Day of Infamy
by Walter Lord
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
This book is a good beginning point for a person with little or no background on the attack on Pearl Harbor who wants a general overview of the events before delving into more difficult or controversial sources. Walter Lord, author of A Night to Remember (an account of the sinking of the Titanic) and Incredible Victory (about the Battle of Midway), provides a basic account of the sequence of events on that fateful day. His narrative, heavily based upon personal accounts of those who were present, does not attempt to deal with the thorny questions of guilt or responsibility, only the events themselves.
Although the actions and decisions of the senior officers are covered, the bulk of the narrative belongs to the ordinary enlisted men and junior officers who did the actual fighting aboard the various ships and in shore installations. Lord has uncovered numerous memorable incidents, ranging from acts of incredible courage under fire to prosaic habitual routines so out of place amidst the chaos of war to border upon the absurd.
Men kept guns firing while mortally wounded. Others carefully set out clean pairs of shoes, or kept playing the National Anthem to the last note even as the bombs exploded around them. The mosaic of events comes together to form a picture of ordinary human beings in extraordinary times.
Read this book to understand the human significance of the attack on Pearl Harbor. When you go on to delve into the political issues and questions that surround the attack, you will have a stronger appreciation of why they were important.
Last updated October 26, 2014.