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Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Most Important WW2 Document?

What you are looking at in the image above is a post-attack assessment map created by Fuchida Mitsuo (surname first), the pilot who led the Japanese forces that attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, "a date that will live in infamy."

Fuchida, by the way, was the one who famously screamed out the attack signal to the other Japanese pilots: "Tora! Tora! Tora!". I was 10-years-old, I think when I first saw the 1970 movie a few years later of the same name and it got me interested in the inner machinations of war beyond the typical rah-rah John Wayne stuff.

A very good friend of mine directed me to the December 6, 2013 edition of the:  Christie's New York Fine Printed Books And Manuscripts Including Americana sales catalog

Christie's… oh, if I only had the financial means… because after a quick perusal of the catalog, there were very few things in it that I wasn't interested in owning. Yes… I am greedy, but I also believe I possess a fine nose for history and items of historical value.(I'm reading my son a 112-year-old copy of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland - a story that fascinates him as much as the age of the book - which is still a 100 years younger than my oldest piece - which is still quite young if you ever get your hands on a Christie's catalog or visit a rare book store!)

Which brings us to this map that, as of December 7, 2013, was the property of the Forbes Collection. Put up for auction at Christies New York, it was valued - and expected to fetch - between US$400,000 to $600,000… and in my opinion is grossly under-valued, as it is priceless.

I'm not going to try and re-write what was written in the catalog… and will instead present what I saw there for Lot #71:   

[WORLD WAR II]. PEARL HARBOR. Post-battle damage assessment map of Pearl Harbor. Titled in Japanese with English translation: “Estimated Damage Report against Surface Ships on the Air Attack of Pearl Harbor,” December 8, 1941,” prepared by Mitsuo Fuchida, lead pilot of the Japanese attack, for a briefing of Emperor Hirohito, on 26 December 1941.
Large 2°,  (31-3/4" x 23-5/8" in.; 807 x 602mm.), neatly creased, a clean marginal tear repaired. Black ink and watercolor pigments (red, green, blue, yellow and lavender). With Fuchida’s neat English captions in red ink. In very bright, fresh condition.
This graphic, detailed, hand-drawn map of Pearl Harbor was prepared by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida,(1902-1976) based on action reports compiled aboard the aircraft carrier Akagi in the weeks following the devastating attack. Fuchida, a highly experienced pilot, was chosen to command the massive wave of Japanese carrier-based bombers, torpedo planes and Zero fighters which attacked the American Navy’s Pacific Fleet on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, a “day that will live in infamy.” Fuchida, flying with the first wave attackers, was charged to give the radio signal “Tora! Tora! Tora!” to confirm to his commanders that complete surprise had been obtained. This map or a photographic enlargement of it was employed in Fuchida’s briefing of the Emperor on December 26, 1941. As he recounts, “standing directly across from His Majesty, I unfolded the layout in front of him and, pointing with my finger at the relevant places on the battlefield diagram, gave a blow-by-blow description of our battle achievements against the enemy ships....” (Fuchida, p.109).
In large characters, the map carries a bold warning: “Top Secret.” Beneath it is a key recording the types of munitions used in the attack: 250k and 800k bombs and torpedoes. Another key shows the amount of danger inflicted: “minor,” “moderate,” “serious” and “sunk.” Torpedo tracks are rendered in red; bomb impacts with crosses. The position of American vessels, even small craft, is carefully shown; nearly all are identified in Japanese and English captions, the latter in red ink. Fuchida has drawn billowing explosions and flames issuing from six vessels. Clearly depicted are the dozen or so capital ships moored at Ford’s Island, including the battleships Pennsylvania, Arizona, Tennessee, Maryland, California, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Nevada. In the overwhelming surprise attack, the West Virginia, California and Arizona were sunk; badly damaged were the Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Nevada, Oklahoma and Maryland. The results of the meticulously planned attack depicted here were devastating: sunk or severely damaged were 21 warships, while 200 aircraft were mostly destroyed on the ground. The most painful blow, though, was the terrific loss of life: at least 2,400 Americans were killed and some 1,272 wounded.
News of the attack had far-reaching effects: it profoundly shocked and galvanized the America citizenry under the slogan “Remember Pearl Harbor!” Japan’s bold gamble “gave every American a personal stake in the titanic struggle which raged in Europe and Asia.” It “gave the average American a cause he could understand and believe worth fighting for.” In the view of Gordon W. Prange, the foremost historian of the event, “Pearl Harbor became the turning point of the world struggle” (Prange, p.738). References: Gordon W. Prange. At Dawn We Slept. The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor ; Mitsuo Fuchida, For That One Day. The Memoirs of Mitsuo Fuchida, Commander of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, 2011.
Provenance: Lt. Commander Mitsuo Fuchida (1902-1976) — Gordon W. Prange (1910-1980), historian attached to General Douglas MacArthur’s Far East Command in the late 1940s founder of the Prange Institute. Prange interviewed Fuchida on 29 June 1947 (sale, Sotheby’s, 3 May 1994, lot 104, $321,500). — The Malcolm S. Forbes Collection.

Photo taken by a Japanese pilot during the initial attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
Why do I think this is one of the most important document of World War II? It's just my opinion, but until this attack on the US territory of  Hawaii, the United States was still an innocent bystander with the war raging on in Europe… with millions of Jews dying under the heel of the Nazi bootstrap, countries being decimated, lives crushed… but the attack on Pearl Harbor not only united the Americans against a common threat, it got them involved in the war in Europe… and despite me being a proud Canadian, I know that without the US involvement, I'd probably be speaking Japanese as a citizen of India, or German here in Kanada.

Today, is the 72nd anniversary of that bombing in Hawaii.

Oh.. and I am told that the map sold for US $425,000. Someone got a great deal.

Andrew Joseph

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