The Attack On Pearl Harbor


Until the September 11 terrorist attacks, the attack on Pearl Harbor was the deadliest attack on American soil. This surprise attack, which took place on December 7, 1941, killed more than 2,000 Americans, most of them military personnel, and wounded more than 1,000 more people.

Japanese Expansionism

The United States government tried to maintain neutrality in World War II despite pleas from other nations for the country to join the Allied Forces. Because the atrocities of the Holocaust fill post-war stories, few people know about the early involvement of Japan in the conflict. Japan began moving into other countries in the early 1940s in a move to become an expansionist state. After that, the United States cut off Japan’s access to oil. The Japanese government then began planning the attack on Pearl Harbor because the U.S. Pacific fleet was there. This fleet was the only protection the United States had in the Pacific Ocean. If Japan could cripple this fleet, moving into the East Indies would be easier.

U.S. Isolationism

People in the United States still remembered World War I, and many wanted to avoid getting involved in another largely European conflict. The government set a policy of isolationism early in the war. When the attack on Pearl Harbor took place, the U.S. government, under the direction of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was planning to intervene.

The Attack

Japan sent six fleets of aircraft carriers north of Hawaii in late November 1941. These fleets, which included 360 bombers, were to launch an aerial attack on Pearl Harbor to take out as many US ships and submarines as possible. The second tier of attackers would swoop in later and take out any ships that did not get hit during the first raid.

When the first aircraft carriers approached, military personnel on Oahu alerted others of the impending attack, but the military did not have the time to react because the ships were in training mode. A group of B-17 bombers did attempt to take on the Japanese planes with limited success.

After Pearl Harbor

After the morning of attacks, the U.S. military personnel in the area found the Japanese attack caused four battleships to sink. The USS Arizona took the brunt of the attack, and many bodies could not be recovered from the ship. The ship now serves as a portion of the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Four more ships on Battleship Row sustained significant damage. Other losses included cruisers and destroyers, as well as significant aircraft losses.

One of the major problems after Pearl Harbor was the identification of everyone. When people search a wreckage of this magnitude, they are not able to recover all of the bodies they find. Such was the case with Pearl Harbor.

Many people claim a presence during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The U.S. Navy, as well as several Pearl Harbor survivors’ organizations, provide comprehensive listings of the survivors of the attack.

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