*** As history flows all around us, as we read daily of momentous events and happenings, what we do not see are the smaller stories that never make the news, or the plans that are discussed but never carried out. When something historically important happens, historians then research everything surrounding that event to see whether or not their were ancillary plans that could have influenced history one way or the other. And there are few events in the unfolding history of Mankind more seminal than the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which occurred 67 years ago today.

Seemingly every scrap of information about that attack, and the events leading up to it, have been debated and discussed and dissected ad infinitum. You would think that we know everything there is to know.

Maybe not. Author Alan Armstrong’s new book, Preemptive Strike: The Secret Plan That Would Have Prevented the Attack on Pearl Harbor, postulates that the Japanese learned of a hare-brained scheme to bomb Japan from Chinese bases, using twin-engined Lockheed Hudson bombers.

Now, from our vantage point this is truly idiotic. The Hudson wound up serving a vital role in WW2 as a patrol bomber, that is, a small bomber with long range that could go out and hunt subs and generally serve as an early warning system around Australia and the U.S., or England. Not particularly fast, not well-armed and carrying a pretty small bomb load, what they were not suited for was any sort of strategic bombing role. And yet, according to Armstrong’s new book, that is precisely what was proposed they do, attack Japanese industrial targets from Chinese bases.

Could this rather naive plan have done any harm to the Japanese whatsoever? Maybe if you’d had 10,000 Hudsons they would have noticed. But the concept that somehow a small number of these light bombers would force the Japanese to withdraw from China is incomprehensible. And, if the author is correct and the Japanese learned of the plan and this influenced them to attack Pearl Harbor first, and that’s a big if, then the plan goes from merely inane to criminal.

Could important US officials have been this stupid?

*** It seems fitting that on the anniversary of the USA being dragged into World War II we have more than one book review on the topic, this time a little known mission by the OSS, forerunner of the CIA, the sort of thing that its leader ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan loved.

The Brenner Pass was and is the valley connecting Austria and Italy, a vital link through the Alps that is crucial for any commerce between the two countries. Bring down the pass blocking the link and it makes it very hard for either country to help the other. Thus was a mission born that sounds far-fetched in hindsight, but well worth the gamble during wartime.

The Brenner Assignment by noted historian Patrick K. O’Donnell looks like just the sort of thing your friendly neighborhood bookseller would want to read on a cold winter’s night. Or a great Christmas gift for a WW2 buff.

A small, gallant mission

*** Keeping with today’s unintended theme of history as blog-fodder, one biography I would dearly love to carve out time to read is Jon Meacham’s American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. Indeed, were that there was a prequel to this detailing his entire life, but it seems pretty clear now that Jackson was way ahead of his time politically and, since he is a Tennessean and so am I, I should know quite a bit more about him than I do. so that’s going on the -to-do list for 2009 along with curing cancer and getting rich.

Jackson in the White House

Finally, since this is the season of giving, I’ll do something I don’t usually do and recommend another website. MrsP.com is devoted to promoting reading for children and I can’t see one darned thing wrong with that. I non-commercial site, I can only assume that MrsP either is independently wealthy or maybe has a grant of some kind. However she can afford to publish her site, it’s a good place for the young ones.