Oliver North
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MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- Seventy years ago this week, Japanese Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida led an airborne strike force of 49 "Kate" bombers, 40 torpedo bombers, 51 "Val" dive bombers and 43 "Zeke" fighters on the first wave of an attack on Pearl Harbor and plunged America into World War II. At 9:45 that terrible Sunday morning, a second wave of 167 attack aircraft added to the devastation. By the time the surprise attack was over, 3,581 Americans were dead or wounded; the largest naval anchorage in the Pacific was littered with sunken and burning U.S. warships; the best dry dock and ship repair facilities west of California were in shambles; and less than 25 percent of U.S. military aircraft based in Hawaii were still operational.

The Dec. 7, 1941, attack was but the first blow in a cascade of disasters. The following day, as imperial troops invaded the Philippines, Congress declared war on Japan. On Dec. 11, fascist Italy and then Nazi Germany declared war on the U.S. in support of their Axis partners in Tokyo. By then, nearly a half-million young Americans already had visited military recruiting stations volunteering to fight, and the phrase "Remember Pearl Harbor" was becoming a watchword. When the conflagration finally ended in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, more than 16 million men and women had served in the U.S. armed forces.

All of that and more was recounted this week in Hawaii at what is likely to be the last major reunion of those who survived the surprise attack. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was there to thank the handful of survivors gathered near the sunken hull of the USS Arizona -- a watery tomb for most of the 1,177 sailors who died aboard the battleship on that "day of infamy."

Secretary Panetta's remarks, praising the courage and resolve of those who were there that dreadful day, were appropriate -- and predictable. It's what he didn't say that is important. He didn't acknowledge the massive intelligence failures and lack of "situational awareness" in Washington that allowed such a horrific surprise attack to occur. Nor did he mention that America's poor preparations for war resulted in the loss of every engagement with the Japanese from Dec. 7, 1941, until the Battle of Midway, which started June 4, 1942.

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Oliver North

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.