Attack on Pearl Harbor

From Wiki 2005
Jump to: navigation, search

Template:Infobox Military Conflict Template:Campaignbox Pacific 1941 The Imperial Japanese Navy made its attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii, was aimed at the Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy and its defending Army Air Corps and Marine air forces. The attack damaged or destroyed twelve U.S. warships, destroyed 188 aircraft, and killed 2,403 American servicemen and 68 civilians. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto planned the raid as the start of the Pacific Campaign of World War II, and it was commanded by Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, who lost 64 servicemen. However, the Pacific Fleet's three aircraft carriers were not in port and so were undamaged, as were oil tank farms, submarine pens, and machine shops. Using these resources the United States was able to rebound within six months to a year. The U.S. public saw the attack as a treacherous act and rallied strongly against the Japanese Empire, resulting in its later defeat. This attack has been called the Bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Pearl Harbor but, most commonly, the Attack on Pearl Harbor or simply Pearl Harbor.


Japanese preparations

The Japanese fleet steamed towards Pearl Harbor undetected until the last moment.

Japan had seized Manchuria in 1931, and had been fighting the Second Sino-Japanese War with China since 1937. During 1941 the long-standing tensions between the Japanese Empire and the United States resulting from these military adventures were rising. The United States and the United Kingdom reacted to Japanese military actions in China by imposing a scrap metal boycott followed by an oil boycott, a freeze of assets and the closing of the Panama Canal to Japanese shipping. Diplomatic negotiations climaxed with the Hull note of November 26, 1941, which Prime Minister Hideki Tojo described to his cabinet as an ultimatum. The oil boycott was especially threatening to Japan (and its military), which lacked oil resources of its own. The Japanese leaders decided they had only two choices: give in to the demands of the USA and the UK and back out of China, or escalate the conflict to try to acquire sources of oil in Southeast Asia. They chose the latter.

The Japanese had been tremendously impressed with Admiral Andrew Cunningham's Operation Judgement (the Battle of Taranto), where 20 antique biplanes (Fairey Swordfish) launched from a carrier force way in advance of the main British base at Alexandria disabled half the Italian battle fleet and forced the withdrawal of the Italian fleet to behind Naples. Yamamoto dispatched a naval delegation to Italy, which concluded a larger and better supported version of Cunningham's brilliant maneuver could force the U.S. fleet back to California, giving time to achieve the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere"—shorthand for control of the oil reserves of the Dutch East Indies, with a defensible buffer around them. Most importantly, the delegation returned to Japan with the secret of the shallow running torpedo which Cunningham's "boffins" had devised.

Additionally, the Japanese may have been influenced by the actions of U.S. Admiral Harry Yarnell in the 1932 joint Army-Navy exercises, which presumed an invasion of Hawaii by hostile forces. Yarnell, in the role of the commander of the attacking fleet, sailed his aircraft carriers northwest of Oahu into rough weather, and launched attack planes on the morning of Sunday, 7 February 1932. "Judges" assigned to gauge the effectiveness of the attack noted that Yarnell's aircraft were able to inflict serious damage on the defenders, who were unable to locate his fleet 24 hours after the attack. Conventional Navy doctrine of the time believed that any attacking force would be set upon and destroyed by the battleship fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor, and dismissed Yarnell's strategy and attack.

The aim of the attack on Pearl Harbor was to neutralize American naval power in the Pacific, if only temporarily, as part of a theater-wide, near-simultaneous coordinated attack. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto himself suggested that even a successful attack would gain only a year or so of freedom of action. Planning for an attack in support of further military advances began in January 1941, and training for the mission was under way by mid-year when the project was finally judged worthwhile after some Imperial Navy infighting. The attack depended on torpedoes, but the weapons of the time required deep water when air launched. Over the summer of 1941, Japan secretly created and tested torpedoes that could be launched in shallow Pearl Harbor. The effort resulted in the Type 95 torpedo that inflicted the majority of the damage to U.S. ships. Japanese weapons technicians also produced special armor-piercing bombs by fitting fins on 14 and 15 inch (356 and 381 mm) naval gun shells. They were able to penetrate the armored decks of battleships and cruisers when dropped from 10,000 feet (3,000 m). On November 26 1941, a fleet including six aircraft carriers commanded by Japanese Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo left Hitokappu Bay in the Kuril Islands under orders for strict radio silence bound for Hawaii. The aircraft carriers involved in the attack were: Akagi, Hiryu, Kaga, Shokaku, Soryu, and Zuikaku. Escorting the task force were 2 fast battleships, 2 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser, 9 destroyers, and 3 fleet submarines. The carriers had a total of 423 planes, including Mitsubishi Type 0 "Zero" fighters, Nakajima Type 97 "Kate" torpedo bombers, and Aichi Type 99 "Val" dive bombers. The Japanese task force and its air group were larger than any previous aerial strike force. Accompanying the fleet were 8 tankers for underway refueling. In addition, the Advanced Expeditionary Force comprised of 20 fleet submarines and 5 2-man Ko-hyoteki-class midget submarines was sent to Hawaiian waters to gather intelligence and sink any U.S. vessels that might try to flee Pearl Harbor during the air attack.

