Tuesday, December 6, 2016

An Infamous brand.

The burning hulk of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.
“A day that will live in infamy…” Such words were spoken by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt to describe the Sunday, December 7th bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. To this day, the event stands as a universal symbol of treachery and deceit. It is the singular icon of America’s entry into World War II, instantly recognizable and, for Americans, instantly evoking emotion. For many Japanese, it is a graphic reminder of past shames during a war of shames. But if the element of surprise is such a core tenant of military strategy, then what makes Pearl Harbor any more tragic than other attacks?

Well, a little background and context:

First, Pearl Harbor is itself is a lagoon of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. By 1941, Hawaii was a US territory in the Pacific, and host to one of the nation’s military outpost—a big one. President Roosevelt moved a massive chunk of the US Navy Pacific Fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor as a bristly warning for the Japanese to stop their conquest efforts throughout the Pacific islands and Asia. It was an act that only added to deteriorating relations between the US and Japan. The result was the now infamous surprise attack.

The attack itself was planned months ahead of the event with Japanese pilots rehearsing every detail of the raid. And this is key—preparations were in full swing while still in negotiations with the US. Indeed, six Japanese aircraft carriers and support craft secretly steamed for Hawaii a week and half before the attack. At about 7:48 am local time, waves of nearly four hundred planes descended on Pearl Harbor, dropping bombs and torpedoes, as well as strafing vehicles, aircraft and personnel on the ground. Because it was a Sunday, the American forces were literally caught sleeping.

Japanese scale model of Pearl Harbor used to plan Dec 7.
Although the primary targets of the planned attack were not in port, the US aircraft carriers, the 90-minute aerial assault inflicted heavy damages to the Pacific Fleet at anchor. This included four ships sunk, 15 vessels heavily damaged, along with 188 destroyed aircraft and another 159 damaged. Of those killed in the attack, 2,403 were American, not including 68 civilians. More than 1,100 were wounded.

By contrast, Imperial Japanese losses were a fraction of those suffered by the US. Four midget submarines were sunk with one captured. Only 29 Japanese aircraft were destroyed. Japanese killed in action during the attack totaled 64.

December 7th was a blow, to be sure. And while a fine stroke from a military perspective, Pearl Harbor did not have the decisive impact Japan hoped. The US did not sue for peace, nor was there irreparable damage sustained to most vessels. And for the most part, the Pearl Harbor facilities were left largely untouched.

Certainly the human toll, damages and havoc wrought by the attack is one attribute of the event. Witnesses and survivors know the horror of the experience—and horrific it was to those trapped in capsized ships, strafed in the water, or in and near explosions. Burning oil, mangled ships and planes, along with human carnage everywhere leaves an indelible image. The other, however, the one that stung most—and for some never permitted forgiveness—was the treachery of Japan's conduct. So awful in the whole event was the fact that it took place while Japanese diplomats were negotiating with the US government. No declaration of war, no formal diplomatic warning—nada. It was an intentional dupe into the possibility for peace. Part of the cause was from the time it took Japanese diplomats to decipher messages from Tokyo, and then to retype them for a meeting scheduled with the US Secretary of State Cordell Hull. The final part of a 14-part message was delivered more than hour late and read as follows:
Thus, the earnest hope of the Japanese Government to adjust Japanese-American relations and to preserve and promote the peace of the Pacific through cooperation with the American Government has finally been lost. 
The Japanese Government regrets to have to notify hereby the American Government that in view of the attitude of the American Government it cannot but consider that it is impossible to reach an agreement through further negotiations.
Despite transcription issues, the original intent was to time a hint of war only mere minutes before the attack. Japan, it turns out, never really wanted peace. Secretary Hull admonished the Japanese diplomats and dismissed them from his office. They would be taken to a nearby hotel and held until war’s end. But before the day was out, and within hours of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Japan also invaded the Philippine Islands, that itself had tragic and horrendous consequences for American and British forces there. However, it compounded the already unthinkable and wicked idea that Japan had attacked during negotiations to keep the peace.

Adding to our collective cringe at the thought of events during the attack at Pearl Harbor, is the fact that it is a living memory. This is not an incident with impact softened by centuries. Many of its victims are still alive today and can recount their experiences. While much of the wreckage at Pearl Harbor was removed, repaired or even left cloaked by water, the Arizona Memorial marks one of the greater tragedies of the attack—nearly an entire crew lost with the ship, accounting for almost half of all the deaths suffered during the attack. The US Navy continually pays homage to the fallen of the Arizona. Its decaying hulk is marked and protected. It is hallowed ground. And crowds come to view it every day. She represents what is considered an unprovoked attack at a time when deceptions of peace were used to mask murderous intent, marking a day that will live in infamy. 

An aerial view of the Arizona Memorial.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The POTUS brand on a day that will live in infamy.

Now that the 2016 U.S. presidential election day is upon us, compare your favorite (or least loathed) candidate to these icons from American presidential history.

George Washington - No lie—George Washington was a man well prepared to lead our nation against the British. If there was one better, he never surfaced. Not only did he serve our budding nation with honor—his leadership demonstrated deep conviction for that which he fought.

