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Dates which do not live in infamy
December 7, 2010 9:21 AM   Subscribe

The attack on Pearl Harbor was neither the U.S.' first armed conflict leading to WW II, nor the last Axis attack on American soil.

On December 12, 1937, Japan, then at war with China, sank a U.S. Navy gunboat in the Yangtze river. On April 10, 1941, a U.S. Navy destroyer fired a depth charge at a German submarine that was preparing to attack a convoy it was escorting. On May 21, 1941, a German submarine sank a U.S. commercial ship (after allowing its crew to evacuate.) In September, 1941 a U.S. Coast Guard cutter patrolling Greenland captured a German ship. On October 31, 1941, a German submarine sank a U.S. Navy destroyer.

There were numerous minor attacks on North America. Japanese submarines shelled an oil field near Santa Barbara, California (fueling a later scare of an attack on Los Angeles.) In Oregon, Fort Stevens was shelled by a Japanese submarine; the fort's gunners were commanded not to return fire, lest they assist the sub's aim. In the first aerial bombing of the contintental U.S., a Japanese plane dropped two incendiary bombs in southwestern Oregon, intending to start a forest fire. Japan captured and held two Aleutian islands for about a year.

And, late in the war, Japan loosed thousands of fire balloons toward the U.S.' west coast. At first it was feared they were being launched on American soil; Batman-like forensics ultimately determined exactly which beaches in Japan the sandbags came from. While the balloons did some minor damage, it was covered up in the press to avoid giving any appearance of the attacks' effectiveness.

Germany placed the Dusquene Spy Ring, and later attempted the ill-fated sabotage operation Operation Pastorius.
posted by Zed (29 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Japanese were not the only ethnic group interned during WWII.
posted by Carol Anne at 9:30 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice presentation. Anything new as far as research?
posted by clavdivs at 9:32 AM on December 7, 2010


This was not discussed in my high school history class.
posted by punkfloyd at 9:34 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Aleutian Islands campaign has got to be the strangest part of WWII on the Eastern Front, tantamount to the Nazi invasion of Svalbard. There's no way that either campaign was worth the human losses associated with it. Reclaiming the islands was a pointless exercise, and had little effect on the outcome of the war.
posted by schmod at 9:36 AM on December 7, 2010


Fire balloons previously.

I'm not having a go at your great post Zed, it's just that the last link in the previously is a doozy for info on fire balloons. I'm also a bit fond of it because I came across it as one of those quirky occasions when you're googling for something obscure, and you find one of highest rated links on google is actually back here on metafilter.
posted by Ahab at 9:47 AM on December 7, 2010


Fun fact: on the 35th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I was born.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME
posted by item at 9:49 AM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Reclaiming the islands was a pointless exercise, and had little effect on the outcome of the war.

Except that it was the first time since the War of 1812 that foreign troops had occupied United States territory in North America. From a purely psychological and homeland morale point of view it was a pretty important battle to win.
posted by ChasFile at 9:50 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


it's just that the last link in the previously is a doozy for info on fire balloons

I did search for "fire balloon" on metafilter; that text phrase doesn't occur in that article! Thanks for the "previously" link; not interpreted as having a go at anything.
posted by Zed at 9:53 AM on December 7, 2010


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME

To celebrate, everyone upwind should launch flaming balloons toward item. Have a great day!
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:54 AM on December 7, 2010


Reclaiming the islands was a pointless exercise, and had little effect on the outcome of the war.

no, It pinned resources and it effected morale.
posted by clavdivs at 10:01 AM on December 7, 2010


To celebrate, everyone upwind should launch flaming balloons toward item. Have a great day!

How I wish this was the first time this suggestion was made...
posted by item at 10:20 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


You forgot to mention the time noted humanitarian, philospher & philanthropist L Ron Hubbard bravely defended America from a magnetic deposit off the coast of San Diego. Or the time he accidentally declared war on Mexico & the bomb he discovered aboard the USS Algol after not-at-all placing it there himself. Is it any wonder they made the movie Mr. Roberts based on his life?
posted by scalefree at 10:33 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


In the first aerial bombing of the contintental U.S., a Japanese plane dropped two incendiary bombs in southwestern Oregon, intending to start a forest fire.

It was alleged that private planes under the employ of the local sheriff dropped bombs on striking miners during the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921, and U.S. Army Air Corps bombers were actually deployed to the conflict, though they did not perform bombardments.
posted by cobra libre at 10:36 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Recovery of a repairable Japanese Zero in the Aleutians allowed the U.S. to study its vulnerabilities and develop tactics against them.
Masatake Okumiya, who survived more air-sea battles than any other Japanese naval officer, ... has written that the Allies’ acquisition of Koga’s Zero was “no less serious” than the Japanese defeat at Midway and “did much to hasten our final defeat.”

posted by exogenous at 10:41 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Part of my Grandfather's semi-charmed life included getting transferred from Wyoming to Seward, Alaska in 1940 and 1941 while the rest of his unit was sent to the Philippines, followed by a transfer to England in '42 before the Aleutian Islands Campaign.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:43 AM on December 7, 2010


According to some people on Twitter, we should never forget how the Germans bombed Pearl Harbour.