United States preparedness

Main article: Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge debate
File:Battleship row.jpg
Battleship Row presented an attractive concentration of targets.

U.S. civilian and military intelligence forces had, between them, sufficient information to anticipate Japanese aggression weeks, or even months, before the attack. The armed forces at Pearl Harbor had a number of warnings on the day of the attack. Both of these information sources could have brought Pearl Harbor to a higher level of alert and made the attack unsuccessful or at least much less damaging.

U.S. signals intelligence, through the Army Signal Intelligence Service and the Office of Naval Intelligence's OP-20-G codebreaking unit, intercepted Japanese diplomatic traffic and had broken many Japanese ciphers. Distribution of this intelligence was poor and did not include material from the Japanese military. Often the information was incomplete, contradictory, or insufficiently distributed, as in the case of the Winds Code. Warnings were sent to the U.S. forces in the Pacific in November 1940. Despite the growing information pointing to a new phase of Japanese aggression, there was little information specific to Pearl Harbor.

American commanders were warned that tests had shown that shallower torpedo launching was possible, but they did not fully appreciate the danger posed by the secret Japanese torpedo. Expecting that Pearl Harbor had natural defenses against torpedo attack, the U.S. Navy failed to add torpedo nets or baffles, which they judged cumbersome. Due to a shortage of planes, long reconnaissance patrols were not being made. At the time of the attack, the Army was training rather than on alert. Most of its portable anti-aircraft guns were stowed with the ammunition kept locked in separate armories. To avoid upsetting the property owners, the officers did not keep the guns dispersed onto private property.

Breaking off negotiations

File:Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes prepare.jpg
Japanese bombers prepare to take off.

Part of the Japanese plans for the attack included breaking off negotiations with the United States 30 minutes before the attack. Diplomats from the Japanese Embassy in Washington, including the Japanese Ambassador, Admiral Kichisaburo Nomura, and special representative Saburo Kurusu, had been conducting extended talks with the State Department regarding the U.S. reactions to the Japanese move into Indochina in the summer.

Just before the attack, a long message was sent to the Embassy from the Foreign Office in Tokyo (encoded with the Purple cryptographic machine), with instructions to deliver it to Secretary of State Cordell Hull at 1 PM Washington time (that is, just thirty minutes before the attack was scheduled to begin). Because of decryption and typing delays, the Embassy personnel could not manage to do so. The long message breaking off negotiations ("Obviously it is the intention of the American Government to conspire with Great Britain and other countries to obstruct Japan's efforts toward the establishment of peace through the creation of a new order in East Asia... Thus, the earnest hope of the Japanese Government to adjust Japanese-American relations and to preserve and promote the peace of the Pacific through cooperation with the American Government has finally been lost") was delivered well after the intended time.

Japanese records admitted into evidence during a Congressional hearing show the Japanese had not even written a declaration of war until after they heard of the successful attack on Pearl Harbor. The two-line declaration of war was finally delivered to Ambassador Grew about ten hours after the attack was over. He was allowed to transmit it to the United States where it was received late Monday afternoon.

The United States had decrypted both parts of the final message well before the Japanese Embassy had managed to finish. It was decryption of the second part which prompted General George Marshall to send his famous warning to Hawaii that morning. It was actually delivered, by a young Japanese-American cycle messenger, to General Walter Short at Pearl Harbor several hours after the attack had ended. The delay was due to the fact General Marshall was out riding when the Navy requested to use the Army's communications system, then to difficulties with the Army's communications so it was finally transmitted by commercial cable, and had somehow lost its "urgent" marking during its travels.

The attack

File:Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view.jpg
Torpedo exploding into USS West Virginia, as seen from Japanese plane.

