December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
— President Franklin D. Roosevelt
On this day, 76 years ago, a naval base in Hawaii was attacked. Picture a beautiful Sunday morning in the island paradise. The weather, as described by many of the testimonies of the attack, was warm and sunny. Some of the soldiers from the Navy were attending a local church services, and maybe there were a few others who were recovering from hangovers. No one, and I mean no one, saw it coming.
Many people believe the government knew this attack was going to happen ahead of time, but that simply wasn’t the case. No one had any idea that 353 Japanese aircraft would bomb the Pearl Harbor Naval Base. No one had any idea that 61 Japanese ships would take part in the largest military attack on the United States. The casualties were devastating, as many have estimated that more than 2,500 Americans died during the surprise attack. The attackers were ruthless, even willing to commit suicide when running out of ammunition by crashing straight into a naval ship or runway. I can’t stress this enough: no one saw this coming!
Not only was the United States surprised from the attack, but the Japanese also had a surprise of their own. Their mission was to wipe out all carriers that were in the Pacific. At any other given time, U.S. carriers were stationed at Pearl Harbor, but providentially, all US carriers in the Pacific were stationed in San Diego. Also, the Japanese expected very little to no casualties (other than kamikazes) during the attack. Instead, 29 Imperial Japanese planes were shot down, and 74 were damaged. The Japanese also planned to have three waves of attacks but decided to retreat after the third due to an unexpected defense put up by the American forces in the second wave.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was unexpected and catastrophic. Though the American Navy did not expect such a massive attack, the Japanese did not expect such a blow back from the defense. They also didn’t expect that it wouldn’t be possible to have a third wave of an attack, and that many aircraft and ships would be lost. They also didn’t expect for there to be an absence of aircraft carriers at Pearl Harbor, which was their main objective. The attack could’ve been much worse because if the Japanese completed their mission, we would have definitely lost WWII in the Pacific Theatre.
Now, one would think that professionals would’ve been better prepared, on both sides. Pearl Harbor might’ve never been attacked had military communications intercepted the messages from the Japanese. The Japanese would’ve left a greater havoc had they destroyed all of our carriers in the Pacific (the U.S. carriers would become the backbone for many Allied victories in the Pacific). What this convinces me of is that no matter how intelligent anyone is, and no matter how much planning someone puts into an action, God’s will is the only thing that will prevail.
Think on this: how many times have we thought that something would go our way, but it didn’t? I certainly wish that I didn’t witness certain deaths. I also definitely wished that certain steps the church has been taking would be different. I have prayed for governments and leaders to realize the need for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why don’t these things happen? Why does the good we want not come to pass at times? Because we are not the standard of good. I don’t even think that Christians can fully understand what is fully good.
Jesus makes it clear in Luke 18 that only God is good. Because God is good, it must mean that His will is always for good and that His intentions are never for evil. We also know that He has a divine purpose for every action that takes place. God’s sovereign purpose is shown in Romans 8:28 (ESV) saying, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” The fact of the matter, no matter how we look at an event, God always decrees everything that comes to pass for good.
Someone might ask this: if God decreed for Pearl Harbor to happen, doesn’t that make Him evil?
My question is this: by what standard?
Did God decree that the attack on Pearl Harbor would come to pass? Yes. Is God evil and held responsible for Pearl Harbor? No! God’s decree had good intention, and it was so that all would work together for the good of those He loves and those who love Him. While God had good intentions out of the evil deed, the generals of Imperial Japan did not. That is why God is not held responsible for the evil, because God never authored the evil intention, but only the good.
While December 7th, 1941 will certainly be remembered as a date which will live in infamy, the attack on Pearl Harbor does not change that fact that God is sovereign, God is good, and that God is love. The attack could’ve been much worse! Imagine if all the carriers were destroyed. How would America have been victorious in many battles, in which the carriers played a crucial part? Imagine the Japanese initiated a third wave of attacks. How many more sailors, airmen, and civilians would’ve died (not just the American side, but also the Japanese)? See what I mean? God is good even in the midst of the bad.
I don’t embrace American exceptionalism, nor do I believe that America is free from sin in WWII. However, it doesn’t change the fact that God decreed for the attack on Pearl Harbor to take place. Some think this is a reason to hate God, and it’s understandable, but not justified. Others, like myself, see that this is a good thing. This means that the Japanese were not in control of December 7th, 1941. Nor was America. No nation, European or Asian, has any control over this world. Only God has control over the world, and He does what He pleases. Thankfully, He wills only that which is for good and justice.
Soli Deo Gloria.