World War II |

The Attack On Pearl Harbor – 12/7/1941

On the island of Oahu, out of the clouds suddenly appeared a Japanese dive bomber and on its’ wings could be seen the red picture of the Rising Sun of Japan at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time. Suddenly, descending on the U.S. naval base stationed at Pearl Harbor was 360 Japanese war planes and began a vicious assault. The U.S. Pacific fleet suffered a critical blow as a result of the unexpected assault on December 7th, 1941 and would eventually influence the United States to enter World War II.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt along with his advisers realized that a Japanese assault was not only probable but could happen at any time; yet, the important base at Pearl Harbor showed no signs of increased security. Lots of military personnel on Sunday morning had been granted passes to go off the base to attend religious services. 

 Although two operators watching radar viewed big groups of aircrafts at 7:02 a.m. approaching from the north to the island, they were ordered not to sound the alarm due to the United States had arranged for a flight of B-17s to arrive at the island at that time. Therefore, it was a disastrous shock to the naval base when the assault from Japanese aircrafts started.

Most of the fleet in the Pacific was rendered useless as over 200 airships were demolished as well as five of the eight battleships, three destroyers and seven additional vessels were severely damaged or sunk. While trying to valiantly attempting to stop the attack, many of the 1,200 got injured as a result of this and 2,400 in total Americans had perished. Japan’s losses were less than 100 men, roughly 30 aircraft and five small submarines. 

The United States would have had more losses but fortunately out on training maneuvers at sea were all three Pacific fleet carriers. However, revenge would be dealt by these huge aircraft carriers six months later against Japan at the Battle of Midway; their stupendous victory against what was thought of as an invincible Japanese navy reversed the tide of the war.

President Roosevelt appeared in front of the joint session of Congress the morning after Pearl Harbor was attacked and declared, “Yesterday, December 7, 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.” After a forceful and quick speech, he implored Congress to agree to a resolution acknowledging the state of war between Japan and the United States. 

The vote was 82 to 0 in the Senate to approve of going to war against Japan while the vote was 388 to 1 in the House of Representatives to approve of going to war. The only dissenter was a devout pacifist, Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, who ironically had done the same thing by voting against the U.S. from participating in World War I. Italy and Germany would declare war against the United States three days later in which the U.S. government responded accordingly.

Although the contribution by America to the Allied war effort was successful, it would take four long years and the total of American lives that were lost exceeded 400,000.

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Mark Hinderberg


Retired History Professor at Vanderbilt University. Love taking a portal through time and sharing my knowledge with anyone else who loves reading about history. It is my passion and my greatest hobby.