The first shots fired and the first casualties in the attack on Pearl Harbor actually occurred when USS Ward attacked and sank a midget submarine at 06:37 Hawaiian Time. There were five Ko-hyoteki class midget submarines which planned to torpedo U.S. ships after the bombing started. None of the subs made it back safely, and only four out of the five have since been found. Of the ten sailors aboard the five submarines, nine died, and the only survivor, Kazuo Sakamaki, was captured, becoming the first prisoner of war captured by the Americans in World War II. Recent United States Naval Institute photographic analysis indicates one midget submarine managed to enter the harbor and successfully fired a torpedo into West Virginia. The final disposition of this submarine is unknown.[1]

File:Pearl Harbor bombings.jpg
The two attack sorties flown by the Japanese approached from different directions. The U.S. radar which detected them 200 miles (320 km) away was at the top of this map.

On the morning of the attack, the Army's Opana Point radar station detected the Japanese force, but the warning was confused with an expected arrival of U.S. aircraft and discounted. Some commercial shipping may have reported "unusual" radio traffic. A number of U.S. aircraft were shot down as the air attack approached; one at least radioed a somewhat incoherent warning. Other warnings were still being processed or awaiting confirmation when the attack began.

The attack on Pearl Harbor began at 07:53 7 December Hawaiian Time, which was 03:23 AM December 8 Japan Standard Time. The Japanese planes attacked in two waves, in which a total of 353 planes reached Oahu. Vulnerable torpedo bombers led the first wave of 183 planes, exploiting the first moments of surprise by attacking the (hoped for) aircraft carriers and battleships while dive bombers attacked the U.S. air bases across Oahu, starting with Hickam Field, the largest, and Wheeler Air Field, the principal fighter base. The 170 planes of the second wave attacked Bellows Field and Ford Island, a marine and naval air base in the middle of Pearl Harbor. The only opposition came from some P-36 Hawks and P-40 Warhawks that flew 25 sorties and from naval anti-aircraft fire.

The men in the ships were woken to the sounds of bombs exploding and cries of "Away fire and rescue party" and "All hands on deck, we're being bombed". Despite the lack of preparation, which included locked ammunition lockers and undispersed aircraft, there were American military personnel who served with distinction during the battle. Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, and Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh, commander of Arizona, both rushed to the bridge of Arizona and directed the ship's defense, until both were killed by an explosion in the forward ammunition magazine, caused by an armor-piercing bomb strike next to one of the forward main battery gun turrets. Both were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Ensign Joe Taussig got his ship, Nevada, under way from a dead start during the attack. A destroyer got under way with only four officers onboard, all ensigns, none of whom had more than a year's sea duty. That ship operated for four days at sea before its commanding officer caught up with it. Captain Mervyn Bennion, commanding officer of West Virginia, calmly led his men in battle until he was cut down by fragmentation from a bomb hit aboard Tennessee, moored alongside her. Earliest credit goes to submarine USS Tautog, which claimed the first attacker downed. Probably the most famous hero is Doris "Dorie" Miller, an African-American cook on West Virginia, who went beyond the call of duty when he took control of an unattended anti-aircraft gun, for which he had no training, and used it to fire on the attacking planes, downing at least one, even while bombs were hitting his ship. He was awarded the Navy Cross. In all, 14 sailors and officers were awarded the Medal of Honor. A special military award, the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal, was later authorized to all military veterans of the attack.

Ninety minutes after it began, the attack was over. 2,403 Americans had lost their lives (of which 68 were civilians — many of whom were killed by American anti-aircraft shells falling back onto Honolulu), and a further 1,178 were wounded. Eighteen ships were sunk, including five battleships[2].

Nearly half of the American fatalities - 1,102 men - were caused by the explosion and sinking of the Arizona. It was destroyed when a converted 40 cm shell, dropped from a high altitude level bomber, smashed through its two armored decks and detonated the forward main gun magazine. The hull of the Arizona became a memorial to those lost that day, most of whom remain within the ship.

Nevada attempted to sortie seaward, but was ordered to beach itself to avoid blocking the harbor entrance. Already damaged by a torpedo and on fire forward, Nevada was targeted by many Japanese bombers as it sailed away. It sustained more hits from 250 lb (113 kg) bombs as it beached.

