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Pearl Harbor Ghosts: The Legacy of December 7, 1941

ISBN: 978-0345446077
Review Date:

In Pearl Harbor Ghosts, Thurston Clarke addresses the ghosts of Pearl Harbor on at least three different levels: the legends and myths of the attack that began sprouting up even before Japanese planes left Oahu; the thoughts and images that have haunted Pearl Harbor survivors since the attack; and the shadowy forces of racism, suspicion, and arrogance that left the Americans more vulnerable to the attack than they have ever admitted and may still be preying on the nation's ability to effectively repel threats. The three prongs of this study separated the book into three natural divisions that each read a little differently.

While I thought the whole book was well done, it was the initial third dealing with the myths and legends that appealed to me the most. The most important myth that was exploded was the notion that there was such a thing as a Japanese "fifth-column" in Hawaii. Of specific interest to me was the coverage of a newspaper advertisement for silk fabrics that had been supposed by some to contain coded messages to Japanese residents in Hawaii warning them of the attack. Clarke's extremely thorough treatment of this silk ad was typical of the exhaustive research, logical conclusions, and plain common sense that was a theme throughout the book.

I found Clarke's writing style was especially engaging which made for easy reading. I was very impressed with the honest and straightforward way he treated the racism and suspicions of the day and how they not only interfered with fair treatment but also greatly undermined an honest assessment of Japanese capabilities on many levels. While he made no direct comparisons, parallels with certain modern-day attitudes toward Muslim-Americans were unmistakable.

I enjoyed Pearl Harbor Ghosts very much but I would not consider it an introductory book. Rather, this book is for readers who know a little more than average about America's entry into the war and the Pearl Harbor Attack or people who are familiar with the Hawaiian culture of the 1940s. For that audience, I would recommend this book as a "must."

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