My Pearl Harbor Scrapbook 1941 – Book Review
My Pearl Harbor Scrapbook 1941: A Nostalgic Collection of Memories. Book Review. Created by Bess Taubman. Written by Bess Taubman and Earnest Arroyo. Designed by Edward L. Cox, Jr. Publisher, Mapmania Publishing. Hardcover, 88 pages including front and back matter; illustrated throughout. $24.95
My Pearl Harbor Scrapbook 1941: A Nostalgic Collection of Memories is, if not unique, certainly unusual in its presentation. At 10 ¼” long by 7 ¼” high, it is designed to look like an actual scrapbook, a motif that continues throughout. Each page is designed to have the appearance of a collection of photos, ration stamps, postcards, aircraft identification cards, baggage tickets, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera. Some newspaper clippings have information circled in red ink, heightening the impression that is actually someone’s wartime scrapbook, with a few post-war items included that could have been added to the collection at a later date. At the end are two pages where readers can add “My own photo of Pearl Harbor” and notes on their trip there and “My family’s memories of Pearl Harbor.”
There is also a wealth of images of items that could not be included in an actual scrapbook, such as three-dimensional items (military medals, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard ID pins, Japanese uniform buttons, etc.) and things too large to fit into a scrapbook’s pages, such as propaganda posters, newspaper front pages, and maps. Images often overlap, as they might if someone were trying to fit items of varying sizes onto a scrapbook page.
Even the page numbers often look like some sort of ID tag with a string attached to the “disk” in which they appear. One particularly nice touch is a timeline of significant events from January 7 to December 6, 1941; the line looks like a tape measure onto which labels have been attached identifying the months. Some pages fold out to present additional information.
And there is a lot of information crammed into these pages. Don’t let this book’s size fool you; readers will learn a lot from its judiciously used text. There are thumbnail bios of U.S. Leaders of Defense/Japanese Leaders of War; data on American and Japanese losses; explanations of events leading up to the Pearl Harbor strike; and the Japanese blueprint for the attack. Four types of Japanese planes (“Jake” seaplane, D3A1 “Val” dive bomber, “Kate” torpedo and high-level bomber, and A6M2 “Zero” fighter) each get a page with blueprints and photos. Some text is laid out in a traditional style, some has the appearance of hand-written notes, and some sidebars—such as a report on what happened to each of the 36 aerial torpedoes that were dropped—are presented as aging scraps torn from a magazine or newspaper or as a browning, stained luggage tag.
The US battleships that were at Pearl that day get two facing pages each that contain stats such as the ship’s pre–WWII history; its length, weight and number of crew; what damage it sustained in the attack; its history during the rest of the war; and how it ended its career—sunk, sold for scrap, used as a target in training exercises.
Two of the earliest pages have photos from Hawaii prior to the Day of Infamy. Others explore life there during the rest of the war, during martial law. Japanese internment in America is covered, and several pages are given over to the American Home Front, with information such as, “Sugar was nearly impossible to buy. Coca-Cola reduced production by 50% as sugar was used to make gun powder, which meant candy and gum were also unavailable.”
As I said earlier, the amount of information crammed into these pages is amazing, given the format, and it is not just a re-hashing of info that can be found in the many summaries of events at Pearl Harbor. The photos, too, are not “the usual suspects” we’ve seen so many times. The compilers did a great job of culling through archives to bring us pictures of women employed by the Honolulu Police Department taking part in gas attack drills at the Ala Moana Rife Range; bathing-suit clad beachgoers strolling past barbed wire on Wakiki Beach; images of damage from the attack that are rarely seen. There are also photographs and reproductions of items from private collections. My hat is off to the compilers for the amount of effort they put into finding such images—and I say that as a former editor of photo-history coffee-table books and the author of one such book.
Testifying to the quality of My Pearl Harbor Scrapbook is the fact that the authors were able to get the National Park Service Chief Historian at the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor, Daniel Martinez, to write the foreword.
My only complaint about the book is that I would like to have seen an additional couple of pages on life in Hawaii before the attack. On December 7, 1941, the mother of friend of mine was on a ship bound from California to Hawaii to reunite with her husband, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor. Mid-trip, the ship received a message about that morning’s attack and went back to California. It was four more years before she saw her husband again. My friend has mentioned on more than one occasion that she regrets not having asked her father more about his time in Honolulu, and there are probably many children and grandchildren who have similar regrets. Perhaps the creative team that produced this book will someday do a prequel, “America Before the Day of Infamy,” that looks at Hawaii and the US in the months leading up to December 7, 1941.
My Pearl Harbor Scrapbook 1941 is, quite simply, a marvelous book. Its format makes it accessible to anyone from pre-teens with little knowledge of the Second World War to senior citizens who experienced the war years firsthand. Even people who normally wouldn’t read a history book are likely to find this one intriguing. I strongly suspect that if Grandpa or Grandma gets this book for Christmas, the family might as well give up on conversation for a few hours while the grandparents linger over its pages and remember.
Gerald D. Swick is senior editor for ArmchairGeneral.com and author of Historic Photos of West Virginia (Turner Publishing, 2010). He contributed several articles to The Encyclopedia of World War II: A Political, Social and Military History (ABC-CLIO, 2005)