California was hit by two bombs and two torpedoes, and the crew may have kept her afloat if they had not been ordered to abandon ship just as they were raising power for the pumps. Burning oil from the Arizona and the West Virginia was drifting down on her. The disarmed Utah was holed twice by torpedoes. West Virginia was hit by no less than seven torpedoes, the seventh tearing the ship's rudder away. Oklahoma was hit by four torpedoes, the last two impacting above its side armor belt. Maryland was hit by two of the converted 40 cm shells, but neither caused serious damage.

Although the Japanese concentrated on major battleships, they did not ignore other targets. The light cruiser Helena was torpedoed, and the concussion from the blast capsized the neighboring minelayer Oglala. Two destroyers in dry dock were destroyed when bombs penetrated their fuel tanks. The leaking fuel caught fire and flooding the dry dock only made the oil rise, which burned out the ships. The light cruiser Raleigh was hit by a torpedo and holed. The light cruiser Honolulu was damaged but returned to service. The destroyer Cassin was capsized, and Downes, also a destroyer, was heavily damaged. The repair vessel Vestal was heavily damaged and beached. The seaplane tender Curtiss was damaged.

Almost every one of the 188 American aircraft that were destroyed and 155 that were damaged were hit on the ground. Attacks on barracks killed additional pilots. Friendly fire brought down several planes. Fifty-five Japanese airmen and nine submariners were killed in action. Of Japan's 441 planes (350 took part in the attack), 29 were lost during the battle (nine in the first attack wave and 20 in the second wave) and another 74 were damaged by flak and machine gunfire from the ground. Over 20 of the aircraft that safely landed on their carriers were irreparable.

Nagumo's decision to withdraw after two strikes

The forward magazines of the USS Arizona exploded after she was hit by a bomb dropped by Tadashi Kusumi.

Some senior officers and flight leaders urged Nagumo to attack with a third strike to destroy the oil storage depots, machine shops, and dry docks at Pearl Harbor. The United States had considered the vulnerability of the fuel oil storage tanks before the war and secretly started construction of the bomb resistant Red Hill fuel tanks before the Japanese attack. Destruction of these facilities would have greatly increased the U.S. Navy's difficulties, as the nearest immediately usable fleet facilities would have been several thousand miles east of Hawaii on America's West Coast. Some military historians have suggested that the destruction of oil tanks and repair facilities would have crippled the U.S. Pacific Fleet more seriously than the loss of several battleships. Nagumo decided to forgo a third attack in favor of withdrawing for several reasons:

  • Anti-aircraft performance during the second strike was much improved over that during the first, and two-thirds of the Japanese losses happened during the second wave, due in part to the Americans being alerted. A third strike could have been expected to suffer still worse losses.
  • The first two strikes had essentially used all the previously prepped aircraft available, so a third strike would have taken some time to prepare, allowing the Americans time to, perhaps, find and attack Nagumo's force. The location of the American carriers was and remained unknown to Nagumo.
  • The Japanese pilots had not practiced an attack against the Pearl Harbor shore facilities and organizing such an attack would have taken still more time, though several of the strike leaders urged a third strike anyway.
Fuel farm at left, Submarine Base (right center). October 1941.
  • The fuel situation did not permit remaining on station north of Pearl Harbor much longer. The Japanese were acting at the limit of their logistical ability to support the strike on Pearl Harbor. To remain in those waters for much longer would have risked running unacceptably low on fuel.
  • The timing of a third strike would have been such that aircraft would probably have returned to their carriers after dark. Night operations from aircraft carriers were in their infancy in 1941, and neither the Japanese nor anyone else had developed reliable techniques and doctrine.
  • The second strike had essentially completed the entire mission: neutralization of the American Pacific Fleet.
  • There was the simple danger of remaining near one place for too long. The Japanese were very fortunate to have escaped detection during their voyage from the Inland Sea to Hawaii. The longer they remained off Hawaii, the more danger they were in from U.S. submarines and the absent American carriers.
  • The carriers were needed to support the main Japanese attack toward the "Southern Resources Area", the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Malaya, and Burma, which was intended to capture oil and other supplies. The Japanese government had been reluctant to allow the attack at all as it took air cover from the southern thrust, and Nagumo was under strict orders not to risk his command any more than necessary. As the war games during the planning of the attack had predicted that from two to four carriers might be lost in the attack, Nagumo must have been very happy to suffer no losses and did not want to push his luck.

Immediate aftermath

File:1941 Roosevelt Declaration of War.jpg
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Declaration of War against Japan on the day following the attack.

