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Theme:  Innocence, Infamy, Invincibility, Sacrificial Love  


Innocence (beauty); Infamy (affliction); Invincibility (redemption); Sacrificial love

"Pearl Harbor is a tale of shocking surprise, catastrophic defeat, heroic victory, and, most of all, overwhelming love."1  It is a timeless tale; and because it contains all of these elements, it captures our hearts.

Innocence 2

The movie opens in Tennessee, "America's Heartland", with two innocent young boys and the beauty of their friendship.  They are playing in their "spare parts" airplane, and the playing cards reveal their hearts
desire -  to be ace pilots.  Their relationship is established in these early scenes.  Rafe, the oldest and the natural leader, has a fearless passion for flying.  He becomes Danny's protector.  Danny, physically larger, demonstrates his willingness to be Rafe's right hand, stepping in to help whenever needed (even with spelling). The sealing of their friendship takes place after Rafe saves Danny from the brutal grasp of his father. Danny turns to Rafe and simply says, "You are my best friend."  It is a covenant promise of friendship
(1 Samuel 20-42).

The theme of innocence and beauty is continued in the relationship that develops between Rafe and the Navy nurse, Evelyn. Their meeting and four-week romance include scenes of beauty (train and mist), intimacy (healing the nose), and adventure (New York Harbor by moonlight).  Rafe has volunteered to join the Eagle Squadron; and on the night before his departure for war, he gives his heart to Evelyn and makes her this promise, "I will come back."  It is a promise of unconditional love (Romans 8:38-39).
As the film shifts from the United States to the Hawaiian Islands, it focuses in on Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor becomes a metaphor for the Garden of Eden.  Betty, a navy nurse, proclaims it to be "Paradise."  The scenes of beauty and innocence intensify. The hospital ward is pristine with white billowing curtains.  It contains only one sunburned patient, as if to underscore that this is the worst thing that can happen in this idyllic place.  Even the news of Rafe's loss seems otherworldly, and the relationship that develops between Danny and Evelyn takes on a beauty and naivet√© of its own.  Repeating the romantic pictures of Rafe and Evelyn in New York Harbor, Danny takes Evelyn for a sunset ride over Pearl Harbor.  Once again we see the themes of beauty (sunset over Pearl Harbor), adventure (the thrilling ride), and intimacy (the parachute scene).  Danny, like Rafe, gives Evelyn his heart.  After watching the sunrise, he finds Evelyn and makes her this promise, "This is the start of something new in this time and place, and everything will be alright."  It is a prophetic promise of life.

Throughout the scenes of beauty and innocence, the sunset has been used as a powerful metaphor.  It symbolically is warning this "day" is almost over.  Contrasted with the beautiful sunsets is the rising sun battle flag of Japan.3  All along the Japanese have been secretly planning the destruction of paradise. It will come as a shocking surprise to the inhabitants of Eden. 

The end of beauty and innocence comes with the sunrise of December 7, 1941.  The promise of the Japanese Admiral to catch Pearl Harbor asleep in the morning mist is now fulfilled.  As the planes fly in, the last moments of America's innocence are captured with pictures of boy scouts, angels (Christmas pageants), fishing, baseball, laundry, peaceful sleep, and a kind word from a white man to a black man, a captain to a cook.


When the first torpedo hits, it gives us a literal picture of all hell breaking loose.  It is such a shocking surprise because no one knew that an enemy had entered the garden (the Japanese tourist spy).  The Washington Peace Talks were a simple deception to trap America in her most vulnerable position.  As Admiral Kimmel says, "A smart enemy hits you exactly where you think you are safe."  It is a tactic that goes back to Genesis 3.
The scenes of the bombing of Pearl Harbor are profound.  They capture symbolically all that the "fall of Eden" and loss of innocence represent.  They are pictures of the reign of death (Romans 5:12).  They are
pictures of hell.  They reveal the true target of the enemy, the destruction of the human being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

In his book, Pearl Harbor, Randall Wallace describes what happened to the hospital, "The once pristine hospital, that place that Evelyn had first seen as a snowy white, perfectly ordered arrangement of luminous empty beds, was now a nightmare of crimson horror." 4   Evelyn, who has always been the head nurse, is now given more authority.  She must stand outside and mark on the foreheads of the wounded, distinguishing between those who can be saved and those who cannot.  She instructs the guards, "Don't let anyone in that doesn't have a mark."  Within the context of the fallen world, the hospital* symbolizes God's House, where only those marked for salvation are allowed to enter (Ezekiel 9:1-4, Revelation 9:1-4).

