Story Corps


During the 1960s, when Ernest D. Rose was cataloging and analyzing a half-million feet of 35mm wartime Nazi newsreels in the basement of the Hoover Institute during his research at Stanford, he ran across a pile of audio discs that had been gathering dust for many years.  They  had been made on a home recorder and donated to the University. 

They turned out to be a record of all the radio news programs that had been broadcast during the first eight hours of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It was surprising how these events were being depicted, not so much by the reporters, who simply read the new bulletins, but by the foreign policy "experts" they quickly brought in to explain what and why things were happening.  Even many of the best known of these analyst indulged in wild speculation and rationalization to somehow justify these surprise events.

After examining the substance of these broadcasts and comparing them to the historical records that  later became known, Rose wrote a 14-page article which was published in the Journal of Broadcasting and was republished again two year later in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television.

At the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, we present the article below.

How the U.S. Heard About Pearl Harbor


Twenty years ago, on a sleepy Sunday, Americans heard from their
radios that they were at war. Imperfect as these reports were, they
were sufficient to reshape the outlook of a nation and the course of
world events. Ernest Rose, Film Director and Research Associate
Institute for Communication Research, Stanford University, fortuit-
ously discovered recordings of these broadcasts at the Hoover Institute
on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford. Although the transcripts
(edited slightly for publication) are of great interest, the more sober-
ing conclusions of Mr. Rose are of even greater importance.
NOW that the ashes of World War II have settled and na-
tional passions have shifted to different spheres in the world
power struggle, much of the oratory which accompanied the
events of those years has faded from memory. Of particular in-
terest to the communications specialist, however, are those words
which are uttered at the very outset of any cataclysmic event, for
such statements not only reveal much about the speaker but they
frequently mold an impression which remains in an audience's
memory even after the initial pattern of communication changes.
What kinds of things happened to our news communication
under conditions of extreme surprise, complete emotional involve-
ment, and little first hand information? An examination of U.S.
radio news broadcasts on Pearl Harbor Day gives one cause for
serious reflection.
December 7, 1941
At "X" plus i hour and 5 minutes the Japanese carriers were
taking aboard the last of their returning aircraft. (To simplify
time zone differences, "X" denotes the time at which the bombing
attack on Pearl Harbor ended; i.e., 9:45 A.M. Honolulu time,
11:45 A.M. PST, or 2:45 P.M. EST.) At that moment, an NBC
announcer reread the following statement relayed a few minutes
earlier from station KGU in Hawaii:
BULLETIN: We have witnessed this morning the attack of
Pearl Harbor and the severe bombing of Pearl Harbor by army
planes that are undoubtedly Japanese. The city of Honolulu
has also been attacked and considerable damage done. This
battle has been going on for nearly three hours. One of the
bombers dropped within fifty feet of Tanti Towers. It's no joke
-it's a real war. The public of Honolulu has been advised to
keep in their homes and away from the army and navy. There
has been severe fighting going on in the air and on the sea ...
(Then there was an interruption followed by this) . . . We have
no statement as to how much damage has been done but it has
been a very severe attack. The army and the navy, it appears,
now has the air and sea under control.

This early bulletin was not untypical of the on-the-spot accounts
received in the U.S. during the first few hours after the bombing.
Except for occasional lapses, such as the wishful remark which
ends the above bulletin, these broadcasts tended as a whole to be
reliable, to be comparatively brief, and almost always to be re-
portorial rather than interpretive in nature.
On the other hand, many of these messages contained small
errors as to detail, which in retrospect might be judged as rela-
tively minor in terms of the over-all context of the message. How-
ever, these details were frequently picked up and amplified back
in the States. Three such errors of detail are evident in the above
example. First is a reference to the attackers as Japanese "army"
planes. Actually they were all specially trained units of the naval
air arm which had rehearsed the attack for weeks at a secret island
base in the Kuriles where the terrain was similar to Pearl Harbor.
A second inaccuracy is the statement that the battle "has been
going on for nearly 3 hours." The subsequent examination of log
books and records show that the first Japanese planes actually
came over the harbor at 7:59 AM and the final wave departed
approximately i hour and 45 minutes later. Since the planes
were not pursued to their carriers, for all intents and purposes
the raid ended at 9:45 AM. A third point refers to the attack on
the city of Honolulu and the considerable damage done. A con-
gressional investigation later revealed that about 4o explosions
occurred in Honolulu. All except one of these were the result of
U.S. antiaircraft fire and not enemy bombs. Total damage to the
city was approximately $500,000.

