The bombing of Pearl Harbor is one of the most important events in US history and led directly to the US entry into World War 2. This article contains interesting facts about the infamous day in the history of the United States when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor Facts
Pearl Harbor is located on the southern island of Oahu, Hawaii near Honolulu. It was the location of the US naval base and headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet that was bombed by the Japanese, bringing the United States into WW2
Japan launched their surprise attacked on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941. The US naval fleet was not prepared for the attack and Japan and America were not at war.
In June 1940 President Roosevelt ordered the US Pacific Fleet to move its main base in the Pacific from San Diego, California to Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands, as a deterrent to Japanese aggression. The move was risky as it placed the US Pacific fleet within striking distance of Japan's powerful navy
Admiral Husband Edward Kimmel, a four-star admiral in the United States Navy and Commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, was in command at Hawaii. Ten days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor he was removed from his command and reduced to the two-star rank of rear admiral.
Lieutenant-General Walter C. Short was in charge of U.S. Army defenses in Hawaii when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was also removed from command as a result of the attack.
The United States was unprepared for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at all levels and communication was sadly lacking. As a consequence the US suffered the humiliating defeat at the hands of the Japanese.
The armed forces of Japan had superior equipment, were experienced in combat and their military leaders were experts in the planning of attacks due to their invasion of China and Indochina.
The superiority of the Japanese in 1940 can be illustrated with the following facts:
Planning: Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was the commander-in-chief of the Combined Japanese fleet and responsible for the audacious plan for the Pearl Harbor attack. Yamamoto expressed doubts about attacking the United States and said "I fear we will awaken a sleeping giant."
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was timed to coincide with attacks on the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Thailand. The majority of General MacArthur's aircraft in the Philippines were destroyed by the Japanese on the same day they attacked Pearl Harbor.
The Japanese assault force on Pearl Harbor was planned to attack in two waves, approximately 45 minutes apart, and consisted of six carriers with 423 planes, under the command of Admiral Nagumo. The six Japanese aircraft carriers had traveled 3,400 miles across the northern Pacific without discovery to their final location 230 miles north of Oahu, Hawaii.
The first attack wave consisted of 183 warplanes was led by Comdr. Mitsuo Fuchida and included 51 dive bombers, 40 torpedo bombers, 50 high level bombers and 43 fighters. The primary targets of the first attack wave were the eight US battleships anchored at Pearl Harbor. Seven US battleships were moored on Battleship Row along the southeast shore of Ford Island and the USS Pennsylvania was in dry dock across the channel.
The second wave of Japanese aircraft consisted of 35 fighters, 78 dive-bombers, and 54 high-altitude bombers whose objective was to target US aircraft, other ships and shipyard facilities.
All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged and the Japanese also sank or damaged 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. A total of 188 U.S. aircraft were also destroyed and a further 159 aircraft were damaged.
The attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in the loss of 2,403 Americans including 68 civilians. The number of Americans injured totaled 1,178 including 35 civilians.
The Japanese attack force lost 29 planes and 5 midget submarines. 74 Japanese aircraft were damaged from anti-aircraft fire from the ground. A rough sea caused about 50 Japanese planes to smash on carrier landings. The number of Japanese deaths totaled 64.
The Japanese specifically chose to attack early on a Sunday morning knowing the military would be relaxed and still eating breakfast at the time the bombing commenced
The Japanese attacked the US airfields at Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, Ewa Field, Bellows Field, Schoefield Barracks, and Kaneohe Naval Air Station.
The US airplanes were closely lined up along the airstrips wingtip to wingtip in order to avoid sabotage but this made them easy targets for the Japanese bombers. The position of the US airplanes made it impossible to quickly launch aircraft and made the aircraft easier to destroy.
Commander Mitsuo Fuchida issued the first wave Japanese attack order by exclaiming the codeword "Tora! Tora! Tora!", literally meaning "Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!" as a message to the entire Japanese navy indicating that they had surprised the Americans with the lightning attack.
The three U.S. Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers, the Lexington, Enterprise and Saratoga, were not in the Pearl Harbor port at the time of the attack and so escaped any damage.
An 1,760-pound air bomb penetrated into the forward magazine of the USS Arizona battleship causing catastrophic explosions leading to the deaths of 1,104 men and 1,178 wounded accounting for approximately half of the losses during the Pearl Harbor attack.
A series of mistakes by the US military and communication blunders were made at Pearl Harbor.
On December 2, 1941 the U.S. received a warning that Admiral Yamamoto was planning a Pacific attack, but not when or where it would occur - explicit war warnings were sent to all Pacific commands but they focused on the Far East - Pearl Harbor was not mentioned
At 06.45am the USS Ward sunk a Japanese midget submarine outside the entrance of Pearl Harbor and sent a message to Naval Headquarters stating "We have attacked, fired upon, and dropped depth charges upon submarine operating in defensive sea area." Admiral Kimmel decides to "wait for verification of the report" because there had been so many recent "false reports of submarines"
At 07.02am the Opama Radar Station on Oahu picked up a flight of unidentified planes bearing in 132 miles north of Oahu new radar equipment. The information center at Fort Shafter assumes that the flight is a group of 12 expected American B 17 Flying Fortresses traveling from California to the Philippines via Hawaii and responds with "Don't worry about it."
The Japanese made a crucial error that day when Admiral Nagumo canceled the third wave of its air assault which was part of the original plan. The Japanese left the naval base's oil tanks undamaged and the extensive repair and support facilities intact which allowed the US Navy to re-float and repair most of the ships damaged that day and allowed Pearl Harbor to continue to operate as a fully functional naval base.
A famous hero who served with distinction in the attack on Pearl Harbor was African-American Doris "Dorie" Miller who was a Messman Third Class on the USS West Virginia. "Dorie" Miller went above and beyond the call of duty during the attack on Pearl Harbor when he took control of an unattended machine gun and used it in defense of the base. "Dorie" Miller was subsequently awarded the Navy Cross.
News of the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor reached the American people via radio broadcasts on Sunday afternoon leaving the nation angry and in shock.
The devastating results and the shock of the "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor without the expected "fair play" of a declaration of war galvanized American's determination to avenge the attack. The United States declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941 and America began its fight in WW2 and the US Mobilization for WW2
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