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Pearl Harbor and the legacy of Carl Vinson

Seventy-six years ago on Dec. 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese fleet surprise-attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the home port of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Japanese carrier planes killed 2,403 Americans. They sunk or submerged 19 ships (including eight battleships destroyed or disabled) and damaged or destroyed more than 300 planes.

In an amazing feat of seamanship, the huge Japanese carrier fleet had steamed nearly 3,500 miles in midwinter high seas. The armada had refueled more than 20 major ships while observing radio silence before arriving undetected about 220 miles from Hawaii.

The surprise attack started the Pacific War. It was followed a few hours later by a Japanese assault on the Philippines.

More importantly, Pearl Harbor ushered in a new phase of World War II, as the conflict expanded to the Pacific. It became truly a global war when, four days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.

The Japanese fleet had missed the three absent American carriers of the Pacific Fleet. Nonetheless, Japanese admirals were certain that the United States was so crippled after the attack that it would not be able to go on the offensive against the Japanese Pacific empire for years, if at all. Surely the wounded Americans would sue for peace, or at least concentrate on Europe and keep out of the Japanese-held Pacific.

That was a fatal miscalculation.

The Japanese warlords had known little of the tireless efforts of one Democratic congressman from Georgia, Carl Vinson.

For nearly a decade before Pearl Harbor, Vinson had schemed and politicked in brilliant fashion to ensure that America was building a two-ocean navy larger than all the major navies of the world combined.

Vinson had assumed in the mid-1930s that fascist Japan and Germany posed existential threats to the United States. For America to survive, he saw that America would need mastery of the seas to transport its armies across the Pacific and Atlantic.

From 1934 to 1940, Vinson pushed through Congress four major naval appropriations bills. The result was that the U.S. Pacific Fleet which Japan thought it had almost destroyed in December 1941 was already slated to be replaced by a far larger and updated armada.

A little more than seven months after Pearl Harbor, the USS Essex — the finest carrier in the world — was launched. Essex was the first of 24 such state-of-the-art fleet carriers of its class to be built during the war.

Vinson’s various prewar naval construction bills also ensured the launching of hundreds of modern battleships, cruisers, destroyers and submarines. As bombs fell at Pearl Harbor, ships of the new American fleet were soon to be deployed, under construction or already authorized.

Vinson’s foresight would save thousands of American lives in the Atlantic and Pacific. American naval power quickly allowed the U.S. to fight a two-front war against Japan, Germany and Italy.

Vinson, a rural Georgian, was an unlikely advocate of global naval supremacy.

Before World War II, the battleship was still thought to be queen of the seas. Yet Vinson emphasized aircraft carriers over battleships. That decision would result in absolute American naval supremacy of the oceans within two years of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Stranger still, Vinson had fought for naval expansion in the middle of the Great Depression, at a time when the U.S. government was already deeply in debt and poor Americans had no desire for large peacetime defense spending.

Vinson lived in the heart of impoverished rural Georgia, not on the East or West coasts, the traditional homes of U.S. warships. He was elected for 26 straight congressional terms. For 50 years, Vinson insisted on military preparedness, especially through naval power, to ensure deterrence and thereby keep the peace.

Vinson’s remarkable congressional career began in 1914, before the American entry into World War I. He championed a strong Navy during the Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the start of the Vietnam War and the Cold War before retiring in 1965 at the age of 81.

Prior to Vinson, the U.S. Navy was basically a small coastal patrol force fueled by coal. But as the chairman of House Naval Affairs Committee and later the House Armed Services Committee, Vinson ensured that American sea power — eventually led by behemoth nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (including the USS Carl Vinson) — would win wars and keep the peace through its global reach.

Vinson would live 16 years beyond retirement, dying at the age of 97 in 1981.

Today, most Americans do not recognize Vinson’s contributions to American security. But the real strategic story of the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor was that Japan foolishly bombed a mostly obsolete fleet, soon guaranteeing terrible revenge from its far greater and more modern replacement armada — thanks largely to the global visions of a rural Georgia congressman.

Public meetings
Public meetings



KCAO Affirmative Action, Personnel and Board Development Committees: Monday, 4:30 p.m., the Kings Community Action Organization will hold a Personnel, Affirmative Action & Board Development Committee meeting at KCAO offices, 1130 N. 11th Ave., Hanford, 415-7202. Visit

Corcoran Planning Commission: Monday, 5:30 p.m., the Corcoran Planning Commission will hold its regular meeting at the City Council Chambers, 1015 Chittenden Ave., Corcoran. 