While such factual errors seem minor in scope to us today, it is
possible to trace some of the subsequent distortions in news pro-
grams at least in part to just such seemingly trivial inaccuracies.
At the very least they added to the confusion of those at home
who attempted to piece together the entire picture from the frag-
ments and phrases that came from the scene of the disaster.
As the day wore on, however, direct on-the-spot news reports
were heard less and less frequently as security measures were
clamped into effect. Thus a considerably larger proportion of air
time throughout the day was devoted to commentary by radio
news analysis and military or political pundits.

One such personality was Upton Close, expert on Far Eastern
affairs and a nationally prominent radio news analyist. At "X"
plus io minutes he went on the air from San Francisco:
Hello, fellow Americans. The most fantastic thing that has yet
happened in this fantastic world is the bombing of Honolulu
and the bombing of Manila and the sinking of several ships off
this coast. We don't know yet what is behind this-there is
more behind it than meets the eye. So far the reports that have
been coming in have been entirely based on military sources
and military understanding and military computation. I think
I have just received the most interesting and perhaps the most
important sidelight on what has happened. ...
I have just been in touch with the San Francisco Japanese Con-
sulate General. The Consul, Mr. Yoshio Muto, was not able to
talk but his representative and secretary, Mr. K. Inagaki, spoke
to me from the home of Mr. Muto. He said that the attack is
a complete surprise to the Consulate General here in San Fran-
cisco, that the first the San Francisco Consul General knew
about it was hearing it over our radio and he implied that it
was likewise a complete surprise to the Foreign Office in Tokyo
and the Japanese government in Tokyo.

Now that may prove to be true. It is very possible that there is
a double double-cross in this business. I suppose that if the
attack on Honolulu had been made in such force as to destroy
the American Naval Base there, we might believe that the
Japanese government was behind it as a matter of policy. But
you notice that the news gives us every assurance that it is far
from destroyed and that the only thing left there now as the
result of the first attack are a few parachute troops wandering
around on the sand on the north end of Oahu Island. They will
soon be pulled in the bag and we'll find out who sent them.
[Actually there were no paratroopers landed; only 2 or 3 pilots
who bailed out of their damaged aircraft.]
It is possible, my friends, that this is a coup engineered by Ger-
man influence and with the aid of German vessels in the Pacific.
And again it is possible that this is a coup engineered by a
small portion of the Japanese navy that has gone fanatic and
decided to precipitate war. And still again it is possible that
this is a coup engineered by the group in Japan that wants the
group that wants war kicked out of office. And that when the
thing is brought home to the Tokyo government now it might
be possible for the Tokyo government to repudiate the action,
call upon the nation to repair the injury to America by agree-
ing to American terms and precipitating a complete revolution
in the government in Tokyo. All these things are possible. You
will have to wait and see what happens.

Now I will be glad to go on talking as long as they wish me to
take time on various phases of this situation. It seems to me
that if the coup is precipitated by those fanatics who have
wanted America at war with Japan and visa versa it might have
been done as an answer to the messages of Secretary Cordell
Hull to the Envoy Kurusu and Nomura. You notice that we
are told that Mr. Hull burst out in true Tennessee language
and told the Japanese that their reply was crowded with in-
famous falsehoods and distortions.
I have been in many a Japanese brawl, I am sorry to say, and
I have seen many an argument with Japanese, that would have
ended just an argument, suddenly burst into violence because
something was said by one of the so-called "white people" in
the crowd that suddenly lashed across the Japanese face. Now
it is possible that the Japanese completely lost face and des-
cended to the status of being willing to engage in a violent
brawl as a result of this answer, although it might be that this
answer and Secretary Hull's message came at the same time.
But it sounds like one of those Japanese arguments that suddenly descends into violence. (Announcer: "One moment please
while we attempt further contact with Hawaii.")

