USM Professor’s New Book on Attack of Pearl Harbor Revisits “Date Which Will Live in Infamy” Through Newly Discovered Photos
Thu, 06/08/2023 - 09:47am | By: David Tisdale
Much has been written about Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor that triggered American’s entry into World War II, but a new book by University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Distinguished Professor of History Dr. Andy Wiest gives readers a new visual perspective featuring some never-before-seen images of the event along with his textual input.
7 December 1941: Pearl Harbor (Amber Books) captures in gripping photos what then President Franklin D. Roosevelt legendarily described as “A date which will live in infamy,” one that forever changed America and the world when the Japanese air force made a surprise attack on the U.S.’s Pearl Harbor naval base on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The attack resulted in destruction or damage to approximately 20 American ships and more than 300 airplanes; more than 2,400 American soldiers and civilians died, along with more than 1,000 wounded. President Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan the following day.
Dr. Wiest, founding director of USM’s Dale Center for the Study of War & Society, presents in his latest publication approximately 160 images while employing his expert description of the impacts of that infamous day. The book examines in detail the beginnings and history of the famed naval station, the Japanese plans for attack, the events of that momentous day and its aftermath, concluding with a look at Pearl Harbor now.
Photographs include those of Japanese airplanes taking off from aircraft carriers for the attack; aerial views of the naval base prior to and during the attack and the destruction caused; and key figures from both sides of the event, as well as images of memorials to the fallen erected, particularly to the sunken battleship U.S.S. Arizona.
In discussing the genesis for his book on Pearl Harbor, Dr. Wiest says that when he taught at the United Kingdom’s Royal Military Academy, British publishers would routinely reach out to the experts there to write books on war.
“As the resident American on staff, those publishers were happy to see me, because they had a backlog of books on American involvement in military conflicts to complete,” Dr. Wiest said. “And they wanted an American to write them. Thus, I formed relationships with several UK publishers, especially Osprey Press and Amber Books. I have been able to keep those relationships going in large part due to [my involvement with] the [USM] British Studies Program.
“Since I am in London for a month most summers with British Studies, I can visit and work with the publishers on a yearly basis. Since then, I’ve published 10 books with Amber Books and five with Osprey (now part of Bloomsbury Press).”
Other works Dr. Wiest has produced with Amber Books include The Army (a general history of the U.S. Army from its founding to today); The Pacific War (a general history of the war in the Pacific during World War II), and The Western Front, 1917-1918 (a more focused book on one specific part of World War I).
“All of Amber’s books are lavishly illustrated and require me to take the most recent historical interpretations of the conflict into a short and readable form,” Dr. Wiest continued. “To me it is almost like teaching class – taking subjects of vast complexity that I have been studying for years and boiling them down to their essentials. This is almost what we call public history – taking our historical arguments to the public.
“In this case Amber Books had come across a treasure trove of never-before-seen photos of the strike at Pearl Harbor, so they thought it would be the perfect time for a new book on the subject and contacted me. I am used to writing in the concise style that they like, so I jumped at the chance.”
Dr. Wiest said a significant part of working with Amber Books is picture research. “Each photo, and this book has hundreds, includes a historical caption,” Dr. Wiest explained. “So, I must figure out exactly what each picture is and then fit it into the wider narrative. And you had better be right! If you misidentify a ship or a weapon in a picture. folks out there in the reading world are quick to let you know.”
Dr. Matt Casey, associate professor of history and director of the USM School of Humanities, says his colleague’s “sweeping knowledge of U.S. military history is once again on display in his new book.”
“It's hard to imagine someone with a better grasp of modern U.S, conflicts, and this book is one more testament to the depth and breadth of his scholarship," Dr. Casey continued.
Dr. Wiest hopes his new book leads to a better understanding among readers about one of the most consequential moments in U.S. history. “Pearl Harbor forever altered the course of our nation, and it is rare for a single day to do that,” he explained. “And I want people to be able to viscerally witness the event through the pictures.”