Ninety minutes before the attack on Pearl Harbor began (but the next day, December 8, 1941, on the other side of the international date line), Japanese troops invaded British Malaya. This was followed by an early morning attack on the New Territories of Hong Kong and within hours or days by attacks on the Philippines, Wake Island, and Thailand and by the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse.[3]

On December 8, 1941, the U.S. Congress declared war on Japan with Jeannette Rankin casting the only dissenting vote. The United States was outraged by the attack and by the late delivery of the note breaking off relations, actions which it considered treacherous. Roosevelt signed the declaration of war the same day, and called the previous day "a date which will live in infamy" in an address to a joint session of Congress. Continuing to intensify its military mobilization, the U.S. government began converting to a war economy.

The Pearl Harbor attack immediately galvanized a divided nation into action as little else could have done. Overnight, it united Americans against Japan, and it probably made possible the unconditional surrender position taken by the Allied Powers. For that reason, some historians believe that the attack on Pearl Harbor itself doomed Japan to defeat simply because this awakened the "sleeping U.S. behemoth", regardless of whether the fuel depots or machine shops had been destroyed or even if the carriers had been caught in port and sunk. U.S. industrial and military capacity, once mobilized, was able to pour overwhelming resources into both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters.

The perception of the treacherous nature of the attack on Pearl Harbor also sparked fears of sabotage or espionage by Japanese Americans and was a factor in the subsequent Japanese internment in the western United States, and Roosevelt signed United States Executive Order 9066 requiring all Japanese Americans to show up for arrest and internment.

Nazi Germany declared war on the United States on December 11, four days after the Japanese attack. Hitler was under no obligation to do so under the terms of the Tripartite Pact, but did so regardless, perhaps based on the leaking of Rainbow Five and Roosevelt's post-Pearl Harbor speech attaching Germany indirectly to the Pearl Harbor attack. In addition to estimations about American military capability in 1941, German overconfidence may have been another important contribution to the decision. Still, Hitler was convinced that the United States planned to have troops in Europe by 1943. He unknowingly resorted to the same decision made by Germany in the First World War, contributing to the German defeat. This declaration doubly outraged the American public and allowed the United States to overtly enter the European theatre of war, and to greatly step up its support of the United Kingdom, actions which delayed for some time a full U.S. response to the setback in the Pacific.

Both the Naval commander, Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, and the Army commander, Lieutenant General Walter Short - whose Army Air Corps had been responsible for aerial defense of the naval base - were relieved of their commands shortly after the attack. They were scapegoated with dereliction of duty for not making sufficient defensive preparations. On May 25, 1999, both officers were recommended by the US Senate for exoneration of all charges of dereliction of duty, citing the denial to Hawaii of vital intelligence available in Washington.

In terms of its cardinal objectives, the attack on Pearl Harbor was a tactical success which eclipsed the expectations of its planners. In execution it has few parallels in the military history of any era, at least in the short-to-medium term. Even the surprise British carrier strike on the Italian's Taranto naval base in 1940 had not been that devastating in terms of damage inflicted, although in successfully neutralising the Italian navy it had much greater strategic implications. Due to its grievous losses at Pearl Harbor and the subsequent Japanese invasion of the Philippines, the U.S. Navy was unable to play any significant role in the Pacific War for the next six months. With the U.S. Pacific Fleet essentially out of the picture, Japan was temporarily free of worries about its rival Pacific naval power. It went on to conquer southeast Asia, the southwest Pacific and to extend its reach far into the Indian Ocean.

Although Pearl Harbor was the most notable attack on American soil during the WWII, there were several others.

Subsequent attacks

Later, small-scale attacks were also made on Pearl Harbor during the war.

In March, 1942, in Operation K-1, in preparation for the Midway invasion, two Japanese H8K flying-boats, based at Wotje in the Marshall Islands, were tasked with reconnaissance to see how repairs were progressing and to bomb the important "Ten-ten" repair dock. This necessitated refueling from submarines at French Frigate Shoal, 500 miles north-west of Pearl Harbor. In the event, poor visibility hampered the mission and the bombs were dropped some miles from their target.

Five Japanese submarines supported the operation: I-9 as a radio beacon; I-19, I-15 and the I-26 to refuel the flying boats and I-23 to provide weather reports (but was lost without trace).

Longer-term effects

File:Attack on Pearl Harbor US Propaganda.jpg
The attack inflamed U.S. sentiments.