Seventeen minutes later, at "X" plus t hour and 42 minutes,
Mr. Close returned to the microphone. At that moment, thousands
lay dead; four of the navy's 9 Pacific Fleet battleships were
sinking or already on the bottom; 4 more battleships had been
badly hit and disabled; 347 of Oahu's 394 military and naval
planes had been destroyed.

Hello Americans. We have just had a flash from Toyko saying
that a state of war exists with the United States. Now we begin
to see through things. It's obvious that the Imperial General
Staff in Tokyo took affairs right out of the hands of the civil
government and has precipitated an attack and now announces
that that attack is official....
We are very interested in whether or not the attack on Hono-
lulu would be called from a military standpoint a real serious
attack. So far five civilians killed in the bombing of the city is
certainly not what they would call a serious attack in London.
We have at present two conflicting, possibly conflicting, reports
about the damage done in a military sense. There seems to be
no doubt that the air field at Hickman [actually Hickam] Field
was hit and damage done which was not serious from the stand-
point of flying but a tragedy in the shape of a direct hit on an
American barracks which it is said killed 35o American soldier
boys on the field. That's the worst thing yet.

There seems some uncertainty whether any real damage was
done to the naval base. We have a report saying the USS Okla-
homa, a battleship, one of our. first class but not one of our
newest, was set afire in the air attack, but it doesn't say whether
it's seriously afire or not. There is another report, uncomfirmed,
that two U.S. warships, one of them the West Virginia, were
sunk. I would take that just as a rumor until we have further
confirmation. Now, as I have said before, the whole thing is
going to come clear after we get these speeches from the Pre-
mier of Japan.
It's rather interesting to note the possibilities of the way in
which the attack took place. There is one rumor that the attack
took place from the south, that would be in the direction of the
island of Maui. It might be that a Japanese airplane was hiding
out around the little island of Maui or below Molokai. It
might even have been in connection with something going on
in the island of Hawaii, the biggest in the chain and the south-
ern-most one. There's a port there called Hilo where there are
Japanese in dominance. . . . We have just had a flash saying
that Japan has also entered a state of war with Britain. Manila
is ready now so we take you to Manila.

The general character of Mr. Close's remarks is by no means
an isolated example of the kinds of statements the American peo-
ple heard during the first eight hours of radio news broadcasting
on Sunday, December 7 th.

For instance, at "X" Plus 3 hours and 15 minutes, while rescue
operations continued to occupy the attention of every spare man
in the Pearl Harbor area, while fires still raged uncontrolled
aboard the battleships West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma and
Arizona, Major George Fielding Elliott, syndicated columnist and
author of several widely read books on military strategy explained
in his characteristic monotone:

... It should be emphasized that this attack is of a suicidal
nature from which few of the ship's aircraft and personnel par-
ticipating have any hope of returning. [Actual box score as
close as can be determined from subsequent investigations:
enemy planes claimed shot down by the U.S.- 4 8; losses admit-
ted by the Japanese-29; total number of Japanese aircraft par-
ticipating in the attack-353.] It is a procedure entirely in
keeping with the Japanese character. A sort of desperate and
sudden blow which recalled the Japanese torpedo attack on the
Russian fleet in Port Arthur Harbor in January 1904. But this
is an attack against a far more formidable foe and under far less
favorable conditions.

