History Read-Along: Pearl Harbor Christmas, Chapters 7-9

There’s been some talk on our Facebook page and hints that this book might not have been a winning holiday surprise, but we’ll stick with the history reading and continue with the chapter summaries which have been well received. Let us know your favorite holiday history books in the comments and we’ll keep them in mind for next year!

This week we’re reading Chapters 7-9 in Pearl Harbor Christmas by Stanley Weintraub. The chapters are titled: December 26, 1914; December 27, 1941; December 28, 1941. And here’s the summary, some favorite quotes, and a little extra history and inspiration.

Historical Summary

December 26, 1941

  • In the Philippines, Manila – now declared an open city – awaited the approaching Japanese army while the Allied defenders continued to fall back.
  • The destroyer USS Peary left the islands with a few evacuees and after a hasty outfitting for war with camouflage repaint and a few extra radios and coding machines.
  • The Japanese continued to advance on Singapore while British troops retreated, unable and undermanned to hold defensive positions.
  • In Europe, Germans realized Hitler’s promises of a quick victory over the Soviet Union had failed and their army was literally freezing to death in Russia.
  • Prime Minister Churchill worked on his speech to the United States Congress in varying stages of undress during the morning hours.
  • President Roosevelt did not accompany Churchill to the Capitol Building, instead staying at the White House and listening to the speech on the radio.
  • Churchill made a realistic, yet positive speech to Congress which was well received by the representatives and American public.
  • Operation Archery – a secretive mission by British commandos – started that morning to raid Vagsoy Island and hopefully force the Nazis to move more men into the far north of Norway to protect the fish oil production factories; in the end, it was partially successful and 30,000 additional German soldiers moved from other parts of Europe to Norway.
  • MacArthur in the Philippines

    In the afternoon, the leaders and their military staffs heatedly debated the possibility of a North Africa campaign.

  • Vichy France seemed to have some supporters in Canada who might have been feeding information to the Germans, causing concern about France and military operations and relations with Charles De Gaulle and his pro-Allies, anti-Vichy government.
  • At 6:30pm, a train left Washington D.C., carrying the founding documents from the Library of Congres toward safety in Kentucky.
  • In the evening, Church suffered severe chest pains but did not tell anyone or his personal doctor.

December 27, 1941

  • In the Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur kept up a steady stream of encouraging – though usually false – reports.
  • A new British commander took over in the attempted defense of Singapore.
  • In Washington D.C. Churchill consulted with his personal doctor about the chest pains and agreed to “take it easy” if that meant he didn’t have to do bedrest.
  • On the Pacific coast and in the American west, civilians took prompt measure of citizen patrols, blackouts, and other wartime necessities.
  • In the White House military meetings, it was proposed to build up the Allied fleets and troops at a location out of immediate reach of the Japanese forces; Australia was the preferred location but not mentioned by name yet.
  • Military production in the United States had already exceeded expectations – for example, one factory produced 13 more bombers than the anticipated 37.
  • The founding documents from Library of Congress arrived in Fort Knox and would remain locked away until 1944 when threat of bombing or sudden attack on Washington had ended.
  • Roosevelt and Churchill had lunch with the Russian ambassador, working on specific wording in the Allied goals that would hopefully meet with Stalin’s approval; this meeting became the foundation for the announcements that would help institute the United Nations after the war.
  • Unity of military commands and purpose remained a key issue during the discussions.

Churchill and Roosevelt, December 1941 (no known restrictions)

December 28, 1941

  • The USS Peary – still at sea – was attacked by friendly fire from American plans.
  • Churchill begins to agree on unity of command in the Pacific, with the United States taking overall lead.
  • The Germans continued to make advances in North Africa and the Japanese captured more territory in the Pacific, raising the stakes and limiting the options for the Allied planners.
  • Churchill and Roosevelt worried about political relations with Vichy France and that was one of the important topics in the prime minister’s upcoming speech in Canada. They need to keep De Gaulle and the Free French on the Allied side and take measure against Vichy which was basically collaborating with the Nazis.
  • Churchill made an overnight trip to Ottawa in the presidential train car.
  • The Australian government started objecting to an overall Allied command, especially one based in their country for preparations.
  • Though not know to any of the political leaders at the time, a secretive special forces mission in Europe resulted in the assassination of the Nazi leader in the Czechoslovakia region; in the following days, Hitler ordered slaughters of the local people as retaliation and prevented any further Allied attempts at secretive assassinations.


“I renew my solemn pledge to you that your freedom will be redeemed and your independence established and protected.” President Roosevelt in a drafted speech for the Philippines.

“Good start! But what an effort. Talk-talk-talk.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

Prime Minister King

Extra History

William Lyon Mackenzie King served as Prime Minister of Canada from 1935 to 1948. During World War II, King worked tirelessly to get have Canada support the Allied war effort by sending money, supplies, and volunteers (military and civilian). While also growing the country’s economy and keeping up the homefront support.

King had been in communication with Churchill and his team in Washington D.C. about the war effort and the upcoming visit to Canada. (Come back next week to hear about the speech!)

Holiday Inspiration

I love the holiday season – the family time, the cookies, the singing, the shopping, the decorating, etc. etc. But one of my favorite things is taking time to plan! These chapters of preparation and continuing discussions are some starting inspiration for my big week of planning for the new year. Happily, I’m not planning a war…

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

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