A common view is that the Japanese fell victim to victory disease due to the perceived ease of their first victories. Yet despite the perception of this battle as a devastating blow to America, only three ships were permanently lost to the Navy. These were the battleships Arizona, Oklahoma, and the old battleship Utah (then used as a target ship); nevertheless, much usable material was salvaged from them, including the two aft main turrets from Arizona. Heavy casualties resulted due to Arizona's magazine exploding and the Oklahoma capsizing. Four ships sunk during the attack were later raised and returned to duty, including the battleships California, West Virginia and Nevada. California and West Virginia had an effective torpedo-defense system which held up remarkably well, despite the weight of fire they had to endure, enabling most of their crews to be saved. Many of the surviving battleships were heavily refitted, allowing them to better cope with Japanese threats. The destroyers Cassin and Downes were constructive total losses, but their machinery was salvaged and fitted into new hulls, retaining their original names, while Shaw was raised and returned to service. (She was lost later in the war.)

Of the 22 Japanese ships that took part in the attack, only one survived the war. As of 2005, the only U.S. ship still afloat that was in Pearl Harbor during the attack is the Coast Guard Cutter Taney.

In the long term, the attack on Pearl Harbor was an unmitigated strategic blunder for Japan. Indeed, Admiral Yamamoto, who devised the Pearl Harbor attack, had predicted that even a successful attack on the U.S. Fleet would not and could not win a war with the United States, as American productive capacity was too large. One of the main Japanese objectives was to destroy the three American aircraft carriers stationed in the Pacific, but these were not present—Enterprise was returning from a cruise, Lexington had sortied a few days prior, and Saratoga was in San Diego following a refit at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Putting most of the U.S. battleships out of commission was widely regarded—in both Navies and by most observers worldwide—as a tremendous success for the Japanese. The elimination of the battleships left the U.S. Navy with no choice but to put its faith in aircraft carriers and submarines, these being most of what was left—yet these were the tools with which the U.S. Navy halted and later reversed the Japanese advance. The loss of the battleships turned out to be less important than Japan had thought it would be before the attack, and also less important than either Japan or the United States had thought immediately following the attack. One particular flaw of Japanese strategic thinking was that the ultimate Pacific battle would be between battleships of both sides. As a result, Yamamoto hoarded up his battleships for a decisive battle that would never happen.

Ultimately, however, targets that never made the list, the Submarine Base and the old Headquarters Building, were more important than any of them. It was submarines that brought Japan's economy to a standstill and crippled her transportation of oil, immobilizing heavy ships. And in the basement of the old Headquarters Building was the cryptanalytic unit, Hypo.

Historical significance

This battle, like the Battle of Lexington and Concord, had history-altering consequences. It only had a small military effect due to the failure of the Japanese Navy to sink U.S. aircraft carriers, but even if the air carriers had been sunk, it may not have helped Japan in the long term. The attack firmly drew the United States and its massive industrial and service economy into World War II, leading to the defeat of the Axis powers worldwide. The United Kingdom's Prime Minister Winston Churchill, on hearing that the attack on Pearl Harbor had finally drawn the United States into the war, wrote "Being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful". (Winston Churchill, The Second World War, vol. 3, p. 539) The Allied victory in this war and the subsequent U.S. emergence as a dominant world power has shaped international politics ever since.

In terms of military history, the attack on Pearl Harbor marked the emergence of the aircraft carrier as the center of naval power, replacing the battleship as the keystone of the fleet. However, it was not until later battles in the war, such as the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, that this breakthrough became apparent to the world's naval powers.

Japanese views of the attack

File:Uss utah bb capsizing.jpg
USS Utah took a torpedo hit and capsized early in the battle. The wreck remains at Pearl Harbor.

Yamamoto was unhappy about the botched timing of the breaking off of negotiations. He is commonly thought to have said, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve", but this line seems to have been written for the 1970 Pearl Harbor movie Tora! Tora! Tora!, a topic which is covered more thoroughly in this article. Even though the words may not have been uttered by Yamamoto, it did seem to capture his feelings about the attack. He is on record as saying, in the previous year, that "I can run wild for six months … after that, I have no expectation of success."