A key scene that gives revelation about the unique relationship between Danny, Rafe, and Evelyn takes place in the hospital.  While Evelyn is taking blood from both of them, a priest is in the next room speaking to a
dying man,
"Remember son, hold onto faith. Remember what Jesus said, 'Fear not'.  You are a man truly blessed and will die in a state of grace.  Pain is temporary, but glory is forever.  You will be with all the saints
and angels soon. Go with God, absolved of sin in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
(Father and repeated in Latin.)  Go with God."

Here are three who are tied together in a unique love relationship for one another.  Two are giving their lifeblood, while one receives it to dispense to the fallen. At the same time, the priest is explaining a unique Triune love relationship that reaches out to include mankind and deliver him to glory.


In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, America sought for a way to strike back at the enemy.  The movie recounts the famous "Doolittle Raid" on Tokyo, with Rafe and Danny flying two of the bombers.  Doolittle tells the purpose of the mission to them when he explains that it will be a pinprick into the heart of the enemy, and it will give America reason to believe.  As the pilots take off they proclaim to one another, "We're the tip of the sword." (Deuteronomy 33:29)

Sacrifice has been the main theme of the movie.  It began in the opening scenes when Rafe sacrificed himself in order to free Danny. It continued with all the lives lost at Pearl Harbor.  They were like sacrificial lambs on the altar of freedom.  It included Evelyn's sacrifice of her own desires for the child she carries.  The theme now comes to its moving conclusion with Danny.

Rafe's plane crashes first and is under fire from a Japanese patrol.  Danny crashes his plane, killing the Japanese that were firing on Rafe and his crew.  Running to Danny, Rafe finds him alive yet wounded. Suddenly, more Japanese appear. They tie Rafe's feet together and Danny's arms to a yoke.  In the rapid moving scenes that follow, Danny sacrifices himself in order to save Rafe's life (John 15:13).  As Rafe cradles Danny in his arms, he unties his hands from the yoke.  He pleads with him to live and tells him he is
going to be a father.  Danny with his last breath says, "No, you are."

There is no doubt that the tying of Danny to the yoke is crucifixion imagery.  Randall Wallace writes, "From somewhere they found a twisted tree branch and used it as a yoke, binding Danny's wrists to the wood as if to crucify him and tying a wire around his neck to pin him back even farther." 5

Who does Danny represent?  Who does Rafe represent?  What is the unique, overwhelming love that exists between them that reaches out to Evelyn?  What kind of love sacrifices its own desire as each of these have had to do in order to lay their life down for the other? Why do we love all three of them and want to experience a love like that?  Why are our hearts so wrenched by this scene?  Perhaps it is because this is an incredible picture of God the Father untying the hands of God the Son from the Cross at Calvary.  The Cross that was the "tip of the sword" driven into the enemy's heart.  The Cross that brought victory out of defeat and glory from ashes.  The Cross that crucified the Lamb of God for the sins of the world (John 1:29,
John 3:16).

The movie ends where it began in a garden-like setting in Tennessee.  Rafe and Evelyn stand next to a memorial, and with them is little Danny.  The promises of friendship, unconditional love, and life have been
fulfilled.  As Danny had prophesied, something new has begun.  There is the sense that everything will be alright.  Once again, Rafe takes to the sky in the red bi-plane; once again, he cradles Danny in his arms.

