Start date of the attack on pearl harbor
- Date of attack: December 7, 1941
- Location of Attack: Hawaii Oahu United States
- Main participants: Japan – United States
- Context of event: Operation Barbarossa Pacific War II Sino-Japanese War World War II
- Key People: Nagano Osami, Tojo Hideki Yamamoto, Isoroku Husband Edward Kimmel, Walter Campbell, Short
The Pearl Harbor attack was an unexpected air attack by the Japanese on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, which also drew the US into World War II. The attack brought hostilities between the two countries to a climax in a decade of deteriorating relations.
Background of the attack on Pearl Harbor
By the late 1930s, American foreign policy in the Pacific was dependent on support for China, and growing animosity between Japan and China led to conflict between Japan and the United States as well.
In early 1931, the Tokyo government extended its control over Manchuria (the Chinese province). The following year the Japanese consolidated their hold on the region with the creation of the puppet state of Manchukuo.
The skirmish on the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing on July 7, 1937, signaled the beginning of open warfare between Japan and the United Front of Chinese Nationalists and the Chinese Communist Party. In response, the United States government extended its first loan to China in 1938.
America announced the termination of the commerce and navigation treaty – in 1939
- Amid rising tensions, in July 1939 the US announced the termination of the 1911 Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with Japan.
- In the early summer of 1940, the U.S. began restricting the export of war materials to Japan.
- Between June 1940 and the devastating crisis of December 1941, tensions continued to rise.
In July 1941, by which time the Japanese had occupied all of Indochina and allied with the Axis powers (Germany and Italy), the US government severed all commercial and financial ties with Japan. Japanese assets were frozen, and an embargo was declared on shipments to Japan of petroleum and other critical war materials.
Militarists were steadily gaining influence in the Tokyo government; He strongly opposed American aid to China, which by this time had been extended. He saw in the German invasion of the Soviet Union an unrivaled opportunity to pursue a policy of aggression in the Far East, without the threat of an attack on his rear by Red Army forces.
Nonetheless, talks between the United States and Japan in search of some sort of understanding carried on through the autumn of 1941, and by late November it was clear that no agreement was possible.
Although Japan continued to negotiate with the United States until the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, the government of Japanese Prime Minister Tojo Hideki decided on war. Administrator Yamamoto Isoroku, Commander in Chief of Japan’s Combined Fleet, carefully planned an attack against the US Pacific Fleet.
Once the American fleet was out of action, the way would be open for the Japanese conquest of the whole of Southeast Asia and the Indonesian archipelago. The order for the attack was issued on 5 November 1941 and on 16 November the task force began its rendezvous in the Kuril Islands. Commanders were instructed that the fleet could be recalled, however, in case of a favorable outcome of negotiations in Washington, D.C. On 26 November, Vice Admiral Nagumo Chūichi ordered 6 aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, 3 cruisers, and 11 destroyers, including leading a fleet. destroyer about 275 miles (440 km) north of Hawaii. In all, about 360 aircraft were launched from there.
The US Pacific Fleet had been stationed at Pearl Harbor since April 1940. In addition to about 100 naval vessels, including 8 battleships, there was a substantial military and air force. As tensions mounted, Administrator Husband E. Kimmel and Lt. General Walter C. Short, who shared command at Pearl Harbor, had been warned about the possibility of war, specifically on 16 October and again on 24 and 27 November.
Kimmel’s 27 November notice began, “This dispatch should be treated as a warning of war,” adding that “negotiations have ceased,” and instructed the admiral to “make appropriate defensive deployments.” Kimmel was also ordered to “carry out such reconnaissance and other measures as you deem necessary.” The same day’s communication to Short declared that “hostile action is possible at any moment” and, like his naval counterpart, urged “reconnaissance measures”.
In response to these warnings, the measures taken by the commanders of the army and navy, as the incident proved, were not sufficient. Short ordered an alert against sabotage and concentrated most of his fighters at the base at Wheeler Field in an effort to prevent them from harm. He also gave orders to operate five mobile radar sets installed on the island from 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., considered the most dangerous period. (Radar training, however, was in a very advanced stage.)
