Gordon Prange’s At Dawn We Slept must be considered one of the definitive works regarding the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Despite being 36 years old, this book details all the major contributors and factors that led America into war with Japan.
While acting as Chief Historian in General Douglas MacArthur’s staff, Doctor Prange interviewed Japanese military officers, enlisted men, and civilians. These interviews allowed him to reconstruct the Pearl Harbor attack from the planning stages to execution.
Bu fusing the first hand Japanese accounts with American source material, Dr. Prange clearly illustrates how and why American military and civilian leaders ignored information collected by our own intelligence sources. What we see is that events don’t just happen – they are the results of either action or, in this case, inaction motivated by wishful thinking.
I first read At Dawn We Slept as an undergraduate student back in the late 1980s. Since then, I’ve reread it several times and have actually used excepts while teaching middle school history. When middle school students can access and enjoy a “college” book, you know it has merit.
An enjoyable read for both the academic and armchair historian.