NVR FRGET!
posted by blue_beetle at 10:53 AM on December 7, 2010


We may have interned some German -Americans, as we did the Japanese-Americans (though some fought on our side in the European theater), but please recall that the supreme commander was Gen Eisenhower, German-American, and Admiral Nimitz, German-American.
Now my fun fact: When did the war end? No. Not in 1945. That is when hostilities ceased. It ended actually when the peace accords signed in 1947. Since, then, I was in the army when the fighting was over but in before peace signed, I got a part of the G.I. Bill and because of that decided that I might as well try college. The govt paying for so many vets to go to college was--socialized education! oh, my.
posted by Postroad at 10:53 AM on December 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


You forgot to mention the time noted humanitarian, philospher & philanthropist L Ron Hubbard...

From your link:

His performance was rated as satisfactory

A "satisfactory" rating during WWII is akin to a death sentence for your naval career. Any guy that walked on deck without falling overboard could pull an "excellent". Actually doing your duties could rate you an "outstanding" yet Ronnie only rates a "satisfactory" on a home front shakedown cruise and couldn't even beg for frontline duty. He must have been some officer.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:54 AM on December 7, 2010


Fun fact: on the 35th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I was born.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME


Pearl Harbor babies unite! (22nd anniversary here.)
posted by TedW at 11:02 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I absolutely love the story about Nobuo Fujita and the Brookings bombings; every time I see it or remember it I think, hey, that's the America I love. Why can't we have more of that?
posted by the dief at 11:37 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Author Dashiell Hammett also served in the Aleutians.
posted by Rangeboy at 11:43 AM on December 7, 2010


"In the first aerial bombing of the contintental U.S., a Japanese plane dropped two incendiary bombs in southwestern Oregon, intending to start a forest fire. Japan captured and held two Aleutian islands for about a year."

That was not the first aerial bombing of the continental United States, this was.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:43 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


noted humanitarian, philospher & philanthropist L Ron Hubbard

Well gosh, nobody's perfect.

Every time LRH is mentioned I remember a quote from an article about him sailing the Mediterranean in the Apollo. Can't find the quote online (might have been John Campbell); it went something like: "... and Hubbard is the clearest of the Clear. In fact, he's about $75 million in the clear."

I prefer the word 'philopsofer' for such cases.
posted by Twang at 1:45 PM on December 7, 2010


They have a word for men who start religions to make money: Prophets.
posted by absalom at 4:01 PM on December 7, 2010


I think I spelled it wrong, though.
posted by absalom at 4:02 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]




Every little river goes down to the sea
Every little river goes down to the sea
every little river goes down to the sea
Don't want nobody grievin' over me

Keep that cabbage boilin' I'm comin' home to you

part of one of the songs the 'rednecks' sang at Blair Mountain.

The story of that battle was oft told in my family because my great grandfather was a Union organizer. He helped organize miners all over the U.S. The bosses tried to kill him several times.
It's true about the planes and over a million shots fired makes it a battle.
The real origin of the term 'rednecks'' was with this battle. Sure had nothing to do with Republicans who live in trailer courts! :)
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:15 PM on December 7, 2010


I was stationed on Attu Island in the mid-'90s. There was a Coast Guard navigation station there (LORAN) that only just this past year closed down.

The island was pretty hard to move around on. Not only was the tundra pretty thick even when it wasn't snowy, but there were only certain parts of the island (our end of it, anyway) where you could move around without the fear of blowing up. You could go hiking, but you had to stick to cleared paths.

A Marine explosives crew came out one summer before I was there to clear the island of live ordinance. The story was that they came out, took a look around for an afternoon, and then just came back to the station shaking their heads and saying, "There's just too much to even start." There were mines, unexploded ordinance, and all the sorts of booby-trapped stuff the Japanese military was known to leave around during the war.

In the trophy case in the station's lobby was the remains of an exploded anti-aircraft shell. Someone from the station had found it and wanted to send it home as a souvenir, but he couldn't just mail potentially live ammo. So naturally he took it down to the electronics shop, put it in a vise, and tried to open it from the bottom with a hacksaw. You could see the cuts in the bottom of the shell from where he had been sawing at it. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, the fingers that the dude lost when it went off weren't part of the display.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:07 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also: Japanese survivors of the fight for Attu would come out annually to pay their respects. They would visit the monument there, hold a ceremony, show their descendents around. Interesting stuff.

It's a cold, unpleasant island really out in the middle of nowhere, and getting there is a long flight. You often had to try several times to go out, too, because the cloud cover was VERY frequently too low and thick to allow anyone to try to land. The island had only 20 Coasties and a dog, so it's not like there was a lot of support structure there. We would get a C-130 once every two weeks, and if they couldn't land, they'd just circle around a couple times, head back to the nearest airfield where they could put down and then try again the next day. When my time was up, I was scheduled to leave on a Wednesday, but I didn't actually take off until Friday.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:15 AM on December 8, 2010


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