U.S.-Japanese relations over the past 75 years is one of history's great tales of decimation and reconciliation. Japan's massive surprise attack on the Hawaiian naval base on Dec. 7, 1941, which led to the American entry in World War II, was at the time unprecedented in the efficiency of its destructive powers. On the "day which will live in infamy," 75 years ago, Japanese air bombers managed to kill more than 2,400 people and virtually wipe out the U.S. fleet in the Pacific in little more than two hours.
Of course, Pearl Harbor is bookended by the far more "efficient" attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which ended the war with more than 100,000 dead in two successive instants.
The surrender and subsequent American occupation of Japan, along with massive U.S. investment in rebuilding the Asian island nation, would pave the way for an alliance of enormous economic prosperity. The latter was on full display with the news, touted by President-elect Donald Trump, that Japanese tech giant SoftBank had agreed to invest $50 billion in the U.S., with the goal to create 50,000 new jobs.
But today's anniversary, and all the blood that was shed during the War, is a reminder that prosperity is ultimately most important as a tool for peace. In May, U.S. President Barack Obama visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the first sitting American President to visit the site commemorating the atomic bombings of 1945. This week came the news that, later this month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will become the first Japanese leader to visit Pearl Harbor. December 7, 1941 may indeed live in infamy, but the day has the power to take on other meanings too.