

  • Not Craig Shirley||

    Three comments and already a diversion.

    [sniff]

  • AlmightyJB||

    So rambling on about private property and the city state in every thread ok. Linking to an artical relevant to the discussion not ok. Gotcha.

  • Not Craig Shirley||

    So rambling on about private property and the city state in every thread ok

    Nope.

    Linking to an artical [sic] relevant to the discussion not ok.

    It's not about you.

  • AlmightyJb||

    I'm pretty sure it is.

  • Officer WI||

    You are not allowed to gambol about the thread, JB.

  • AlmightyJB||

    That's ok. I'm more of a frolicker than a gamboler:)

  • Uncle Joe||

    The Buchanan article is about as on-topic as it gets.

  • Tim||

    Right up through the 70's you heard a lot of talk about "no more Pearl Harbors" in response to any defense cut, it was ingrained on that generation.

  • M-M-My Generation||

    Remember the Alamo!

  • Blame Canada||

    54-40 or fight!

  • A Serious Jingoist ||

    Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain!

  • reichstag||

    Casus belli, how does it work?

  • Herbert Hoover||

    You and I know that this continuous putting pins in rattlesnakes finally got this country bit

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ.....0817912347

  • Herbert Hoover||

  • Not Craig Shirley||

    C-

  • ||

    In before "Stop Calling Me Shirley!"

  • Arf?||

    Sloop, do you like movies about gladiators?

  • ||

    I spent about a week crying myself to sleep after watching Gladiator because it didn't actually feature any genuinely awesome battle sequences, or big enough scale. Still an awesome movie, though.

  • ||

    Long, before Pearl Harbor, we had the potential and the wealth for matchless power. We just didn't put it to use as we did in World War II.

    But some German dude on a CNN program told me America's always been a warmongering BITE AT IT BITE AT IT BITE AT IT imperialistic warmongering imperialistic *repeat these two words 100,000 times* empire of imperialistic, bloodthirsty imperialism.

  • Neocon||

    Let's invade Germany and show him he's wrong!

  • ||

    You're kidding, but it's not funny when you think about it -- there's probably some neo-con somewhere that ACTUALLY believes that.

    *Gulp*. Let's hope he never becomes President, eh?

  • Sevo||

    "But some German dude on a CNN program told me America's always been a warmongering"

    You know who else was a warmonger...

  • ||

    Ay-Dawlf Hit-lur?

  • k2000k||

    Funny a German said that. But not entirely wrong. Cuba and the Philipines anyone? Granted prior to WWII the actions by the US overseas generally had a much better relation to US interests than they do now. Why are we in Libya? It sure as hell isn't for oil or security, but just a foreign policy thats been on autopilot since the end of the cold war.

  • Sevo||

    k2000k|12.7.11 @ 4:37PM|#
    "Funny a German said that. But not entirely wrong. Cuba and the Philipines anyone?"

    Yep, that TR was a war-monger. It's not a defense, but that was all the rage at the time.

  • Mr. Mark||

    Sounds interesting.

    I would say that America's entry into superpower status was more precisely traceable to George Kennan's Long Telegram.

    There were a range of things that combined to force U.S. power projection and active, forward diplomacy:

    - The Soviet military expansion during World War II (the Soviet Armed forces were now fully configured toward large scale, modern, mechanized conventional war)

    - The Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe

    - Communist focus on revolutionary expansion

    - The demonstrated power of aircraft during World War II not only as an adjunct to land and naval power, but as a strategic arm of its own.

    - Nuclear weapons

    - The inevitable end of European colonial empires (and the interplay with Soviet efforts to export communism through revolution)

    Any opportunities for a "return to normal" were extinguished by events such as the Berlin blockade and the communist invasion of South Korea.

    Had the communists (particularly the Soviets) been less bellicose, I think things would have turned out very, very differently.

  • Sevo||

    "I would say that America's entry into superpower status was more precisely traceable to George Kennan's Long Telegram."
    FDR organized the UN (which was presumed by the major powers to require a US global power) well prior to Keenan's comments, so I'm not sure I'd hang it on him.
    In FDR's deluded estimate, the Brits would renounce their empire, and provide counterweight to the Soviets in Europe, while a 'democratic' China would do the same in Asia; FDR and reality were not really well acquainted.

    "Had the communists (particularly the Soviets) been less bellicose, I think things would have turned out very, very differently."
    Given that bureaucratic organizations (such as the post-WWII US military) find excuses for their own survival and expansion, I'm not sure this would have changed things in any major way.
    One thing that *could* have helped would have been to get the Euros to support some of their own defense, but by that time they were free-riding, and they weren't (and aren't) about to cover the costs.
    To be clear, I am *not* arguing some false-equivalence for the cold war; Stalin was a paranoid, moral monster, and his policies were the proximate the cause of the cold war.

  • Chaos Punk||

    We’re gonna have to slap the dirty little Jap
    And Uncle Sam’s the guy who can do it
    We’ll skin the streak of yellow from this sneaky little fellow
    And he’ll think a cyclone hit him when he’s thru it
    We’ll take the double crosser to the old woodshed
    We’ll start on his bottom and go to his head
    When we get thru with him he’ll wish that he was dead
    We gotta slap the dirty little Jap

    We’re gonna have to slap the dirty little Jap
    And Uncle Sam’s the guy who can do it
    The Japs and all their hooey will be changed into chop suey
    And the rising sun will set when we get thru it
    Their alibi for fighting is to save their face
    For ancestors waiting in celestial space
    We’ll kick their precious face down to the other place
    We gotta slap the dirty little Jap

    We’re gonna have to slap the dirty little Jap
    And Uncle Sam’s the guy who can do it
    We’ll murder Hirohito, massacre that slob Benito
    Hang’em with that Shickle gruber when we’re thru it
    We’ll search the highest mountain for the tallest tree
    To build us a hanging post for the evil three
    We’ll call in all our neighbors, let’em know their free
    We gotta slap the dirty little Jap

  • first||

    Welcome along Stasha, a petite young beauty who, lucky for us, is a self proclaimed exhibitionist!

    Stasha was born in the Ukraine but grew up in the beautiful city of Prague in the Czech Republic. With her doll-like features and perfect proportions the camera just loves Stasha. Petter Hegre described her sleek, graceful form as being like ‘a lazy cat on a hot summer day’!

    Stasha loves to eat juicy, grilled prawns with her fingers and another love in her life is her little, white car with tinted windows, She is very proud of her car!

    Stasha may look innocent but she knows for sure the effect she has on men – so watch out! You have been warned!

  • a||

    When you get done watching this awesome video with Craig Shirley, watch another:
    http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfro...../id/420192

    What a deep dude! And he's writing a bio of Newt that will undoubtedly be another monument to serious scholarship.

  • lydia||

    We professional manage Chicago Bears Jerseys with top quality and competitive price,Our Store is waiting for you when you are ready to buy Cincinnati Bengals Jerseys .

  • ||

    Geting bombed didn't make our country beter it made us worse and FDR let it happen on purpose in order to get the war he wanted.

  • White Rabit||

    Come on!? Do you realise the number of U.S. interventions which took place *prior* to WWII!?!?
    People have to look beyond WWII which seems to be, historically-speaking, year zero...

    Some quick results after a Google research:

    . http://academic.evergreen.edu/.....tions.html
    . http://www2.truman.edu/~marc/r.....tions.html

  • ||

    Americans in the Chinese Air-force "Flying Tigers" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Tigers

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement