December 7, 1941 attack
The raid on Pearl Harbor is the final straw that led the United States into World War II. In June 1939 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had transferred the U.S. fleet to This pacific harbor as a presumed deterrent to Japanese aggression. Japan had been at an almost endless war with China over badly needed oil and raw materials since mid 1937.
In July 1941, Western powers ended all trade with Japan. Since the Japanese schemed to seize the oil and mineral rich East Indies and Southeast Asia, A Pacific war was inevitable. In late November 1941 peace negotiations were at a stand still. U.S. officials had broken Japan’s code and expected a Japanese attack in the Indies, Malay and the Philippines. They never expected the Japanese would attack in the east as well.
Japan’s Admiral Chuich Nagumo sent the most powerful task force ever assembled, including all of Japan’s six first-line aircraft carriers, Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryo, Shokaku and Zuikaku with 420 planes to attack Oahu. Nagumo’s Pearl Harbor striking force also included fast battleships, cruisers and destroyers, with tankers to fuel the ships for their trip across the Pacific Ocean.
An Advance expeditionary force of large submarines carrying midget submarines were sent to scout around Hawaii and dispatch the midget subs into the harbor to attack the U.S. ships that were there and torpedo any American warships that may escape to the sea. Nagumo secretly took his ships to sea on November 26, 1941, with orders to abort the mission if they were discovered or if a peace treaty were signed.
Just before dawn on December 7, 1941, Nagumo’s striking force was less than 300 miles north of Honolulu. Nagumo ordered the first attack wave of over 180 aircraft, including torpedo planes, high-level bombers, dive bombers and fighters to launch. As soon as these planes took off. The second wave of similar size, but with more dive bombers and no torpedo planes was brought up from the carriers and immediately sent off in the early morning sunrise toward Honolulu. Near Oahu’s southern shore the midget submarines were already making their way through the narrow channels and into the harbor. The strike force hit Pearl Harbor just before 8:00am on December 7, 1941. Within a very short time five of eight battleships stationed in the harbor were sunk of sinking, the rest were badly damaged. Several other ships and almost all Hawaii based combat planes were destroyed. Soon after Japanese planes eliminated most of the American force in the Philippines and the Japanese were ashore in Malaysia.
With 2,400 Americans dead from this attack, the American people were shocked and enraged. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Date which will live in infamy” speech brought American unity to previously divided American feelings about entering the war. Soon after, The United States entered World War II.
Even today there is a very solemn mood at The USS Arizona Memorial located at Pearl Harbor.
Copyright 2007 Discover-Oahu.com