Kimmel, despite the fact that his intelligence had not been able to locate substantial elements in the Japanese fleet—particularly the first-line ships in Carrier Divisions 1 and 2—did not expand his reconnaissance activities to the northwest, planning an attack, Logical point for. He tied up the entire fleet (except the part that was at sea) in port and allowed a portion of his personnel to go on shore leave. None of these officers suspected that the base at Pearl Harbor itself would be attacked. Nor, is there any indication that his superiors in Washington were in any way conscious of the impending danger. No additional action was taken by Washington in the 10 days between the war warning of 27 November and the Japanese attack itself.
On the morning of Sunday, December 7, Washington learned that the Japanese ambassadors had been instructed to ask for an interview with the Secretary of State at 1:00 AM (7:30 AM Pearl Harbor time). This was a clear sign that war was near.
It took some time to decode the message, and it was not until about 10:30 that it was in the hands of the Chief of Naval Operations. It was delivered to the War Department between 9:00 am and 10:00 am. US Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall was on horseback and did not see the dispatch until arriving at his office at approximately 11:15.
The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold Stark, still did not think that the communication had asked for any additional instructions from Kimmel. However, the marshal decided to send a new warning and ordered the military command to communicate with the navy. He did not telephone, fearing that his words might be intercepted, and instead sent his dispatch by telegram.
However, there was a communication glitch, and the warning did not reach Hawaii until long after the attack had begun. It is important to note that this was not filed until the afternoon, only an hour before the Japanese planes were to move into the base.
At Pearl Harbor itself, there were events that, properly interpreted, might have given a brief warning. Four hours before the decisive moment, a Japanese submarine was spotted by the minesweeper, USS Condor.
About two and a half hours later, the commander of the destroyer USS Ward sent a message stating that he had “attacked, fired upon, and placed depth charges on a submarine operating in the defensive sea area” near Pearl Harbor. While Kimmel waited for confirmation of this report, the Japanese began hostilities.
In these early morning hours, the U.S. Army Pvt. George Elliott, practicing on a radar set after his normal closing time, saw a large flight of planes on the screen. When he telephoned his lieutenant, he was told to disregard the observation, as a flight of B-17 bombers was expected from the United States at that time. Once again an opportunity was missed.
Attack on pearl harbor
The first Japanese dive bombers appeared over Pearl Harbor at 7:55 am (local time). It was part of the first wave of approximately 200 aircraft, which included torpedo planes, bombers, and fighters.
Within a quarter of an hour, various airfields at the base were subjected to a brutal assault. Because of Short’s anti-sabotage measures, American military aircraft were packed tightly together at the Naval Air Station on Ford Island and the nearby Wheeler and Hickam fields, and many were destroyed on the ground by Japanese strafing. The destruction at Wheeler Field was especially horrific.
Most of the damage to the battleships was done in the first 30 minutes of the attack. There was a massive explosion aboard the battleship USS Arizona. Riddled with bombs and torpedoes, the USS West Virginia settled on an even keel at the bottom of the harbor. USS Oklahoma, hit by four torpedoes within five minutes, completely rolled over, its bottom and propellers raised above the harbor water.
At 8:50 a.m. the second wave of the attack began. Less successful than the first, it still caused heavy damage. The battleship USS Nevada sustained a torpedo hit during the first wave, but its position at the end of Battleship Row gave it more freedom of action than the other moored capital ships.
It was attempting to move forward when the second wave arrived. It was hit by seven or eight bombs and fell at the head of the channel. The battleship USS Pennsylvania was set on fire by bombs, and two destroyers near it were reduced to wreckage. The destroyer USS Shaw was split in two by a massive explosion. Shortly after 9:00 am, the Japanese retreated.
No one could doubt that the Japanese had great success. Arizona and Oklahoma were destroyed with great loss of life, and six other battleships suffered varying degrees of damage. Three cruisers, three destroyers, and other ships were also damaged.
American military casualties exceeded 3,400, including more than 2,300 killed. Heavy damage was inflicted on both Army and Navy aircraft on the ground. The Japanese lost 29 to 60 aircraft, five small submarines, perhaps one or two fleet submarines, and fewer than 100 men. The Japanese task force retired from the theater of war without attacking.
