Could an attack like Pearl Harbor happen again?

| April 8, 2016 | 1 Comment
Troops man a machine gun nest at Wheeler Field, which adjoins Schofield Barracks in Honolulu, after the Japanese attack on the island of Oahu, Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo)

Troops man a machine gun nest at Wheeler Field, which adjoins Schofield Barracks in Honolulu, after the Japanese attack on the island of Oahu, Dec. 7, 1941. (Historical photo courtesy of AP.)


Chaplain (Capt.) Michael Rumschik
3rd Brigade Combat Team
25th Infantry Division


Hawaii will never forget Dec. 7, 1941; the day the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack. The results were catastrophic: 3,581 casualties (2,403 killed), 169 destroyed aircraft and another 159 damaged, and two battleships destroyed, plus another 16 vessels severely damaged.

The disturbing fact is that the price, paid by American blood and dollars, didn’t have to be so costly. On Dec.6, 1941, the U.S. intercepted a Japanese message that inquired about ship movements and berthing positions at Pearl Harbor. The cryptologist gave the message to her superior, who said he would get back to her on Monday, Dec. 8. On Sunday, Dec. 7, a radar operator on Oahu saw a large group of airplanes on his screen heading toward the island. He called his superior who told him it was probably a group of Army Air Corps B-17 bombers. His next words were chilling: “Don’t worry about it.”



Historically, the U.S. has been very good at applying lessons learned on the battlefield to ensure success or evade disaster the next time. An element that distinguishes the U.S. military is its appetite to evolve and never remain static in such a way that each generation of leaders and Soldiers should exceed their predecessors.

And so, I would like to think, the answer to the question raised above would be “No.” The culmination of decades of field exercises, leader development, AAR’s and our nation’s wars have continued the tradition of sharpening the tip of the spear. It is a comforting feeling to know one’s nation is safe(r) from the many perils throughout our world that have the potential to cause immense harm.

However, I am not so certain in our ability as individuals to defeat similar dangers. Mysteriously, there is a disconnect between demonstrating discipline at work which corresponds to discipline displayed at home. The crucial historical errors made above, like “That sounds really important … I’ll do it when it is convenient” or “Don’t worry about it” are inexcusable in our ranks. Nevertheless, somehow these very words sneak their way into our private world, and just like on Dec. 7, 1941, the results are costly.

You have heard it before:

  • “I’m going to focus on college … later.”
  • “I’m going to spend more time with my kids or spouse … later.”
  • “I’m going to attend church … later.”
  • “I’m going to get my finances right … later.”
  • “I’m going to _________ … later.”

The problem then and the paradox now is “later” is often too late.

The other downfall of many Soldiers of all ranks is the haunting words we heard earlier, where we tell ourselves “don’t worry about it.” Quite often, this involves moral reasoning or excuse making which sounds something like:

  • “Everyone else is doing it.”
  • “No one will ever know.”
  • “I deserve this.”
  • “Just do what is easier.”

If we aren’t disciplined, the same occurrences will surface in our personal lives, and just as in the attack on Pearl Harbor, the results will be costly.


“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11.


Visiting Pearl Harbor today, particularly the Arizona Memorial, is a sobering experience – to behold something that once possessed so much power, value and potential, but now is only a memory. My prayer is that the same will never be said of my career, my integrity, my marriage, my health, my relationship with my kids or with God.

(Note: Rumschik is the chaplain for the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment “Cacti.”)


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  1. Mark Brown says:

    Yes, it could happen again with this witless administration trying intently to destroy this country.

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