What actual damage has been done is hard to ascertain at this
moment. There are reports that two capital ships of the United
States fleet have been damaged. Even if this is so, and these
reports are unconfirmed, we have yet to see what the Japanese
fleet will lose in the way of aircraft carriers....
When the president was talking to the governor of the Ha-
waiian Islands, the governor reported that a second wave of
Japanese planes was just coming over, which suggests that the
Japanese planes, or some of them, had left, had time to return
to their carrier, get a new load of bombs and fuel, and return
to the attack. [Actually there were two separate waves, 183
planes leaving the carriers at 6:oo AM followed by 170 more at
7:15 AM. None came back a second time.] But this procedure
will certainly lead the heavy American bombing planes to
the carriers and the fact that the fleet has sailed from Pearl
Harbor, [Actually the remnants of the fleet escaped from the
harbor more as a safety precaution, although some units did set
out in a fruitless search for the enemy.], as just reported, prob-
ably indicates that an attempt to round up and destroy the car-
riers is now in full swing....
None of these operations, however, can overcome the fact that
Japan is cornered, surrounded by forces which she cannot hope
to overcome and to which in the end she must succumb. We
have heard so far of what the Japanese have done. We shall
hear presently what has happened to the Japanese forces which
have been engaged in these daring and distant raids. And that,
we may be sure, will be a different story and one which will
mark, in the opinion of well informed observers, the beginning
of the decline of the Japanese empire from its present position
as a world power.

Equally authoritative in tone, but less well supported, were the
observations of John B. Hughes, distinguished radio news analyst,
speaking at "X" plus 3 hours and 40 minutes over a rival network:
Good evening .. .It is obvious that the Japanese will attempt
to develop in the South Pacific a triangular strategy. They will
attempt to take either Singapore or Manila in order to establish
a triangulation, as it were, a triangle of bases with Formosa, the
island of Hainan and probably Manila. This is a Japanese naval
strategy which has been planned and worked out in detail for a
period of forty years and is to be found in all the naval books of
warfare, as many of the Japanese militarists well know.

A member of the Japanese general staff told me less than a year
ago that if it became necessary the Japanese militarists, rather
than lose power to the conservatives of Japan, rather than sacri-
fice the leadership which they had succeeded in acquiring after
ten years of deliberate planning and step by step procedure, would deliberately lead the nation into a war they knew they could not wirL
Another very interesting point is the one made by Royal Arch
Gunnison in his broadcast from Manila. He mentioned the fact
that Russian planes and ships will be against the Japanese. The
participation of Russia in the war against Japan on the side of
the United States and Britain is a very important factor and a
point upon which the Japanese have been making a tremendous
effort to interfere. It was said in the past 1o days in Tokyo un-
officially by a high official of the government that Japan was
safe from Russia, that Russia would not fight against Japan with Britain and the United States. Royal Arch Gunnison's
mention of Russia, particularly in this broadcast only ten min-
utes ago is very interesting, and on this side it is to be hoped
that what he said is true because Britain and the United States
must have Russian cooperation in order to wage the war effec-
tively against Japan. [Actual date of Russia's entry into the
war against Japan-August 8, 1945, six days before its sur-
Of all the commentaries none combined a greater mixture of
false conjecture, exaggeration, wishful thinking, and rationaliza-
tion than those of Fulton Lewis, Jr. Less inhibited than many of
his colleagues, he spoke with the same zeal that has maintained
for him a loyal following (and a steady list of sponsors) through-
out the past two decades. For instance, at "X" plus 5 hours and 1o
minutes, Mr. Lewis was observing:

... First of all this attack took place under, to all intents and
purposes, under the white flag of truce, because that's what it
did. In their language it took place while Japan was using the
integrity, the fairness, the peaceful intentions of the United
States to stall for time, when as a matter of fact they were all
the time, very obviously now, preparing for this attack on the
island of Oahu, the Philippines, Guam and the United States
in general. In other words while these peace conferences have
been going on over the past two weeks they have not been peace
conferences at all. They have been treachery, carrying the
white flag of truce. They have been lies from the ground up,
and that has produced terrific and bitter resentment here in the
State Department circles, in diplomatic circles in general,
among the administration leaders, and in Congress.
The second thing was the manner in which this was done to-
day. The attack on the ships in Pearl Harbor, . . . a very very
foolish thing, as a matter of fact, suicidal fool-hardiness as a
matter of fact, because the Japanese must know, as all the rest
of the world knows, and all the rest of the navies and military
men of the world know, that Pearl Harbor is the one invincible,
absolutely invulnerable base in the world. It's stronger
even than Gibralter itself, and as far as any attack or siege of
it is concerned there could have been no possible sane intention
on the part of the Japanese to such an end.