Scriptures:  Hebrew 2:9-18
                         John 15:1-17
                  John 1:1-18

Meaning of the Character's Names:  

Rafe (Raphael) -  Hebrew for "God has healed"
Danny (Daniel) -  Hebrew for "God is my judge"
Evelyn (Eve) -  Hebrew for "Life"
                                    The Greatest Baby Name Book Ever by Carol McD.Wallace

Reference to the Number 3:

    • 3 makeup cases on the train

    • Rafe under # 3 during the eye exam

    • Rafe at Station 3 getting a shot

    • Hotel room # 321

    • Hospital Ward 3 in Pearl harbor

    • 3 pictures, Rafe KIA, one on each side killed in training

    • 3 candles burning as Evelyn weeps

    • 3 months later

    • Danny's flight with Evelyn in plane # 302

    • Japanese task force 320 miles from Pearl Harbor

    • Japanese pilot writing his father, 3 candles burn

    • Planes on the field all begin with # 3

    • 2 out of 3 planes get into the air - # 306 and # 308

    • 3 hands reach up out of the sunken ship

    • FDR speech - over 3,000 lost

    • 3 Japanese women with umbrellas

Immortal Images / Apocalyptic Visions:

The torpedo falling from the sky and hitting the Arizona  - Revelation 9:1-3

The capsizing of the Oklahoma; the letters HOM are turned upside down - Revelation 8:8,9  

The boat moving through waters of the dead - Revelation 8:10,11 

 Underwater scenes of men trying to hide behind rocks to escape from bullets - Revelation 6:14-17

The trapped hands reaching up from the sealed compartment - Psalm31:5

The fishnet of dead men being raised from the waters - Ecclesastes 9:12

The Arizona underwater with men lying on top, viewed from the air - 2 Samuel 1:19

The marking on the foreheads outside the hospital - Revelation 9:4

The United States flag floating in the water with light filtering through the holes - Ezekiel 10:18

The Volunteers step forward - Luke 9:24 

Rafe holding Danny in his arms - John 12:24  

Danny's casket returns home - 2 Samuel 1:25-27  

Everything Has Its Time
1 To everything there is a season,
        A time for every purpose under heaven:
        2A time to be born,
           And a time to die;
        A time to plant,
           And a time to pluck what is planted;
        3A time to kill,
           And a time to heal;
        A time to break down,
           And a time to build up;
        4A time to weep,
           And a time to laugh;
        A time to mourn,
           And a time to dance;
        5A time to cast away stones,
           And a time to gather stones;
        A time to embrace,
           And a time to refrain from embracing;
        6A time to gain,
           And a time to lose;
        A time to keep,
           And a time to throw away;
        7A time to tear,
           And a time to sew;
        A time to keep silence,
           And a time to speak;
        8A time to love,
           And a time to hate;
        A time of war,
           And a time of peace.
                                  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8


  1. Quote from the back cover of the book, Pearl Harbor by Randall Wallace, Hyperion 2001
       (Pearl Harbor screenplay written by Randall Wallace)

  2. Innocence, Infamy, and Invincibility are the three divisions in the book, Pearl Harbor by Randall Wallace.

  3. Japanese Flag - The land of the rising sun (Nihon-Koku).  Japan flies a flag incorporating this emblem, reflecting the belief that the Japanese emperor is a descendent of the sun.  One of the world's simplest flags, it was adopted in 1870 and represents a spherical, blood red sun disk on a white field.  During WWII, sixteen rays were added to the sun, and this variation was used as Japan's imperial battle flag. The Naval flag had eight rays.  Signs  & Symbols by Clare Gibson

  4. Hospital:  A large house, a singular. Formed from the Latin plural hospitalia meaning 'apartment for strangers'.  From the word Host - host and pit mean 'lord'; being allied to the Latin potens meaning 'powerful'; cf. Skat pati meaning 'a master, governor, lord'. Thus hospes = hostipats and a guest = master, which means 'a master of a house who receives guests'. Cf. Russ. Gospode meaning 'the Lord'.  Gospodare means 'a govenor, prince' ; from goste meaning 'a guest' and pode meaning 'lord'.
                                                 The Concise Dictionary of English Etymology  by Walter W. Skeats

  5. Pearl Harbor by Randall Wallace, Page 301

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