However, there was one consoling feature to the tragedy. As a result of the proposals made by Kimmel, two U.S. The aircraft carriers were not in port. Admin William F. The USS Enterprise, under Halsey, was on a mission to reinforce the Wake Island garrison with seaplanes and aviators.
The USS Lexington was carrying out a similar mission to ferry Marine dive-bombers to Midway. These operations also meant that seven heavy cruisers and a division of destroyers were at sea. Enterprise was scheduled to return to Pearl Harbor on 6 December but was delayed by weather. A third carrier, the USS Saratoga, was embarking a fresh complement of aircraft at San Diego on the morning of the attack.
The Pearl Harbor attack severely crippled American naval and air power in the Pacific. However, of the eight battleships, all except Arizona and Oklahoma were eventually repaired and returned to service, and the Japanese failed to destroy the vital oil storage facilities on the island. “a date that will live in infamy” as a US President.
Franklin D. Roosevelt termed it, uniting the American public and removing any earlier support for neutrality. On December 8, Congress declared war on Japan with only one dissenting vote (Rep. Janet Rankin of Montana, who also voted against U.S. entry into World War I).
Investigations, Allegations, and Explanations
The extent of the disaster and the US military’s lack of preparation drew considerable criticism and led to several investigations. Both Kimmel and Short were relieved of duty, and, almost immediately after the attack, the President called on the U.S. to investigate the facts and fix responsibility. Supreme Court Justice Owen J. appointed a commission headed by Roberts. At a later date, both the Army and Navy boards reviewed the problem.
A full-scale congressional investigation followed in 1946. Prior to September 11, 2001, attacks, perhaps no episode in American military history had been so thoroughly scrutinized, and none had expressed a wider divergence of opinion.
The most extreme view of the disaster is not found in any of the many investigations but was circulated long after the tragedy by those supporting the so-called “back door to war” theory. One of the earliest and most prominent exponents of this doctrine was Rear Admiral Robert A. Theobald, a Pacific Task Force commander whose career was sidelined after clashing with superiors and failing to challenge Japanese attacks on Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians.
In The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor (1954), Theobald asserts that Roosevelt applied “incredible diplomatic pressure” on “Japan” to begin hostilities with a surprise attack by holding the Pacific Fleet in Hawaiian waters as an invitation to that attack. For “wooed”. This position found little support among mainstream historians at the time, and declassified documents concerning the capabilities and limits of US code-breaking efforts would serve to further undermine the “back door” theory.
Roosevelt actually pursued a policy of support for Nationalist China which served as a major irritant to the Tokyo government and did little to provoke it to action. Also, there is strong evidence that he sought to avoid rather than provoke conflict, and even in the final days of negotiations, he made an appeal to Japanese Emperor Hirohito that, if heard, may have had an effect.
The success of the attack on Pearl Harbor was largely due to a miscalculation by the Americans of the enemy’s capabilities and intentions. Officials in Washington knew that Japanese forces were moving south into the Gulf of Thailand. He did not believe that by chance the Japanese could or would attack the air base through this move.
It seemed logical, too, that the Japanese would avoid such an action as it would inevitably bring the United States into the war; Operations in the Pacific directed against the British and Dutch could not have had this effect. The possibility of an air raid on Pearl Harbor was frequently discussed among American military planners during the year, but as the matter approached the crisis, for the above reasons, it receded into the background.
It is a difficult matter (and one on which opinions will long differ) of dividing responsibility between Washington and the commanders on the spot. In a report submitted on December 17, 1941, just weeks after being appointed by Roosevelt, the Roberts Commission placed the main blame for the disaster on Kimmel and Short. Later Army and Navy commissions investigating the problem took the opposite view, placing the blame on the War and Navy Departments.
A congressional committee majority report, rendered in 1946, stressed the lack of preparation in Hawaii, while not refraining from criticizing the Chief of Naval Operations and the US Army Chief of Staff. Two members of this committee strongly opposed it, severely blaming officials in Washington, and the third took a middle ground.
Those who defend the position of the Hawaiian commanders make the following points. Short responded to Marshall’s November 27 warning, “The department is vigilant to prevent sabotage.” When this reply passed over the Chief of Staff’s desk, he did not notice that it only mentioned similar preparations (as did his subordinate, General Leonard T. Gero).