The great resentment comes from the fact that these bombing
planes and battleships-rather these bombing planes and the
gun boat off Manila came in as they did to a peaceful, unsus-
pecting, unwarned community, dropped bombs out of a clear
sky, served no notice, gave no fair play of warfare, no decency,
no fair respect. After all, a good many people may have ques-
tioned today, "Well, how was all this damage done if we had
such an excellent navy and such an excellent army air corps?"
Why anyone can walk in, ladies and gentlemen (laugh), to
ships lying peacefully in the harbor without the slightest sus-
picion that attack may come-anyone can come in with bomb-
ing planes and sink anything under those conditions. And
that's exactly what happened this morning at Hickman [sic]
Field. Officers, pilots, men at the field were going about their
usual everyday procedure-the planes out on the field, no prep-
aration for war, no expectation of it, no advance warning of any
kind-when into that peaceful situation comes attacking planes.
It is of course a one shot thing. They got away with it once-
they will never get away with it again. The army and the navy
privately have made that perfectly clear this afternoon, and the
second attack later today on Hickman Field has proven that it
isn't the same the second time....
There is considerable mystery, as I told you earlier this eve-
ning, as to where these fifty bombing planes came from ...
One of the great points of interest so far as the War Department
and the Navy Department here are concerned is to find out who
the pilots of these planes are-whether they are Japanese pilots.
There is some doubt as to that, some skepticism whether they
may be pilots of some other nationality, perhaps Germans, per-
haps Italians....
In the meantime, however, the American navy has steamed out
under orders from Washington-has steamed out of Pearl Har-
bor, anchors away, and we may have more to that story of final
results on these aircraft carriers and the Japanese fleet within a
matter of a very few hours.

There is little question as to what will happen once there is an
open engagement between the Japanese fleet and the American
fleet, if it ever happens on the high seas. A very high admiral
of the United States Army-I mean the United States Navy told
me not four weeks ago when I asked him how long it would
take for an American victory under such circumstances, he said,
"Well, Fulton, we'd be glad to do that any Wednesday morn-
ing." When I asked him-told him that I would like to have
lunch with him that day because I would like to get a scoop on
it, he said he would try to keep it in mind but he was afraid' I
wouldn't be interested because by noon that day is would be old

To be sure not all the broadcasts indulged in all the types of
misleading statements and rationalizations. Indeed, some com-
mentators exercised remarkable restraint in view of the shortage
of information available to them and the pressure from an aroused
public to inform. At "X" plus 7 hours and io minutes a voice is
just barely heard above the din in the background:
This is Eric Severeid reporting again directly from the press
room in the White House. Here in the White House the vigil
of reporters from all over the United States is still on. The
phones are ringing. . . men are still working at the typewriters.
Outside, a few yards away, in front of the main portico other
reporters are still standing in a group, waiting for important
personages to come in to the White House or to leave, trying to
buttonhole all that they can for what information can be
Out on Pennsylvania Avenue you can see the policemen walk-
ing back and forth, and then across the street in the dim street
light you can see from this porch a mass of faces all turned this
way, a patient crowd standing there in the chill evening simply
watching this lighted portico of the White House as the figures
come and go. And to me I must confess there is a very familiar
look and feeling about this whole scene. I've seen it in similar
moments in Downing Street, in the Quay d'Orsay in Paris ...
the same crowd as these watching, waiting faces of ordinary
citizens of those countries.

Now there is one report which I must give you which is not at
all confirmed-a report which is rather widely believed here
and which has just come in. And that is that the destruction at
Hawaii was indeed very heavy, more heavy than we really had
anticipated. For this report says that two capital ships of ours
have been sunk, that another capital ship has been badly dam-
aged, and the same report from the same source says that the
airfield hangers there in Hawaii were completely flattened out
and that a great many planes have been damaged. There is no
speculation about the number of planes. Now if the planes
were dispersed on that airfield as they normally would have
been with piles of earth around each one, the number of planes
damaged probably was not great. But if the field was over-
crowded for a possible emergency, then no one knows how
many have been lost. Now I repeat, this report has not been
confirmed but it has come in from a fairly reliable source and
many reporters here indeed believe it.
it was in such tones that word of the real fate of Pearl Harbor
began finally to filter through to the American people toward the
late hours of that seemingly endless night.

