The attack on Pearl Harbor (called Hawaii Operation or Operation AI by the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters (Operation Z in planning) and the Battle of Pearl Harbor) was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941.
The attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States.
United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was attacked by 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers which damaged all eight U.S. Navy battleships, four of which sunk. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer.
There were numerous historical precedents for unannounced military action by Japan. However, the lack of any formal warning, particularly while negotiations were still apparently ongoing, led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaim December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy”.
Within an hour of the speech, Congress passed a formal declaration of war against Japan and officially brought the U.S. into World War II. The address is regarded as one of the most famous American political speeches of the 20th century.
Two Waves of Attack – 7 December 1941 :
The Japanese began the first wave of attack over the Pearl Harbor at approximately 7:45 a.m. to find seven U.S. battleships moored along “Battleship Row”, on the east side of Ford Island. Another battleship was in dry dock in the nearby Navy Yard. Other moorings which the Japanese believed might include battleships, or the equally important aircraft carriers, were at the Navy Yard’s 1010 Dock and along Ford Island’s western side.
The Japanese initially hit the airfields, destroying many aircrafts located on the southern tip of Ford Island. This attack followed by the dispatch of communications was the World’s first notification that war had begun in the Pacific.
Moments after these air strikes, torpedo planes attacked from west hitting the USS Helena, USS Utah and USS Raleigh, all on the west side of Ford Island. Simultaneously, from the east, torpedo planes came in and hit the USS California, the USS Nevada, USS Oklahoma and West Virginia located on the east side of Ford Island.
As the torpedo planes continued the first wave attacks, additional bombs were dropped on “Battleship Row”, hitting several ships. The USS Arizona received a death blow followed by a huge explosion. As the first wave departed, the Japanese telegraph operator taped out Tora, Tora, Tora: the code word for surprise attack achieved.
The Japanese began the second wave of attack at approximately 8.54 a.m wherein planes further attacked some of the ships already hit, further destroying the Navy Yard.
The battleship Pennsylvania and three destroyers were bombed in dry dock. Other bombers went after the Nevada, which had left her berth and was trying to get to sea. Anti-aircraft gunfire met these ships, causing losses which were far greater than those of the first attack wave.
Fortunately, neither wave had the opportunity to hit American aircraft carriers, all of which were out at sea. Fuel storage tanks, maintenance areas and most destroyers and submarines were not targeted. However, in less than two hours the Japanese had ruined the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s battleship force, ensuring the US would not interfere with further plans for conquest.
When the attack ended shortly before 10:00 a.m., less than two hours after it began, the American forces has paid a hefty price. 21 ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were sunk or damaged: the battleships USS Arizona (BB-39), USS California (BB-44), USS Maryland (BB-46), USS Nevada (BB-36), USS Oklahoma (BB-37), USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), USS Tennessee (BB-43) and USS West Virginia (BB-48); cruisers USS Helena (CL-50), USS Honolulu (CL-48) and USS Raleigh (CL-7); the destroyers USS Cassin (DD-372), USS Downes (DD-375), USS Helm (DD-388) and USS Shaw (DD-373); seaplane tender USS Curtiss (AV-4); target ship (ex-battleship) USS Utah (AG-16); repair ship USS Vestal (AR-4); minelayer USS Oglala (CM-4); tug USS Sotoyomo (YT-9); and Floating Drydock Number 2. Aircraft losses were 188 destroyed and 159 damaged, the majority hit before the had a chance to take off.
Apart from that, 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 other were wounded.
Photos of Pearl Harbor Attack – 7 December 1941 :
Photos – Courtesy – US Navy Website