PEARL HARBOR GHOSTS by Thurston Clarke


A Journey to Hawaii Then and Now
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 Exploration in great human depth of a pivotal American and Japanese event, by Clarke (Equator, 1988; By Blood and Fire, 1981, etc.). Innocence and the ever-present Japanese are Clarke's themes in this meticulously researched meditation on FDR's ``day that will live in infamy.'' Clarke's images of Hawaiian colonial torpor and American military ineptitude, based on eyewitness reports and interviews, are unforgettable. Between the carefully crafted lines is the pre-WW II America that felt itself invulnerable: ``General Short did not understand [radar] nor think it was necessary''; fighter aircraft were ``disarmed and rolled into a tight anti-sabotage formation on the tarmac, making it impossible to arm and launch them all in under four hours.'' Meanwhile, in Washington, the final act of a deadly drama is playing out as last-minute information is fumbled by both US and Japanese bureaucracies. Above Hawaii in a small plane, Ensign Tadeo Yoshikawa, a.k.a. Vice Consul Yaeishi Morimura, is finishing his work as ``the most effective and important spy in the world with many contenders for that title.'' (He also washes dishes to eavesdrop on blue-collar help, observes from a glass- bottomed boat, and swims in the harbor mouth looking for submarine nets.) Clarke is masterful in the personal realities- -the shell-shock and heroism; the ripping apart of close, Japanese-American relationships; the still-inadmissable division of Nisei loyalties; and the hysterical reactions. (An officer loses it and is carried away on a stretcher; a woman imagines herself dead, and her husband with another woman; observers write detailed descriptions of nonexistent German planes and pilots.) Woven into the dreamlike tapestry are sharp, provocative bits on contemporary Japanese-US realities, several connected with insensitive Japanese tourists at the Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor, and angry American reactions--including the author's. Powerful, compelling prose lays this ghost to rest with dignity and painstaking honesty. (Thirty-two b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1991
ISBN: 0-688-08301-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1991


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