The Attack on Pearl Harbor

America's 70th Year Anniversary

Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?

The sequence of events that led to the attack started in September 1940. The United States placed a halt, an embargo, on Japan denying steel, scrap iron, and aviation fuel. This was caused by Japan's conquer of northern French Indochina. In April, 1941, a neutrality treaty was signed between the Soviet Union and Japan in order to help prevent an attack in the event of going to war with Britain or the U.S. occurred. All this while they joined to take over more of Southeast Asia. Subsequently, in June of 1941 all through until the end of July Japan occupied southern Indochina. After a two day's time their assets were frozen by Britain, the Netherlands and the U.S., causing the Japanese army to decipitate in time due to the prevention of buying oil.


At the end of 1941 the Soviets were close to defeat, but Japan took over the oil resources of Southeast Asia. U.S. Citizens did not wish to go to war over it, so they made the Japanese promise to withdraw and not take over any more land. Just before December of 1941, the Japanese had a plan. They were to attempt to get the oil embargo lifted while still able to take over territories, and they were preparing for war. In secret, the Japanese premier, General Tojo, set November 29 as the last day of acceptance of settlement without war. The Japanese war plan was to fly into Bruma, Malaya, the East Indies, and the Philippines. They were also to set up a perimeter around the southwest Pacific. The only threat that stood in their way was the U.S. Pacific Fleet held in Pearl Harbor, so they planned a surprise air attack to insure it wouldn't stand in their way.

Was there any warning or was the attack a surprise attack?

There were only ever two warning signs prior to the attack. We knew there was going to be an attack. The United States broke the Japanese diplomatic code, which could only mean they were going to attack and that we were vulnerable. There was a single warning that came from Washington, but it was far too late to have received it and by that point Pearl Harbor was already under attack.


The radar wasn't much use either. The technology for the radar system was still fairly new. The enemy planes were spotted, however they were mistaken for American B-17s that were due back. No one suspected it being the Japanese. Our only two warnings had failed.

What happened to Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941?

On the morning of December 7th , 1941 the first wave of the enemy approached. It was a very peaceful day, and it was sunny on a Hawaiian island. A few minutes before 8 a.m. Japanese planes left 6 aircraft carries and bombed Pearl Harbor. There were only two waves, but the attack lasted a complete of 2 hours. 3,500 Americans were killed or wounded. 18 ships, among them 8 were battleships, were sunk or critically damaged. Over 350 aircraft were destroyed or sunk. In total, 2,402 people died.


One of the most memorable events is when the U.S.S. Arizona exploded. It was one of the very first ships to be bombed. The bomb caused the forward power magazines to explode, sweeping out the foreward part of the ship. This subsequently caused the foremost and foreward superstructure to collapse, and turrets one and two to drop more then 20 feet. The resulting explosion caused fires everywhere. Anyone who didn't die instantly from the explosion and fires were trapped inside as the ship sank. There were few survivors but they dedicated immense bravery trying to rescue the others. 1,177 people died on the Arizona. It became a symbol as to why the U.S. Was fighting later on in the war.

What was the result of the attack on Pearl Harbor?

The result of the attack made the people of the United States scream for war. Every American soldier who died in Pearl Harbor had to be avenged. On December 8th 1941, President FDR addressed the people of the nation. This address declared war on the Japanese, officially joining the Second World War. America was neutral, but after they were forced into the war joined the Axis Powers with Britain, France, and others in the war against Hitler and his allies.


It is rather ironic. The Japanese swooped in, winning the most successful battle in their war. However this success, in turn, assured their absolute defeat. The U.S. was not going to back down as the Japanese had predicted. They failed to sink any of the Pacific aircraft carriers. They also left most of the fuel alone. With those two factors combined, the U.S. was accidentally given everything needed in order to win the war in the Pacific.

My own reflection

I believe the hardest thing to come to terms with is the death toll. It is completely unbelievable to read through the list of names. My skin crawled. It is so hard to believe of such disasters happening no matter how many times you hear about it. People always think, “Well, it can't happen to me.” Researching these events definitely raised my awareness on the reality of the situation and why it is such a marked day in our history, even if it was 70 years ago.