In spite of cautious, simply stated observations by a few scat-
tered commentators, one can not escape the conclusion that in the
over-all pattern of radio news communication that day something
was drastically wrong. While on-the-spot reports were, for the
most part, reliable as to general content, errors of detail in many
of them led to misinterpretation and confusion back in the States.
After censorship drastically curtailed reports from on-the-scene
sources, the bulk of radio news time was consumed by commenta-
tors and analysts trying to explain the meaning of situations
without access to reliable first-hand information. Background to
the news tended to be overly conservative and evasive. Under
pressure from the public, the dominant tendency was to carry on
regardless of the meager flow of "hard" news. The result was
that a good deal of early information was stated and restated
many different ways, and with varying degrees of indignation,
throughout the day. But if that was all that happened to the news
December 7th one would have only minor cause for concern.
The truth is that a disconcertingly large proportion of news
analysts went considerably beyond what available facts supported
in commenting on the events of that day. The result was a verbal
pick-me-up, a confused concoction of defensive and aggressive
statements ranging all the way from attempts to depricate the
enemy's intelligence and minimize the danger on the one hand,
to emotional appeals based on exaggerated retaliatory capacities
or moral and intellectual superiority on the other.
It might be argued that such a position is justifiable, even de-
sirable in a crisis. Such a commentator, it may be said, "reassures"
the people, keeps them from losing all control, and lets them down
easier to the blow that they must ultimately face up to. In a
democratic society predicated on faith in the many, rather than an
elite, superior few, such logic appears somewhat feeble. It is one
thing to tell a person he has suffered a serious personal loss in a
compassionate way and with rational concern for the conse-
quences. It is quite another to imply that maybe the loss really
didn't occur at all, or if it did its importance is after all question-
able. If our system is based on the premise of freedom of infor-
mation, that implies not only the freedom to express unpopular
beliefs and minority viewpoints, but the responsibility to listen
to and evaluate the unpopular and the unpleasant as well.
In opposition to the questionable policy of "soft-pedaling" or
"playing-down" bad news, the broadcasts that day themselves
suggest that those who were well informed, even though they
were located in positions of greater danger, were far more rational
than those, either on the spot or back home, who lacked what
facts were known and who supplied their own answers via wishful
thinking tempered by unexpressed fears for the worst. Those on
the scene spoke mainly, and reliably, of effects. Those back home
dealt principally, and often inaccurately, with the causes.
To understand the implications of this, one must consider the
role of the news reporter and the news commentator in our
society. The man on the spot who presumably has accurate in-
formation is, under the stress of the moment in a crisis, generally
less able (and sometimes less qualified) to take the broad view
of events required for intelligent interpretation.
This analytical role, it is usually reasoned, belongs to a com-
mentator who, with additional facts at his disposal, can view
events dispassionately and with greater perspective on the
situation as a whole. In recent years an encouraging development
has been the assignment of more and more analysts to overseas
tours of duty so that they might broadcast their commentary from
abroad. But when accurate information is lacking, the home based
commentator's role becomes an extremely difficult one.
Most radio (and now TV) news analysts have always worked
in a market where each is in competition with the other for an
audience. The eye of a sponsor is usually somewhere in the
background. If it does not often selectively scan the news content
itself it is certainly always focused on the size of the audience
the commentator is drawing. With the development of the cult
of the news "personalities" we have come to regard our commen-
tators as much entertainer as oracle. In addition to his distinctive
"delivery style" and his "audience appeal," the news analyst's
reputation is based upon his ability to provide intelligent, rational,
accurate assessments of problems and answers to questions in the
mind of his particular following. When the chips are down that
audience expects him to live up to his reputation. Otherwise he
runs the risk of temporarily relinquishing his image (sometimes
self-created) as the man who knows, the one capable of seeing
beneath the issues on the surface.

