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VOLUME 2, NUMBER 22    <>   MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2001

pearlcollage3.jpg (33185 bytes)

Photo electronically edited; original San Francisco photo: Ron Henggeler


The morning of the day we met
Was in the middle of the month of May
We rendezvoused in one of my favorite cafes in North Beach
Across the street from Washington Square Park
Where the parrots nested
Their colors blended in with those of the trees
Hidden from the eyes of the passers-by
And dogs of varying breeds chased after lemon-colored tennis balls
And young brides walked carefully down the steps of granite
Below the ringing bells of church spires reaching skyward
Natural blonde that you are smiling brightly
Entered the oak wooden door
And like a magnet
All eyes became transfixed on you
Conversation ceased mouths opened wide
You walked gracefully towards the place where I was seated
Sweetly you said it’s nice to see you again
And I replied it’s nice to see you again too
During our last telephone conversation
I had mentioned to you that my friend Dagan wanted to meet you
You said you’d be interested but only if he were taller than you
I asked how tall you were and you said five-five
I said well, if it doesn’t work out between you two
I’m five-six
Philip Hackett


All's fair in love

Every year, toward the end of the fall semester, a professor of Japanese history at UC Berkeley would enter his classroom with a wry smile on his face. “It’s entirely fitting,” he would say, “that we’re discussing the Pacific War today, on December 7.” And the students would look at one another knowingly. As the years went by, however, the understanding exchange of glances became less frequent, until a generation of students arrived that found little significance in the phrase “Pearl Harbor.”

No more. Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer has seen to it that every American past kindergarten age knows that Japanese forces conducted a sneak attack on U.S. troops stationed in Hawaii on December 7, 1941.

Every American knows because of a Disney summer blockbuster starring Ben Affleck, looking supernaturally handsome in his well-tailored uniform, and English actress Kate Beckinsale, looking wholesome and all-American.

This three-hour romance cannot diminish the sacrifice of the 2,403 Americans at Pearl. If anything, by detailing the deaths of these servicemen and women, Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay have given them new life when they were about to vanish from popular memory.

And despite Asian-American fears, it’s hard to imagine that the film’s ever-so-respectful treatment of the Japanese will inspire much in the way of anti-Asian activity. If there’s a sin here, it’s one of omission. We’re left with the impression that — aside from the heroic Cuba Gooding Jr. — the United States in 1941 was rather lily white. The war in the Pacific, “Pearl Harbor” suggests, was fought over oil, without a racist overtone to be heard on either side.

Nevertheless, a dangerous dishonesty threatens to diminish these 2,043 deaths, perpetuating the myth of the victimless conflict so expertly developed during the Gulf War. The United States was unique among the major powers in World War II in its lack of physical and civilian damage. But it dealt out destruction with the worst of them. In fact, the stakes may have been higher, as this country and Japan battled for the throne of the new, postcolonial imperium.

Pearl Harbor: The Movie takes the easy way out. The Japanese attack on December 7 struck nearly no civilians; Doolittle’s counterattack claimed a few noncombatants, but the targets of the B-25 bombers were mainly munitions factories and other military facilities. That’s where the action ends, in Bruckheimer-Bay’s version.

In reality, that’s where it began. It ended, for Japan, in a series of fireballs that — despite present-day lore — were only minimally nuclear.

We bombed the hell out of Tokyo and most of the rest of the archipelago.

Listen to Japan observer Edward Seidensticker: “The incendiary raids began in March [1945]. The most dreadful of them, on the night of March 9–10, did very much what the fires after the earthquake [of 1923] had done: destroyed the Low City [where artisans and blue-collar workers lived]. Waves of bombers came in for two and a half hours from just past midnight. The planners of the raids had hit upon what may have been the urban concentration most hospitable to fires in the whole world, and they had hit upon the proper season….

“Some two-fifths of the city went up in flames.... Between seventy and eighty thousand people are believed to have died that night.” The death toll in Nagasaki from the atomic bomb was 70,000; 140,000 in Hiroshima.

Listen to historian John W. Dower: “On August 10, the day after the Nagasaki bomb,… the Japanese government made clear it intended to surrender…. While this was taking place, General Henry H. Arnold, one of the major planners of the U.S. bombing strategy, was desperately attempting to arrange ‘as big a finale as possible’ to end the war. It was his dream to hit Tokyo with a final 1,000-plane air raid — and on the night of August 14 he succeeded in collecting such a force and sending it against the already devastated capital city. A total of 1,014 aircraft — 828 B-29 bombers and 186 fighter escorts — bombed Tokyo without a single loss. President Truman announced Japan’s unconditional surrender before all of them had returned to their bases.”

The movie posters all over town, showing a squadron of alien aircraft swooping past kids playing baseball, suggest that the attack on Pearl Harbor brought an end to American innocence. If so, we learned fast.

Betsey Culp



James Garcia, Mexicans to reconquer the United States?