In 1942, Saburo Kurusu, former Japanese ambassador to the United States, gave an address in which he traced the "historical inevitability of the war of Greater East Asia."[4] He said that the war was a response to Washington's longstanding aggression toward Japan. According to Kurusu, the provocations began with the San Francisco School incident and the United States' racist policies on Japanese immigrants, and culminated in the belligerent scrap metal and oil boycott by the United States and allied countries. Of Pearl Harbor itself, he said that it came in direct response to a virtual ultimatum, the Hull note, from the U.S. government, and that the surprise attack was not treacherous because it should have been expected. Indeed, at Pearl Harbor, the fleet had been engaged in wargames and training before the Japanese attack. However, the Americans never expected the attack to come without any warning or declaration of war, and they also underestimated Japanese capability.

Sixty years later these views are still current in Japan. For example, the Japan Times, Japan's premier English-language daily newspaper, has run a number of columns in the early 2000s that echo Kurusu's comments in reference to Pearl Harbor.[5] Putting Pearl Harbor into context, writers repeatedly contrast the thousands of U.S. servicemen killed in that attack with the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians later killed by U.S. air attacks.[6] One columnist eulogizes the attack:

The Pearl Harbor attack was a brilliant tactic, but part of a strategy based on the belief that a spirit as firm as iron and as beautiful as cherry blossoms could overcome the materially wealthy United States. That strategy was flawed, and Japan's total defeat would follow.[7]

In 1991 it was rumored that Japan was going to make an official apology to the United States for the attack. The apology did not come in the form many expected, however. The Japanese Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that in 1941 Japan had intended to make a formal declaration of war to the United States at 1 PM Washington time, 25 minutes before the attacks at Pearl Harbor were scheduled to begin. It appears that the Japanese government was referring to the "14-part message", which did not even formally break off negotiations, let alone declare war. However, due to various delays, the Japanese ambassador was unable to make the declaration until well after the attacks had begun. The Japanese government's apology in 1991 was only for this delay.

Film dramatizations

File:Tora! Tora! Tora! film.jpg
Tora! Tora! Tora! DVD cover

The attack has been depicted numerous times on film. Examples include:

  • From Here to Eternity (1953) Deals with social issues in the military, with 1941 Honolulu as the setting and the Pearl Harbor attack only tangential to the story.
  • Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) Generally considered the best theatrical treatment of the Pearl Harbor attack.
  • The Final Countdown (1980) A science fiction "what if" movie involving time travel back to the eve of the attack and whether the time travelers should intervene.
  • The Winds of War (1983) ABC television miniseries based on the novel by Herman Wouk, culminating with the attack.
  • Pearl Harbor (2001) A romance based on a real story, but its historical accuracy has been challenged.

Recipients of the Medal of Honor

* Awarded posthumously.[8]


  1. ^  John Rodgaard et al., "Pearl Harbor—Attack from Below," Naval History, December 1999 (accessed June 10, 2005).
  2. ^  Stetson Conn et al, "Chapter 7 - The Attack on Pearl Harbor" Guarding the United States and It's Outposts, CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY UNITED STATES ARMY, WASHINGTON, D.C., 2000
  3. ^  Kelley L. Ross, "The Pearl Harbor Strike Force" (accessed June 10, 2005).
  4. ^  Saburo Kurusu, Historical inevitability of the war of Greater East Asia, Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service, Tokyo, November 26, 1942 (accessed June 10, 2005).
  5. ^  Charles Burress, "Biased history helps feed U.S. fascination with Pearl Harbor," Japan Times, July 19, 2001 (accessed June 10, 2005);
  6. ^  Hiroaki Sato, "The View From New York: Debunking America's 'Good War' myth," Japan Times, June 25, 2001 (accessed June 10, 2005);
  7. Kiroku Hanai "U.S. War Conduct: No sense of proportionality," Japan Times, September 28, 2004 (accessed June 10, 2005);
  8. Gregory Clark, "Shedding imposed war guilt," Japan Times, April 15, 2005 (accessed June 10, 2005).
  9. ^  Burritt Sabin, "The War's Leagacy: Dawn of a tragic era," Japan Times, February 8, 2004 (accessed June 10, 2005).
  10. ^  Medal of Honor Citations, U.S. Army Center of Military History.
  11. McCollum_memo A Roosevelt Administration internal document from 1940 (declassified in 1994) which detailed the administration´s plan to provoke a war with Japan.