Abe Lincoln - Just a little bigger —Abraham Lincoln was never a soldier, but he studied hard about military history and tactics while leading a nation through a divisive war. And for his duty, he gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Theodore Roosevelt—Some would argue that Teddy Roosevelt was the greatest U.S. president of the 20th Century, perhaps of all time. Few presidents have had as much impact on the evolution of American status, policy—both foreign and domestic, while influencing future presidents of both major parties. For this one, it took three entries to tell his story.
A bully brand        The bully pulpit         The old lion

Franklin Delano Roosevelt – FDR, as he was known, is held up as one of the greatest of the U.S. presidents. Elected to office four times, Roosevelt presided during the Great Depression and World War II, all while battling a crippling disease. Like his cousin, Teddy, Roosevelt has lasting influence on American politics, even today. Many of his Depression-era programs remain in effect, leaving his legacy both revered and reviled.
A new deal           A new deal for new hope 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Brand and patriotism seed the National Pastime.

by Cliff Gillock

Vintage 1880s baseball.
Ask any one who invented baseball and if they have any answer at all, chances are they will mention Abner Doubleday and maybe Cooperstown, New York. After all, isn’t that the location of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum? Yes.

And no. 

For many years, Abner Doubleday was credited with having invented The Game out of whole cloth, right there at Cooperstown in 1839. The rest is history.

Well, not exactly. In fact, not at all.

Abner Doubleday was a U. S. Army officer who later distinguished himself at Gettysburg in the Civil War. In 1839, however, he was still a cadet at West Point. There is no evidence of his ever visiting Cooperstown in any capacity. He certainly had no time or inclination to “invent” a game or even witness such an event. It is not known if he ever saw a baseball game; it was popularized and spread by the soldiers playing during the war, so it’s possible.

So how did this enduring myth become the popular notion about the origin of the game? And what’s up with Cooperstown?

Until around 1905, little thought was given to baseball’s origin. By then a former player, manager, club owner and astute businessman had become a giant in the sporting goods business. Albert G. Spalding imagined, in a typically American way, that given the now popularity of baseball, it might be good for business if baseball could be shown to be a uniquely American game.

Spalding had for some time had a running conversation with an associate about the subject. The friend believed, correctly, that the game was not “invented” per se, but evolved from a number of stick-and-ball games such as Cricket and Rounders, and other games popular among boys in England.

Abner Doubleday
Spalding decided to settle the controversy once and for all. He organized a commission to investigate baseball’s origin. His opinion was somewhat skewed by some vague information he had received in a letter form an old, old man, a native of Cooperstown, who reminisced about memories of a schoolmate –Doubleday– who, the man claimed, had written and drawn up the game one afternoon right there in Cooperstown.

This scenario fit perfectly into Spalding’s plan, and with his encouragement (not to mention coercion) to the commission, it was determined that “according to the best evidence obtainable to date, baseball was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown.” Said and done.

Beginning well before the Civil War, baseball had been played in towns and cities, vacant lots, school yards, and streets all over America by boys, men, even girls according to their own local rules, which varied greatly.

Some time around 1842, baseball began to get organized. A group of young men in Manhattan began to gather regularly to form loose knit teams to play each other in one form of the game or another. Finally, in 1845, a young entrepreneur named Alexander Cartwright organized twenty-eight of these men to become the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club. The players came from many walks of life; their primary requirement was “to be at liberty after 3 o’clock in the afternoon”.

Cartwright and some of his associates had endeavored to codify the rules of baseball to bring consistency to the way the game was to be played. Those rules became the basis of baseball as we know it and is played today.

Image of a game in the 1880s - notice no glove!
Now the game began to take hold. Scheduled games were now drawing sizable crowds. Even so, for many years in New York, baseball remained rigidly a gentleman’s game and strictly amateur.

But as the game spread it became decidedly less gentile and amateurism ultimately began to recede. In 1869, the first openly professional ball club took the field: the Cincinnati Red Stockings. With the realization that patrons would actually pay to see such a team the floodgates opened. American enterprise took charge. Baseball became our game…and our business.

Move ahead to 1936. The “100th Anniversary “ of baseball would be observed in three years.

In Cooperstown, a local resident thought an exhibition of a collection of baseball artifacts night generate some interest. After all Cooperstown had been “officially” declared the home of the “invention” of baseball by Abner Doubleday in 1839.

The idea took hold. With significant backing from wealthy local resources, it was decided to establish a National Baseball Museum “for the purpose of collecting and preserving pictures and relics reflecting the development of the National Game from the time of its inception, through the ingenuity of Major General Abner Doubleday in 1839 to the present.”

The first nine - first team ever.
Ford Frick, the president of the National League, expanded the idea: “create a permanent National Hall of Fame to be built and dedicated on the now recognized centennial of America’s Game.” A commission selected the first five members: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, and Christy Mathewson.

Now The National Pastime–the brand, if you will–was secured. Through depression, wartime, good times and bad, baseball became inextricably woven into the fabric of American life. Even today, 177 years after Abner, it remains so.

Perhaps, at least on the professional level, baseball has been eclipsed by football and television and the spectacle of the Super Bowl. Even so, millions of children, from age six on, play baseball. Spectator attendance in sparkling state-of the-art stadiums is at an all-time high. Revenues are in the billions of dollars. It’s organized, polished and maybe overly supervised. But baseball is still a vital part of our lives. Part myth. Part legend.

And All-American.

References: Ken Burns Baseball-An Illustrated History
                    Baseball As America: Seeing ourselves through our National Game

Note: Post originally appeared in February 2016.

Cliff Gillock is a prominent figure in the marcom world, having advised epic brands, including Exxon, Shell and Gulf Oil. He twice served as chair of the AAF-Houston President’s Council, won a national ADDY and received an AAF-Houston Silver Medal in 2007. Gillock was also a curator for the AAF-Houston legacy exhibit. Learn more about Cliff and other contributors on the Knights of the Round Table page.