No one blamed Mae West for Pearl Harbor. Run it through the search engines and nothing comes up about sexy American bombshells causing God to look the other way as Japanese dive bombers turned Pearl Harbor into a junk yard. The answer at AOL: “Your search for ‘mae west pearl harbor’ returned no results. We recommend that you check your spelling.”
There was, in short, no Jerry Falwell around to blame America for Pearl Harbor, no one wagging his finger at the sinners before the smoke had even cleared, proclaiming that God had pulled away America’s protective shield and let an explosion and fireball kill 1,177 crewmen on the USS Arizona because the nation had become too lewd and crude, too secular, too full of dirty movies, too full of people who got a kick out of Mae West when she said “So many men, so little time.”
All told, the only thing that pops up in the search for “mae west pearl harbor” are references to inflatable life-jackets, mainly in oral history accounts like the one by Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class Lee Soucy, crewman aboard the USS Utah on December 7, 1941.
“After a minute or two below the armored deck, we heard another bugle call, then the whistle followed by the boatswain’s chant, ‘Abandon ship, abandon ship,’” explains Soucy. “We scampered up the ladder. As I raced toward the open side of the deck, an officer stood by a stack of life preservers and tossed the jackets at us as we ran by. When I reached the open deck, the ship was listing precipitously. I thought about the huge amount of ammunition we had on board and that it would surely blow up soon. I wanted to get away from the ship fast, so I discarded my life jacket. I didn’t want a Mae West slowing me down.”
Or this oral history from Arthur Goodfriend about a briefing from his captain: “There’s nothing to worry about, he said, as he told us about the life raft, Mae West, radio, etc. Mae West is the thing you put around your body, a life preserver. It’s called a Mae West after the woman who has big breasts and so anything that bulges is a Mae West.”
In any case, it didn’t take long on that Dec. 7 morning. The first attack wave of 183 planes, composed of dive bombers, torpedo bombers, horizontal bombers and fighters, took off from Japanese carriers around 6:00 a.m. and headed for the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, located just 230 miles to the south. A little more than an hour later, at 7:15 a.m., a second attack wave of 167 Japanese planes lifted off the carriers.
The first group of planes hit Pearl Harbor at 7:53 a.m., the second wave at 8:55. By 9:55 a.m., it was all over. Two hours and 2,403 dead – 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians, with most of the latter killed by improperly fused American anti-aircraft shells landing in Honolulu. In addition to the dead, 1,178 wounded, plus 188 planes destroyed, mostly on the ground, five battleships sunk, another three heavily damaged, plus the loss of three destroyers, three cruisers and three smaller vessels.
American anti-aircraft guns were unmanned, ammunition boxes were locked, and Billy Graham, 23, was fresh out of the Florida Bible Institute with a Bachelor of Theology degree. There’s no record of Rev. Graham saying anything about 3,581 Americans being killed and wounded during those two hours because “My Little Chickadee” was playing in America’s movie houses, a film that paired bad-girl Mae “I used to be Snow White but I drifted” West with W.C. “More people are driven insane through religious hysteria than by drinking alcohol” Fields.
It’s that quote from Fields that best describes some of the more wacky e-mail that’s been filling my mailbox since I economically summarized Jerry Falwell’s buttinski theology this way in a recent column: “God got in bed with an international gang of Islamic terrorists because Ellen DeGeneres got in bed with Anne Heche.”
Robert L. sends a typical response: “Mr. Reiland, theology is not your strong suit. God is giving us a wake up call, telling us ‘WAKE UP AMERICA! NEXT TIME IT MIGHT BE A NUCLEAR ATTACK.’” Nice! God’s the perfect and all-knowing father who’ll nuke his own kids for being less than picture-perfect? That’s the kind of person we lock up.
From Dave, much the same, all in caps: “YOU OWE IT TO YOURSELF TO SEE HOW MAD GOD REALLY CAN BE. READ ISAIAH. PLEASE! WHAT ON THIS EARTH GIVES YOU THE IMPRESSION THAT GOD CAN BE ANYTHING BUT MAD?” Why so vindictive and mad, perpetually? I always thought He had it pretty nice.
And from Mark: “Abortion is more morally depraved than bin Laden’s terrorism. He’s trying to kill Jews and there are more of them in New York City than in Israel, and they’re easier to kill there.” And this nice summing up of sacred history, from Marlene: “Hosea said Israel was a whore.” Mark, Marlene, guess what? Whores are way more fun than terrorists! Who’d you rather have drop by when you’re up on the 80th floor?
Bottom line: Is anyone getting the idea that religion – both here and in the Afghan caves – is driving people nuts?