Lemoore Planning Commission: Monday, 7 p.m., the Lemoore Planning Commission will hold its regular meeting in the Lemoore City Council Chambers, 429 C St., Lemoore. Visit

Hanford Parks & Recreation Commission: Monday, 5:30 p.m., the Hanford Parks & Recreation Commission, will hold its regular meeting in the Hanford Council Chambers, 400 N. Douty St., Hanford. Visit


Kings County Board of Supervisors: Tuesday, 9 a.m., the Kings County Board of Supervisors will hold a regular meeting in the Board of Supervisors Chambers. Kings County Government Center, 1400 W. Lacey Blvd., Hanford, 852-2362. Visit  

Lemoore Parks & Recreation: Tuesday, 7 p.m., the Lemoore Parks & Recreation holds a regular meeting in the Lemoore City Council Chambers, 429 C St., Lemoore. Visit

Hanford Planning Commission: Tuesday, 7 p.m., the Hanford Planning Commission holds a regular meeting in the Hanford Council Chambers, 400 N. Douty St., Hanford. Visit

HJUHS District Board: Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. closed session, 6 p.m. open session, the Hanford Joint Union High School District, Board of Trustees will hold a regular meeting at the HJUHS district office, Hanford Joint Union High School, 823 W. Lacey Blvd., Hanford. Visit

KRHS District Board: Tuesday, 5 p.m. closed session, 7 p.m. open session, the Kings River-Hardwick School District will hold a regular meeting in the Board conference room, at Kings River-Hardwick School District, 10300 Excelsior Ave., Hanford, 582-0471. Visit:

Corcoran City Council meeting: Tuesday, 5:30 p.m., the Corcoran City Council holds regular meetings in the City Council Chambers, 1015 Chittenden Ave., Corcoran. Visit for more information. 

CUSD Governing Board: Tuesday, 6 p.m. regular meeting, held by the Corcoran Unified School District Board of Trustees in the Board Room of the Administration Office, 1520 Patterson Ave., Corcoran. Call 992-8888 or visit

Two ways Trump might be great for democracy

If you think the presidency of Donald Trump has cast a pall on American democracy, consider a bright side: It has been very good for two important institutions of civil society — social advocacy groups and newspapers.

One way to assess the changing state of the nation is to follow how people spend money. To that end, I looked at Commerce Department data on personal expenditures in the year before and after Trump’s election in early November 2016, to see if any shifts in U.S. consumer purchases stood out.

Two did. A category called “social advocacy groups and civil and social organizations” — which could include memberships in anything from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Rifle Association — saw its share of total spending grow by 16 percent. The share of another, “newspapers and periodicals,” increased about 7 percent. This put them both among the top five.

What’s more, their estimated share of aggregate U.S. consumer spending expanded much faster than it had at just about any point in the past 10 years.

It’s easy to guess what’s going on. Trump’s election has further polarized the nation, prompting more people to join organizations that they think will advance their goals.

And the desire to make sense of seemingly unending scandals, together with all the talk of “fake news,” has been a boon for traditional media. The New York Times, for example, has seen subscriptions rise sharply. The company reported that it added 105,000 net digital-only subscriptions for its news product in the third quarter, helping to push digital subscription revenue to $86 million, a 46 percent increase compared with the same period a year ago.

Will the trend in consumer spending translate into greater civic participation? Perhaps we’ll find out in next November’s congressional election.

Bookings and Blotters

Police Hanford

Friday, Dec. 1

6:21 a.m. Burglary, 500 block of West Birch Court.

10:18 a.m. Petty theft, 8500 block of North 12th Avenue.

10:43 a.m. Petty theft, 1800 block of South Courtright Avenue.

12:28 p.m. DUI stop, South 12th Avenue/West Hanford Armona Road.

2:28 p.m. Vagrancy, 1400 block of Glendale Avenue.

5:15 p.m. Petty theft, 100 block of Campus Drive.

5:24 p.m. Vehicle vandalism, 1000 block of East Terrace Drive.

5:58 p.m. Vagrancy, 500 block of North 11th Avenue.

7:22 p.m. Petty theft, 200 block of South 12th Avenue.

8:30 p.m. Petty theft, 1600 block of Mall Drive.

11:10 p.m. Man down, 100 block of West Sixth Street.


Friday, Dec. 1

Anthony Enes Martinho, 46. Suspicion of possession of paraphernalia for unlawful use, possession of a controlled substance and being under the influence of a controlled substance related offenses.

Victor Hugo Medina, 25. Suspicion of possession of paraphernalia for unlawful use, being under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of burglary tools and warrant related offenses.

Robert Leon Taylor, 36. Suspicion of possession of a loaded gun, possession of being an ex-felon with a firearm, being a prohibited person in possession of ammunition, transporting a controlled substance and warrant related offenses.

Martina Theresa Rodriguez, 38. Suspicion of possession of a stolen vehicle/vessel/trailer, unlawful taking of a vehicle and warrant related offenses.

Jay Dean Ohman, 30. Suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and warrant related offenses.

Melissa Rene Valles, 28. Suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and warrant related offenses.