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A date which will live in infamy – December 8

It is the beginning of December, which means that a notable anniversary is fast approaching. The War Times Journal describes it:

Early on the morning of December 8, 1941, the Second World War in the Pacific was begun with an amphibious attack by Imperial Japanese Army troops on the Northeast coast of British Malaya. Within hours they pushed their way inland despite heavy transport losses at the hands of the few British aircraft that were in the area. Other attacks at locations across the Pacific followed in rapid succession, the largest of them aimed at the giant American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii….

For the British and their commonwealth allies, December 8 was an equally bitter day. War sightings arrived furiously as a series of Japanese convoys landed troops along the coasts of Malaya and Thailand.

The Japanese offensive was, in some respects, the most ambitious offensive ever launched in history. Within the space of a few hours, attacks had been launched at several different locations thousands of miles away.

Yet many people don’t know when the offensive actually happened.

For a variety of reasons – the fact that the Japanese lost the war, the fact that the Americans became a dominant power because of the war – most accounts of the Japanese attack say that it happened on December 7. Or perhaps that Hawaii was attacked on December 7 and other attacks were launched a day later.

Why did this happen? Because when the Japanese launched their attacks on December 8, one of the attacks was launched across the International Date Line. Therefore, while most of the attacks occurred on December 8 in the local time of the attacked area (and the local time of Japanese headquarters), the attack on Pearl Harbor was launched on December 7 Hawaii time.

Therefore, by the time that President Roosevelt issued his declaration of war on December 8 Washington time – a full day later – he said the following:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

For those who believe that Japan’s aims in World War II were to combat Western imperialism, the prevalence of the December 7 date confirms it. From the Japanese perspective, they launched a huge offensive on December 8 – a date which continues to live in obscurity.

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