Eighteen months earlier, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had transferred the United States Fleet to Pearl Harbor as a presumed deterrent to Japanese agression. The Japanese military, deeply engaged in the seemingly endless war it had started against China in mid-1937, badly needed oil and other raw materials. Commercial access to these was gradually curtailed as the conquests continued. In July 1941 the Western powers effectively halted trade with Japan. From then on, as the desperate Japanese schemed to seize the oil and mineral-rich East Indies and Southeast Asia, a Pacific war was virtually inevitable.
By late November 1941, with peace negotiations clearly approaching an end, informed U.S. officials (and they were well-informed, they believed, through an ability to read Japan's diplomatic codes) fully expected a Japanese attack into the Indies, Malaya and probably the Philippines. Completely unanticipated was the prospect that Japan would attack east, as well.
The U.S. Fleet's Pearl Harbor base was reachable by an aircraft carrier force, and the Japanese Navy secretly sent one across the Pacific with greater aerial striking power than had ever been seen on the World's oceans. Its planes hit just before 8AM on 7 December. Within a short time five of eight battleships at Pearl Harbor were sunk or sinking, with the rest damaged. Several other ships and most Hawaii-based combat planes were also knocked out and over 2400 Americans were dead. Soon after, Japanese planes eliminated much of the American air force in the Philippines, and a Japanese Army was ashore in Malaya.
These great Japanese successes, achieved without prior diplomatic formalities, shocked and enraged the previously divided American people into a level of purposeful unity hardly seen before or since. For the next five months, until the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May, Japan's far-reaching offensives proceeded untroubled by fruitful opposition. American and Allied morale suffered accordingly. Under normal political circumstances, an accomodation might have been considered.
However, the memory of the "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor fueled a determination to fight on. Once the Battle of Midway in early June 1942 had eliminated much of Japan's striking power, that same memory stoked a relentless war to reverse her conquests and remove her, and her German and Italian allies, as future threats to World peace.
The above has been republished in its entirety from:
DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTERMy father was in a Midwest high school at the time, thinking about college. He never made it to college.
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060
Five battleships were sunk or sinking, three destroyers were wrecked, a minelayer and target ship had capsized, two cruisers were badly damaged and many other ships needed repairs. The ships were:
The USS Arizona
The USS West Virginia
The USS Tennessee
The USS Oklahoma
The USS Maryland
The USS California
The USS Nevada
The USS Oglala
The USS Pennsylvania
The USS Cassin
The USS Downes
The USS Shaw
All of these ships, with the exception of the USS Oklahoma and the USS Arizona, were eventually repaired and placed back into service, some as late as 1943. The Oklahoma was too badly damaged to salvage and the USS Arizona lies yet today at the bottom of the harbor.
The Japanese fleet, under the command of Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, consisted of the aircraft carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku and Zuikaku, over 420 embarked planes, fast battleships, cruisers and destroyers, with tankers to fuel the ships during their passage across the Pacific. An Advance Expeditionary Force of large submarines, five of them carrying midget submarines also participated. In fact, the first shots fired at Pearl Harbor were by the USS Ward which spotted one of the midget submarines in a restricted area at the entrance to the harbor, attacked it and probably sank it. The midget submarine has never been accounted for. This action occurred about an hour before the main attack against Pearl Harbor began.
You might like to know the fate of the Japanese first-line carriers that participated in the Pearl Harbor attack.
Akagi - heavily damaged by planes from USS Enterprise June 4, 1942 Battle of Midway - scuttled by the Japanese.
Kaga - The USS Enterprise's second victim that same day. Kaga was sunk.
Soryu - USS Yorktown aircraft got this one on the same day - sunk
Hiryu - That same day her aircraft damaged the Yorktown so severely that we abandoned that ship. Yorktown aircraft which were launched prior to her loss along with Enterprise aircraft attacked the Hiryu. She sank the next day.
Shokaku - Survived until she was sunk by the U.S. submarine Cavalla (SS-244) on 19 June 1944, during the Battle of the Philippine Sea
Zuikaku - In the Battle off Cape Engaño, part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, on 25 October 1944, the Zuikaku was sunk by US aircraft. She was the last surviving carrier of the Japanese task force that attacked Pearl Harbor.
Other memorials posted today can be read at:
Curiouser and Curiouser
Hubs and Spokes
The Florida Masochist
bRight and Early
A North American Patriot
La Shawn Barber's Corner
Stuck On Stupid
Winds of Change
TAGS: Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941