While on the way to the cabin on Friday, I stopped by Indigo Books and picked up December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World by Craig Shirley. The book attempts to look at each day of December 1941 in the lead up and aftermath of the attack of Pearl Harbour though a variety of lens to give the month and attack some context. He examines historical records, news paper accounts and even pop culture as part of this effort to explain the almost instantaneous change in American culture and life because of it’s entry into Word War II.
It’s an entertaining read. I wandered through the almost 600 pages in two days. I leaned a lot, especially about the difference in American and British views of how to communicate the war (Churchill laid it all out while FDR chose to reveal as little as possible) but in the end it was a very unsatisfying read. The editing was awful. The book got countless historical facts wrong (like the tonnage of the Price of Wales or the suggestion that England had 500,000 pilots trained). The there are sentences like, “It was raking in millions each week, mostly for the top four studios: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros.” The fourth studio was… Also Pittsburgh was misspelled. Things like that drove me crazy.
What was interesting to learn was the totalitarian powers that Congress almost immediately gave FDR to win the war. What was even more interesting is when you realize that once war was won, those powers were taken away from the President. It speaks to the ability the United States has to make and remake itself as the context determines it. It will be interesting to see if the U.S. ever returns to a pre-9/11 mindset.
I think the other thing the book did well was explain the events leading up to Pearl Harbour from Japan’s perspective. While in no ways does it justify the attack, it does explain a little of what the Japanese were thinking through their militaristic cabinet. I am not sure that I would recommend the book, there are just simply too many mistakes in it but it wasn’t a bad way to spend the weekend.