1941: Japanese attack Pearl Harbor
Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan..
Maps of Pearl Harbor
The United States government first obtained
exclusive use of the inlet and the right to maintain a repair and coaling
station for ships here in 1887. The harbor was surveyed then and later, but
improvements were not begun until after the United States annexed the Hawaiian
Islands in 1898. In 1911 the work of dredging a wide channel from the sea,
across the sandbar and coral reef at the mouth of the harbor, was completed. The
channel is 11 m (35 ft) deep, and the harbor has a maximum depth of 18 m (60
ft), making the harbor available to the largest naval vessels.
This provocation was provided by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where the American Pacific Fleet was based. The attack was planned by Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, commander-in-chief of Japan's combined fleet. The fleet that sailed to the attack on November 26 was commanded by Admiral Nagumo Chuichi. It had six aircraft carriers, two battleships, three cruisers, 11 destroyers, and about 360 planes. The planes took off when the fleet was about 275 miles (440 kilometers) north of Hawaii. The first wave reached Pearl Harbor at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time.
The American ships were like sitting ducks in the harbor, and since it was early Sunday morning, many were not fully manned. The battleship Arizona was destroyed, with all hands on board. The California, Nevada, and the West Virginia sank in shallow water. The Oklahoma capsized. Other ships and about 180 airplanes were destroyed or badly damaged. More than 2,300 American military personnel were killed. The next day Roosevelt described the event as a "date which will live in infamy" in a speech to Congress, which promptly declared war on Japan. A few days later Germany and Italy, bound by treaty to Japan, declared war on the United States.
Japan's intention in attacking Pearl Harbor was to disable the American fleet in order to wage a war of conquest across the eastern Pacific without opposition. It nearly worked, but two things went wrong. First, American aircraft carriers were not in port when the attack came, and carriers would prove pivotal in fighting the Pacific War. Second, the Japanese did not bomb the vast oil supply adjacent to the harbor--thus leaving a huge fuel supply for the ships and planes that did survive.
Soon after the attack, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed a
commission of inquiry to determine whether negligence had contributed to the
success of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor. The commission's report found the
naval and army commanders of the Hawaiian area, Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel
and Major General Walter C. Short, guilty of “derelictions of duty” and “errors
of judgment”; the two men were subsequently retired. Other later inquiries,
however, differed in their conclusions. The Congress of the United States, in an
effort to dispose of the controversy, decided on a full, public investigation
after the war.
Today the Pearl Harbor Memorial is located over the remains of the Arizona out in the harbor.
(Dec. 7, 1941), This
surprise aerial attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on Oahu Island,
Hawaii, by the Japanese precipitated the entry of the United States into World
War II. The attack climaxed a decade of worsening relations between the United
States and an increasingly expansionist and militaristic Japan. Japan's invasion
of China in 1937, its subsequent alliance with the Axis powers (Germany and
Italy) in 1940, and its occupation of French Indochina in July 1941 prompted the
United States to respond that same month by freezing Japanese assets in the
United States and declaring an embargo on petroleum shipments and other vital
war materials to Japan. By late 1941 the United States had severed practically
all commercial and financial relations with Japan. Though Japan continued to
negotiate with the United States up to the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, the
government of Prime Minister Tojo Hideki decided on war.
Isoroku, the commander in chief of Japan's Combined Fleet, had planned the
attack against the U.S. Pacific Fleet with great care. Once the U.S. fleet was
out of action, the way for the unhindered Japanese conquest of all of Southeast
Asia, the Indonesian Archipelago, and the South Pacific would be open. On
November 26 a Japanese fleet, under Vice Admiral Nagumo Chuichi and including 6
aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, 3 cruisers, and 11 destroyers, sailed to a
point some 275 miles (440 km) north of Hawaii. From there, a total of about 360
planes were launched.
The first Japanese
dive bomber appeared over Pearl Harbor at 7:55 Am (local time). It was followed
by a first wave of nearly 200 aircraft, including torpedo planes, bombers, and
fighters. The reconnaissance at Pearl Harbor had been lax; a U.S. Army private
who noticed this large flight of planes on his radar screen was told to ignore
them, since a flight of B-17s from the United States was expected at that time.
The anchored ships in the harbour made perfect targets for the Japanese bombers,
and since it was Sunday morning (a time chosen by the Japanese for maximum
surprise) they were not fully manned. Similarly, the U.S. military aircraft were
lined up on the airfields of the Naval Air Station on Ford Island and adjoining
Wheeler and Hickam Fields to guard against sabotage, and very few became
airborne. Most of the damage to the battleships was inflicted in the first 30
minutes of the assault. The Arizona was completely destroyed and the Oklahoma
capsized. The California, Nevada, and West Virginia sank in shallow water. Three
other battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers, and other vessels were also
damaged. More than 180 aircraft were destroyed. U.S. military casualties totaled
more than 3,400, including more than 2,300 killed. The Japanese lost from 29 to
60 planes, five midget submarines, perhaps one or two fleet submarines, and
fewer than 100 men.
The Pearl Harbor
Attack severely crippled U.S. naval and air strength in the Pacific. However,
the three aircraft carriers attached to the Pacific Fleet were not at Pearl
Harbor at the time and thus escaped. Of the eight battleships, all but the
Arizona and Oklahoma were eventually repaired and returned to service, and the
Japanese failed to destroy the important oil storage facilities on the island.
The "date which will live in infamy," as U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt
termed it, unified the U.S. public and swept away any earlier support for
neutrality. On December 8 Congress declared war on Japan with only one
dissenting vote (Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, who had also voted
against U.S. entry into World War I).