Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor

by Francis Loquellano

A Decade of Deterioration of the Relationship Between Japan and U.S.

The Japanese and the Americans as two nations, had a relationship. Over the course of 10 years, the Japanese began to take its own separate actions as well as the United States, which creates a disintegration between the bond they had. These actions include the Japanese leaving the League of Nations and invade China in 1937. In the upcoming year of 1940, the Japanese created an alliance with the Axis powers (Germany and Italy). The Occupation of French Indochina in July 1941 made the United States freeze Japanese assets in the United States and imposed an embargo on petroleum shipments and war materials to Japan. By late 1941, the United States cut ties with Japan commercially and financially. These actions made by each nation allowed for negative emotions to be evidently shown towards each other.

Hideki Tōjō Turned to War

Hideki Tōjō was a Japanese radical conservative nationalist who influenced Japanese expansion. Later on he became the prime minister. He was the one who assigned Adm. Yamamoto Isoroku (the commander in chief of Japan's Combined Fleet) to draw up plans for conquest.

As Japanese and American diplomats tried to discuss a reasonable solution for both parties, the Japanese were trying to put effort on expanding the war in China. In due time, Cordell Hull, the U.S. Secretary of State at the time, issued an ultimatum for Japan to remove all of its troops from China and any of the Southeast Asian territories they chose to take over. Tōjō then convinced the Japanese government that it would be national suicide to accept to Hull's ultimatum proposal. At the same time, the Western nations were trying to starve Japan into submission. Tōjō was left no option but to turn to war.

Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, "A date which will live in infamy"

On December 7, 1941, the U.S. Naval Base of Pearl Harbor was attacked in Hawaii. With the plans of Adm. Yamamoto Isoroku and under the command of Vice Adm. Nagumo Chuichi, the Japanese fleet sailed towards 275 miles north of Hawaii. The fleet consisted of aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, 3 cruisers, and 11 destroyers. 360 planes were launched from where they positioned. The first Japanese dive bomber showed up over Pearl Harbor at 7:55 AM (local time). The Americans were not prepared for this attack at all. The Japanese were known for properly executing the element of surprise in their attacks evidently shown through the different battles they have engaged in.The reconnaissance at Pearl Harbor wasn't at it's maximum severity. The radar was a relatively new device at that time and only a few Americans on radar duty that morning knew how to properly interpret the various blips that appear on the screen. Also, the U.S. Army private who noticed the large flight of planes that appeared on his radar was told to ignore them, since a flight of B-17s from the U.S. was expected at that time. The Japanese carriers launched the 360 planes in two waves. The primary target for the Japanese air crews was the Battleship Row where the the American battleships were anchored together in a row. Other Japanese were assigned to attack the Wheeler Army Airfield to prevent a counterattack to interfere with their plans. The U.S. aircrafts at Wheeler were parked wingtip to wingtip which made and this formation made an easy target for the Japanese. The Americans try to recuperate from this disorientation and the U.S. sailors and Marines began to man their anti-aircraft guns on ships and on the shore. By the time the do this, most of the planes at the U.S. airfield were quickly destroyed on the ground although 12 pilots of the 15th Pursuit Group managed to get in the air and engaged in a dogfight with Japanese attackers to fend them off. The attack was over by 10 AM. In the end, the battleships Arizona, Oklahoma, California, and West Virginia had sunk, and three others were heavily damaged. 200 out of the 400 airplanes in Oahu were destroyed and less than 50 survived undamaged. 2401 sailors and soldiers were killed and 1,100 others were injured. This was a sad day for Americans for they suffered a devastating loss. This war took the United States of neutrality and propelled them into World War II.

After the Attack

After the attack, various parts of the world was very well soon alerted about the situation and take action upon this event. Almost immediately after the news of the attack circulated in the United States, many men began forming long lines at the recruiting center to join the military. The day after, December 8, president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the declaration of war against Japan and China and the Netherlands joined the war effort against Japan. Canada immediately declared war on Japan after news from the attack reached the countries capital of Ottawa. Due to the alliance with Japan, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States on December 11. This made the United States be a part of World War II.

The Attacks Continue

The Japanese won a string of victories soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor. These attack are part of the Japanese's plan of conquest and expansion. The Philippines was a country that the Japanese attacked. They attacked the Philippines 10 hours after Pearl Harbor. Since the Philippines was American land, there were American troops stationed there as well as Filipino troops. The Japanese pushed the American and Filipino troops to retreat to Bataan after they landed on the island of Luzon. The troops then surrendered on April 19. On May 6, the Japanese took 95,000 American and Filipino troops prisoner on Bataan and Corregidor. These troops were forced on a long cruel march called the "Bataan Death March", to prison camps.

Other countries that the Japanese attacked was Malaya and Singapore. The Japanese troop arrived in Malay on December 8th. Although they were outnumbered and opposing the British who had the better technology, they were still trained better than them. Also, the advanced British warship, the Prince of Wales, only took down three Japanese planes. By the end of January, the allied troops retreated to Singapore. Demoralized by the long retreat and could not stop the Japanese, the British commander was fearing for the safety of the 1 million civilians that were in the city of Singapore therefore he surrendered on February 15, 1942.

On June 4, 1942, the Japanese invasion fleet arrived on the island of Midway. A group of American dive bombers caught the Japanese off guard while their decks were full of planes being refueled and rearmed. The American bombs started fires. The Americans burned and sank four Japanese carriers. This was considered a turning point in World War II. The Americans hit the Japanese so hard that they could no longer expand their territory. They could no longer invade Australia or threaten Hawaii or North America. The United States government could use American resources in a safe manner to defeat the Germans before turning its attention to Japan.