Attack ‘shook’

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 7, 2001

the U.S.


Staff Writer

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The Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor united a nation unlike anything witnessed until Sept. 11, 2001.

A couple of Troy State University professors believe both acts had tremendous impacts on the United States.

Allen Dennis, chairman of the history department at TSU, said World War II’s most significant impact was bringing it back among international alliances.

"After World War I was over in 1919, the United States really goes into a period of isolation," Dennis said of America pulling out of European affairs. "That policy probably didn’t help in the 1930s."

The United States, however, was forced to change its position when Pearl Harbor was bombed.

"Pearl Harbor really shook the United States out of isolation," Dennis said.

In a sense, he believes the recent attacks on America did the same.

Dennis pointed out President George W. Bush campaigned on the issue of not being involved in "nation building," but the events of September have changed the United States’ efforts in Afghanistan.

"Something like this has forced us to be more international," Dennis said.

Another similarity, Dennis said, is how the events shaped individuals’ lives.

"I think the attacks are similar because people remember where they were (when they heard the news)," Dennis said. "For my parents Pearl Harbor was the defining moment."

For his generation it was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and, now, the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon will be what this generation remembers.

"I don’t believe there’s been a defining moment, other than possibly the Challenger explosion," Dennis said. "I have heard September 11 mentioned as a date more than December 7 was mentioned in 1941."

James H. Joyner Jr., assistant professor of political science at Troy State, believes the attacks on Pearl Harbor and what happened on Sept. 11 are "fundamentally different."

"In 1941, the U.S. was already virtually at war with Japan, even before we were bombed," Joyner said. "We had a blockade on them and were clearly supporting the opposing side.

"Further, Japan attacked a US naval base.

While outrageous, it was at least a legitimate military target. That makes it a completely different animal than the attack on the World Trade Center ­ a civilian target hit by a state-sponsored criminal organization."

The other thing Joyner points to as a difference is reaction by citizens.

"A lot has been written in the last several years about the Great Generation that endured the Great Depression and fought World War II, Joyner said. "They surely deserve that description. But it has often been presented in contrast to today’s society that is considered too self-centered, soft and incapable of rising to a similar challenge.

"It seems to me that we’ve now proven that argument wrong," Joyner said. "We’re a lot wealthier now, so we’re not going to have to endure gasoline rationing and paper drives and some of the other hardships faced by the World War II generation. But I think we’re going to see this thing through."

He said the public appears to be "perfectly willing to make the sacrifices required for what President Bush has promised will be a long, expensive war with many American casualties."

While nobody knows for sure how long the "War on Terrorism" will last, Joyner said, "America fought in World War II for four years and got the job done."

He, like many others, believes the current "war will be longer and, in many ways, a lot harder to fight."