On December 7 th, surrounded by anxiety and uncertainties,
many of our commentators proved all too human in succumbing
to the temptation of having a right answer, reasonable sounding
for the moment at least. Some simply up-dated day dreams and
kept passing them on to the public almost as if the soap opera
had never been interrupted by the momentous events of that
tragic day.
From the hind-sight of twenty years it is easy now to sit back
and Sunday-quarterback. That is not the intended purpose in
recalling these events to mind. Nor will it be argued that our
basic and long-cherished "right to know" may at times be over-
ridden by factors of greater magnitude such as our "need to
survive." What is suggested is that we may have missed the
more subtle, yet equally important, meaning of the Pearl Harbor

Looking back now one can easily fit together a dozen clues
which we knew about in advance of the attack but which were
discounted or somehow never got to the right people quickly
enough to alter the course of events. The catastrophe of December
7, 1941, was as much due to rationalization, inaccuracy, and lack
of coordination in our communications as it was to our inadequate
preparedness for surprise attack.

In a world where the pace has accelerated many fold in twenty
years the real message of Pearl Harbor may be that our "need
to survive" is inextricably linked to, if not dependent on, our
"need to know." In any future war we may expect no "notice"
nor any "fair play of warfare" that Commentator Lewis de-
nounced on December 7 th. But the responsibility for averting
such a war goes far beyond improving our intelligence network
or our military communications. It resides as much with the
sovereign people of the United States and the other world powers
as it does with their leaders. Few dictators have been able indefin-
itely to ignore the organized will of an aroused people. In
democracies, if the channels of mass communication are frequent-
ly utilized by our elected representatives to bring us around to
the course of action they have already decided upon, let us not
forget that it is within our power to use these same channels to
inform them of our will in these matters.

In recent times there is some doubt whether the feedback aspect
of democratic communications has been making any headway
against a veritable deluge of information from the opposite direc-
tion. It is alarming, for example, to speculate on how little
popular protest we probably would have heard even if the Ameri-
can people had known in advance the extent of this government's
involvement in the ill-fated Cuba invasion. Such a response (or,
more precisely, lack of one) would probably have been due less
to unflinching support of administration decisions-right or
wrong, than to a lack of awareness of possible alternatives or
limitations of the proposed course of action.

We live in an era when most of us get most of our information
from one or another of the mass media. Super-speed and technical
accuracy of communication are today commonplace both through-
out this planet and beyond it. Yet twenty years after Pearl Harbor
we still accept as inevitable: (i) inaccurate reporting of critical
events, (2) confusion as to what kinds of facts should be withheld
for the common good and what information is needed by the
public to exercise its legitimate role in government, (3) frequent
misinterpretation or deliberate falsification of "facts" by special
interest groups, and (4) a tenacious preference for the myth of
"what could be" over the reality of "what is."

There is no simple answer for the problem here illustrated; no
sinecure, no formula for eradicating human frailties overnight.
Nor does the weakness lie only with the speaker and not his
listeners in an era when all forces interact upon each other.
"Responsibility" is not a characteristic which can be legislated
into existence. Like "wisdom," it must sometimes be acquired
through a long and painful series of lessons that remain in our
memory. In "remembering Pearl Harbor" on this twentieth
anniversary, it would be well to set out anew in pursuit of those
two human goals. Perhaps in so doing we may find the clues we
seek in this dilemma. For how to update the democratic handling
of communications in a modern world is an inseparable part of
our battle for survival.

On Television

June 07, 2023

Prepare Yourself! Episode 1 Earthquakes

On this episode of Prepare Yourself! we will explore the ways to prepare before an earthquake, as well as what to do to stay safe when an earthquake happens. We'll also see how earthquakes can lead to tsunamis in high-risk areas along the coast, how to prepare, and what to do if one occurs. Tune in…
prepare yourself earthquakes

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