SAN FRANCISCO -- Why does America continue to nurture a deep preoccupation with Pearl Harbor, 60 years after the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base in Hawaii? The makers of Disney's blockbuster $135 million film "Pearl Harbor" said the movie is primarily a love story, but its title, climax and cinematic heart are about the war and American heroism.

The swell of attention caused by the film has died down now in America, and before it flares up again with the 60th anniversary of the attack in December, now may be a good time to look behind the patriotism at what causes these continued outbreaks of Pearl Harbor fever.

Nations naturally honor their war dead, but why does Pearl Harbor in particular tower over the landscape of American war memory like a shrine, inspiring a greater sense of memoriam, indignation and righteous national pride than perhaps any other event in the history of the United States?