Pearl Harbor Attack
© Copyright 2018 by Blue Dunwoody
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise to all of America, as well as a surprise to Japan that it was successful. Kenneth T. Jackson of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History claims, "Admiral Yamamoto had every reason to be proud. He had only two reasons for immediate concern. First, the three large American aircraft carriers attached to the Pacific Fleet were not in Pearl Harbor but were at sea on a practice mission, and the Japanese aviators could not find them." The article writes several ships were terminated, as well as the crewmen accompanying them. The United States protested against Japan’s decisions towards China, so Japan saw them as a threat and decided on war with America. The attack on Pearl Harbor was part of a strategy of conquest in the western Pacific. Ultimately, Japan’s only hope of success was to a quick and decisive victory, thus the origins of the surprise attack. By the beginning of 1942, there was no retreating without a fatal loss of honor and bravery to America and its citizens.
The commotion between all of the nations began in 1931. Japanese army extremists, in defiance of government policy, invaded the northernmost Chinese province of Manchuria. As a result, Americans protested against Japan’s attack, but Japan ignored the protests. In the summer of 1937, Japan launched a full attack on the rest of China. The United States was not willing to use military force to halt Japanese expansion, nor was any other nation protesting against Japan’s acts.
The United States applied both diplomatic and economic pressures to try to resolve the Sino-Japanese conflict. Therefore, the Japanese government ended up seeing America as a threat to their national security. While the nations we trying to settle the disputes, Japan decided on war. The author states the attack on Pearl Harbor was part of a strategy of conquest in the western Pacific. The objective was to prevent the Pacific Fleet from advancing so The United States would not be able to interfere with invasion plans. Japan attacked quickly with all forces in their power.
On November 26, the Japanese attack fleet sent 33 warships and auxiliary craft from northern Japan to the Hawaiian islands. By December 7, the ships had reached their destination, 230 miles north of Oahu. At 6 a.m. the first wave of bombers and torpedoes took off. The night before December 7, five mini-submarines stood 10 miles outside the entrance to Pearl Harbor. The mini-submarines carried two crewman and two torpedoes, each. They had to enter Pearl Harbor before the airstrike, remain submerged until the attack got underway, and then cause as much damage as possible.
Seven of the fleet’s nine battleships were tied up along Battleship Row, on the southeast side of Ford Island. Naval aircraft were lined up at Ford Island and Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Stations, and Marine aircraft at Ewa Marine Corps Air Station. At Hickam, Wheeler and Bellows airfields, aircraft of the U.S. Army Air Corps, were set in groups as a defense against possible attacks. At 6:40 a.m., the crew of the destroyer USS Ward noticed the conning tower of one of the mini-submarines heading towards the entrance of Pearl Harbor. The Ward sank the submarine with depth charges and gunfire. Shortly after they sunk the submarine, they radioed the situation to headquarters.
A little before 7 a.m., the radar station at Opana Point picked up a signal indicating a large flight of planes approaching from the north. These were thought to be either aircraft flying in from the carrier Enterprise or an anticipated flight of B-17s from the mainland so no action was taken. The first wave of Japanese aircraft arrived over Pearl Harbor before 7:55 a.m. The Japanese leader, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, sent coded messages telling the fleet that the attack had begun, and they successfully surprised the Americans.
At approximately 8:10 a.m. the USS Arizona had exploded, hit by a 1,760-pound-armor-piercing shell. This bomb slammed through the ship’s deck suddenly, launching her forward. When the ship sank, 1,177 crew members went down with it. The USS Oklahoma, after it was hit by several torpedoes, rolled over and trapped over 400 men inside. The USS Utah, converted to a training ship, capsized with more than 50 crew members. Many other ships were damaged and destroyed in the attack. The USS Nevada attempted to escape any further attacks but was hit several times.
Japan also attacked military establishments on the island of Oahu. Hundreds of planes were destroyed on the ground and hundreds of men killed or wounded. Several airfields and air stations suffered damage. Clearly, Americans shortly fired back, although many shells had been fused and fell on Honolulu. Honolulu residents assumed these strikes to be Japanese.
At 8:40, the second wave of Japanese planes followed the first wave. The objective was to finish off Pearl Harbor. This attack destroyed the remaining Naval ships at the shore. The Japanese also attacked Hickam and Kaneohe airfields, causing heavy loss of life.
Army Air Corps pilots managed to take off in a few fighters and may have shot down 12 enemy planes. At 10 a.m., the second wave of attacking planes withdrew to the north and the assault was over. The Japanese lost 29 planes and five miniature submarines. More importantly, Pearl Harbor was still functional after the Japanese hit.
After Japan attacked America, The United States’ citizens were willing to fight back. America was in dispute about joining the war of China, Japan, and their allies. The author reports after the tragic event that occurred at Pearl Harbor, America was more united than ever. President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the situation, “No matter how long it takes us to overcome this attack, the American people in their moral strength will win the absolute victory.” The nation was ready to join World War II.
Japan began World War II with plans to conquer China. The United States attempted to halt the invasion, which led to Japan seeing America as a threat. Japan decided their only hope was to surprise attack Pearl Harbor on the fateful day of December 7, 1941. Many naval ships were terminated as well as 2,403 men serving our country. America was successfully surprised but did not hesitate to fight back almost instantly.
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