When looking for a book considered the “Bible” on the methods employed by Japan as they strengthened their forces to attack the United States, step inside the writing of Gordon Prang’s At Dawn We Slept. This exceptional book explains in great detail the timeline of the preparation, the testing and development of new equipment, and the months of training for pilots and crew as they prepared for their assault on Pearl Harbor.
The chilling reality of Japan’s calculated approach kept me up at night. In fact, one night, when sleep and I were at odds, I picked up the book in the early morning hours. My tossing and turning was in part due to the anticipation of meeting Dr. Donald Raleigh. Who, as a young man, had stood on the USS Maryland the morning of December 7th 1941 and experienced firsthand the results of Japan’s rehearsed attack and strategy as they pummeled Pearl Harbor.
So, there I was nervous and wide awake at 4 a.m.
In the hopes of drifting back to sleep, I ironically read chapter 62. It tells of the morning of the attack and how a young man on duty as officer of the deck saw the first bombs drop on Ford Island and alerted his crew to sound general quarters. “This is no shit,” was repeated to the American sailors over the whizzing of the falling bombs.
Hardly a lullaby. However, I did manage to drift off to sleep for a bit.
That afternoon, as I sat enthralled listening to Raleigh’s stories he told me of how he had just come on duty as officer of the deck and looked up just in time to spot the bombs drop—
For some unexplainable reason I had lugged the massive book along. I pulled At Dawn We Slept from my briefcase and waved it in the air.
“I just read that in here last night.” I cut into his priceless story with my excitement.
“Yes.” He nodded shyly, then added, “That was me.”
What are the chances?
In the weeks that followed, I continued to scour the book for more information, secretly hoping I would happen upon another prominent figure in the horrific tale that unfolded that day.
Alas, as the many who survived World War II continue to drift from us at a startling pace, we must continue to honor them by sharing their stories.
At Dawn We Slept is a remarkable overview of how blind sighted, American ships and men sat as easy prey in the early morning sun, not realizing that World War II was about to explode around them.