Pearl Harbor was the operating base of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.  The Japanese pulled a surprise attack on the U.S. on December 7, 1941 at 7:50 A.M. during the beginning of World War II.  On November 26 a powerful Japanese task force, under the command of Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, left the Kuril Islands; on December 2 it received a coded message issuing the attack order.  The undetected Japanese force arrived off the Hawaiian Islands on the morning of December 7. 

In two successive waves more than 350 Japanese bombers, torpedo planes, and fighters struck.  More than 75 U.S. warships (including battleships, cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and auxiliaries) were based at this “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” All U.S. aircraft carriers were elsewhere. Observing radio silence, it reached a launching point at 6 AM, December 7. 

At 7:50 AM, the first wave of Japanese planes struck Pearl Harbor, bombarding airfields and battleships moored at the concrete quays.  The U.S. totally taken off guard had to defend themselves in pajamas.  They used anti-aircraft guns in an attempt to stop the Japanese.

A second wave followed.  The surprise attack was over before 10 AM.  The results were devastating; 18 U.S. ships were hit, and more than 200 aircraft destroyed or damaged.  The battleship Arizona was a total wreck; the West Virginia and California were sunk; and The Nevada was heavily damaged.  Approximately 2,400 Americans were killed, 1,300 wounded, and 1,000 missing. Japanese losses were fewer than 100 casualties, 29 planes, and 5 midget submarines. 

The Japanese totally destroyed the U.S. naval power in the Pacific.  The attack was, however, a colossal political and psychological blunder, for it mobilized U.S. public opinion against the Japanese and served as the catalyst that brought the United States into the war.  “December 7, 1941,” said President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is “a date which will live in infamy.” A monument has been built across the hull of the sunken U.S.S. Arizona; it was dedicated as a national memorial in 1962.   

The next day President Roosevelt told a joint session of Congress that December 7 was “a date which will live in infamy.” Congress voted to declare war on Japan.  A small boat rescued seamen from USS West Virginia after the surprise Japanese air attack.  There are different reasons why the Japanese were able to pull a surprise attack on the United States’ biggest military base. 

One is that when the U.S. received the message from the Japanese saying that they were going to declare war the guy who was receiving the message reported that it was a false alarm.  The real reason is not known why but Pearl Harbor will always be remembered.  They should have known not to mess with the U.S. because after that little stunt they pulled we really set off and got into World War II.

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