While Americans in particular focus on the audacious and awesome Pearl Harbor strike as the beginning of the Pacific war, Japan’s ultimate goal lay to its south, the Dutch East Indies. In “A Grim December,” Mr. Parshall examines the campaigns in Malaya and the Philippines, whose capture made possible the seizure of the resource-rich Indies. In many ways, the Japanese army’s accomplishments in those offensives, the first blows of which roughly coincided with the Pearl Harbor attack, equaled the Japanese navy’s on Oahu.
For our third Pearl Harbor–related feature article, “Redemption at the Hand of the Enemy,” Mr. Wenger dug deep into the U.S. Navy’s records to unearth the story of John W. Steele. A hard-drinking junior officer in the prewar Navy, Steele left the service, put his life in order before returning to uniform, and was in the right place at the right time on 7 December.
While this issue observes the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, it also concludes our yearlong observance of the 100th anniversary of naval aviation. Special thanks go to Hill Goodspeed, historian at the National Naval Aviation Museum, for chronicling the history of naval flight in each 2011 issue through his “Flight Line” column, as well as for contributing aviation-related feature articles during the year.
In 2011 we examined many of naval aviation’s accomplishments—the good times, so to speak. Jeffrey Barlow’s article “Naval Aviation’s Most Serious Crisis?” recounts perhaps the worst of naval air’s bad times. Concern among the Navy’s senior officers about morale within the service and the negative effects of budget cuts on naval aviation led them in 1949 to voice their grievances publicly during congressional hearings. Our coverage of the crisis includes “The SecNav’s Side of the Story,” an excerpt from previously unpublished meeting notes in which Navy Secretary Francis Matthews discusses his firing of Chief of Naval Operations Louis Denfeld, one of the officers voicing concern.
During his testimony, the climax of the “Revolt of the Admirals,” Denfeld had lamented repeatedly hearing the question, “Why do we need a strong Navy when any potential enemy has no navy to fight?” The query was in part answered the next year, when during the Korean War naval aviation provided critical tactical firepower and Navy ships made possible the Inchon landing. Unfortunately, it’s a question that’s still being asked.
Richard G. Latture , Editor-in-Chief