This neglect was not repaired at any point in the next 10 days. As for Kimmel, it has been said that he was inadequately informed of the seriousness of the crisis. In the months before Pearl Harbor, the armed services, by breaking Japanese codes, were able to obtain much information about Japanese objectives.
No small part of it is related to the position of naval forces in Hawaii. Kimmel himself claimed that if he had been put in possession of this material, he would have taken much stronger measures than he actually did. In defense of his failure to take more vigorous measures of reconnaissance, he urged the importance of his training program and the limited nature of his resources.
Washington’s critics also said that by the evening of 6 December the President had clear evidence that war was imminent and that he should have taken immediate steps to alert the War and Navy Departments. This view gave little importance to the warnings of 27 November.
Those who were critical of the commanders on the spot were of the view that the warnings given were sufficient and that acting on them showed a lack of imagination. There has been a flurry of questions. Why was the possibility of an air strike ignored? Why were Short’s airships designed to make them most vulnerable to enemy attack? Why wasn’t the radar training program more advanced?
Why did Kimmel manipulate his schedule so that the Japanese could count on all battleships being in port on Sundays? Why were general weekend holidays and freedoms provided? Why hasn’t some effort been made to improve reconnaissance? Why was the Japanese submarine report not taken more seriously? Those who emphasize the responsibility of Kimmel and Short also point to the fact that the war warnings of 27 November prompted more vigorous action from commanders in the Canal Zone and the Philippines.
Whatever the verdict on this matter, more important than the question of responsibility is the question of the historical significance of Pearl Harbor. It is easy to reach a conclusion here. As great as the Japanese success was in the short term, the United States was mortified that the attack was, in the long perspective, a monstrous error on the part of the government in Tokyo.
It was also a big mistake from a strategic point of view. In their intent to destroy the fleet, the Japanese neglected the large oil supplies in Hawaii, the destruction of which would have immobilized the United States for months to come. More importantly, the Japanese attack brought the US government into the war, united the American people, and made the final defeat of Japanese militarists inevitable.
In the fall of 1941, there was much antiwar sentiment in the United States. Had the Japanese commanders turned their attention against the British and Dutch, it would have been at least questionable whether Roosevelt could have led the American men into war in the Pacific.
Despite the weaknesses of democracies, as in many other examples in 20th-century history, autocratic states made more significant errors than democracies. Pearl Harbor was atonement for the four-and-a-half-year war, but the blunders of Japanese militarists resulted in an outright defeat.
Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?
By mid-1941 the United States had severed all economic ties with Japan and was providing material and financial aid to China. Japan had been at war with China since 1937, and the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 ensured that the Soviet Union was no longer a threat to the Japanese on the Asian mainland. The Japanese believed that once the American Pacific Fleet was neutralized, all of Southeast Asia would be open to conquest.
How long did the Pearl Harbor attack last?
On December 7, 1941, at 7:55 am (local time), the first Japanese dive bomber appeared over Pearl Harbor. Over the next half hour, Pearl Harbor’s airfields and docked ships were subjected to a ruthless assault with bombs, guns, and torpedoes. The second wave arrived at 8:50 am and the Japanese withdrew after 9:00 am. In just one hour, the Japanese destroyed more than 180 aircraft and destroyed or damaged more than a dozen ships. More than 2,400 US military members and civilians were killed.
Was the Pearl Harbor attack successful?
In the short term, the US naval presence in the Pacific was severely weakened. However, the Japanese had largely overlooked port infrastructure, and many of the damaged ships were repaired on-site and returned to duty. In addition, three of the Pacific Fleet’s aircraft carriers were not present at Pearl Harbor (one was due to return the day before the attack, but was delayed due to bad weather). American opinion immediately shifted in favor of war with Japan, a course that would end less than four years later with Japan’s unconditional surrender.
How’s Pearl Harbor today?
Pearl Harbor is a US Navy base on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and the headquarters of the US Pacific Fleet. Adjacent to the port is Hickam Air Force Base, and the two installations were merged in 2010 to become Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The USS Arizona remains where she sank on December 7, 1941, and is preserved as a national cemetery. The USS Arizona Memorial is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Hawaii.