Further reading

  • Gordon W. Prange, At Dawn We Slept (McGraw-Hill, 1981), Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History (McGraw-Hill, 1986), and December 7, 1941: The Day the Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor (McGraw-Hill, 1988). This monumental trilogy, written with collaborators Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, is considered the authoritative work on the subject.
  • Walter Lord, Day of Infamy (Henry Holt, 1957) is a very readable, and entirely anecdotal, re-telling of the day's events.
  • W. J. Holmes, Double-Edged Secrets: U.S. Naval Intelligence Operations in the Pacific During World War II (Naval Institute, 1979) contains some important material, such as Holmes' point that had the U.S. Navy been warned of the attack and put to sea, it would have likely resulted in an even greater disaster, as all the ships sunk would have been lost completely in deep water, along with a higher loss of life. At the time of Pearl Harbor, Holmes was an intelligence officer who worked closely with the cryptographers stationed in Hawaii.
  • Michael V. Gannon, Pearl Harbor Betrayed (Henry Holt, 2001) is a recent examination of the issues surrounding the surprise of the attack.
  • Frederick D. Parker, Pearl Harbor Revisited: United States Navy Communications Intelligence 1924–1941 (Center for Cryptologic History, 1994) contains a quite detailed description of what the Navy knew from intercepted and decrypted Japanese communications prior to Pearl.
  • Henry C. Clausen and Bruce Lee, Pearl Harbor: Final Judgement, (HarperCollins, 2001), is Clausen's account of the secret 'Clausen Inquiry' undertaken late in the War by order of Congress to Secretary of War Stimson. Clausen's effort was extraordinary, if only because of the exploding vest he wore as he traveled, and the astonishing letter of authority Stimson gave him. His account supports the 'bumbling around in Washington' and the 'bumbling around in Hawaii' theories, but not the 'Roosevelt/Marshall knew' variant. He also thinks that Kimmel and Short failed in their duty to be prepared, as they were ordered to be in November. He faults General Marshall as well for allegedly committing perjury. Clausen admired MacArthur despite the losses in the Philippines, MacArthur's area of responsibility, several hours after the raid at Pearl, in part because they were both Masons. Clausen's investigative brief from Stimson did not include being caught by surprise in the Philippines.
  • Robert A. Theobald, Final Secret of Pearl Harbor (Devin-Adair Pub, 1954) ISBN 0815955030 ISBN 0317659286 Foreword by Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr.
  • Albert C. Wedemeyer, Wedemeyer Reports! (Henry Holt Co, 1958) ISBN 0892750111 ISBN 0815972164
  • Hamilton Fish, Tragic Deception: FDR and America's Involvement in World War II (Devin-Adair Pub, 1983) ISBN 0815969171
  • John Toland, Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath (Berkley Reissue edition, 1986 ISBN 042509040X) is an excellent account by a Pulitzer Prize winning author, though thought by some not to back up his claims as thoroughly as expected by academic conventions.
  • Robert Stinnett, Day of Deceit : The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor (Free Press, 1999) A comprehensive study of the Freedom of Information Act documents which led to the exoneration of Kimmel and Short and prove that Washington (FDR) did indeed seek to lead Americans into war with Japan. ISBN 0743201299
  • Edward L. Beach, Scapegoats: A Defense of Kimmel and Short at Pearl HarborISBN 1557500592
  • Andrew Krepinevich, [9] (Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments) contains a passage regarding the Yarnell attack, as well as reference citations.
  • Roberta Wohlstetter, Pearl Harbour: Warning and Decision, (Stanford University Press: 1962). Despite its age still regarded by many as the most important work in the attempt to understand the intelligence failure at Pearl Harbour. Her introduction and analysis of the concept of "noise" persists in understanding intelligence failures.
  • John Hughes-Wilson, Military Intelligence Blunders and Cover-Ups. Robinson, 1999 (revised 2004). Contains a brief but insightful chapter on the particular intelligence failures, and broader overview of what causes them.

External links

See also

<span class="FA" id="pt" style="display:none;" />chr:Attack on Pearl Harbor da:Angrebet på Pearl Harbor de:Angriff auf Pearl Harbor es:Ataque a Pearl Harbor fr:Attaque sur Pearl Harbor ko:진주만 공격 hr:Napad na Pearl Harbor id:Pengeboman Pearl Harbor it:Battaglia di Pearl Harbor he:המתקפה על פרל הארבור ms:Serangan ke atas Pearl Harbor nl:Aanval op Pearl Harbor ja:真珠湾攻撃 no:Angrepet på Pearl Harbor pt:Ataque a Pearl Harbor fi:Hyökkäys Pearl Harboriin sv:Attacken mot Pearl Harbor zh:珍珠港事件

Personal tools