Admiral Yamamoto never said
September 17, 2001 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Admiral Yamamoto never said "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve" (or something like that) after Pearl Harbor. That line came from Tora! Tora! Tora! Worth noting because an innumerable number of newspaper columnists have been "quoting" Yamamoto in light of the WTC attack.
posted by mcwetboy (12 comments total)
Great post! I wish the "journalists" would do some research before (mis)quoting people.
posted by ericdano at 12:58 PM on September 17, 2001

Whether he said those words, that was how he felt. In the year leading up to the war, he constantly argued against attacking the US on grounds of it being far too dangerous. In fact, he was so vocal about it that there was a serious risk of him being assassinated, and he had to leave the shore and stay with the fleet where he'd be safe.

Once he was given a direct order to attack, he did his best to design a plan which would do maximum damage to the US while minimizing Japanese losses. It has to be said that he succeeded brilliantly in that. He also knew that it was pointless in the long run because US industry was capable of making any such losses good, which is why he opposed the war against the US.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:03 PM on September 17, 2001

While working in mid-town on Thursday and Friday, I the entire day was misinformation. Bomb threats were called in and nobody agreed what was what. I thought One Liberty Plaza had collapse three times before with media again recanting. Even Giuliani scolded the media like a school mar and said they have to back up on their sources.
posted by Laurable at 1:06 PM on September 17, 2001

"In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success."

Bear in mind that Tora! Tora! Tora! tried to be as accurate as possible, and it may certainly be true that Yamamoto voiced America's "terrible resolve" shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but never wrote them down.

Trawling through many history sites unrelated to news agencies seem to indicate that those were indeed his words.
posted by linux at 1:25 PM on September 17, 2001

More true quotes from Yamamoto. None of them the "terrible resolve" but along the same vein.
posted by linux at 1:28 PM on September 17, 2001

I think the issue here is not that Yamamoto didn't feel those sentiments, but that journalists went to Hollywood for their history. I would go further and say that many journalists and politicians in this country seem determined to see events as part of the simplistic good-vs-evil triumph-through-adversity storyline of most movies. (Ronald Reagan, take a bow). One of the tv networks even put music under a montage of the attack and the towers collapsing, just in case we didn't realise it was a key moment.
posted by liam at 1:57 PM on September 17, 2001

Liam: That was exactly my (admittedly unstated) point.

Now that I think about it, I too would go further and say that it's not just journalists that go to Hollywood -- and, by extension, popular culture -- for their history, but that we tend to do it generally. Or rather, that popular culture is a more potent common resource to draw upon (like 19th-century British parliamentarians drawing on Classical literature in their speeches), since more of us are aware of it than we are of our history.

In the final analysis, the movie quote is memorable and entirely appropriate to the mood, more so than what the Pearl Harbor Attacked message board reports Yamamoto actually said. It depends, I guess, on whether you want Fact or Truth.
posted by mcwetboy at 2:39 PM on September 17, 2001

Anybody hear George Will on the radio the other day spouting about the greatness of Yamamoto? His basic point was that Yamamoto knew America and knew what the long-term result of his actions would be. Will claimed that Tuesday's attackers, by contrast, "don't know America." I thought that was a fascinatingly ignorant assumption to make. I read somewhere recently that George Will ought to stick to baseball, and I'm inclined to agree.
posted by Bixby23 at 8:38 PM on September 17, 2001

This LA Times story from September 16, 2001 attributes the Yamamoto quote to an entry in his diary.

A June 25, 2000 Boston Globe article syndicated on Sun's Java Industry Connection site also mentions the diary.
posted by tomalak at 9:10 PM on September 17, 2001

Another possible source of documents is a book The Pearl Harbor Papers : Inside the Japanese Plans which also included love letters from the Admiral.

Another page of WWII quotes (the site is a collection of quotes managed by Richard Georgiou) attributes the quote to:

"ISOROKU YAMAMOTO (Japanese admiral), referring to the Pearl Harbor attack which he had helped plan, December 1941, in A. J. P. Taylor, Listener (British magazine), 9 September 1976."
posted by tomalak at 9:23 PM on September 17, 2001

Here's a couple of approproate quotes I culled:

Being ready is not what matters. What matters is winning after you get there.
-Lieutenant General V.H. Krulak, USMC

There is no security in this life. There is only opportunity.
- Gen Douglas Macarthur

"We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."
- George Orwell

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"The fear of war is worse than war itself."

The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.
-Sun Tzu

and finally...

"For the burned cities and villages; for the deaths of our children and our mothers; for the torture and humiliation of our people; I swear revenge upon the enemy… I swear that I would rather die in battle with the enemy then surrender myself my people and my country to the Fascist invaders. Blood for blood! Death for death!"
- Russian War Oath
posted by darren at 9:24 AM on September 18, 2001

So I guess we can officially retire "What Would Jesus Do," huh?
posted by Skot at 10:00 AM on September 18, 2001

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