Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor: U.S. Enters WWII
"To the Congress of the United States: Yesterday, December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. ...I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire."
—President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dec. 8, 1941
On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, 130 vessels of the U.S. Pacific Fleet lay anchored in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. Naval aircraft were lined up at Ford Island and Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Stations, and at Ewa Marine Corps Air Station. U.S. Army Air Corps aircraft were parked in groups at Hickam, Wheeler, and Bellows airfields. Suddenly, two waves of Japanese planes, launched from six aircraft carriers, attacked the unsuspecting American forces.
Article continues after this newspaper image from the Dec. 8, 1941, issue of the Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)
The first wave arrived shortly before 8:00 a.m., the second at 8:40 a.m. At approximately 8:10 a.m. the USS Arizona exploded; she sank in less than nine minutes with 1,177 of her crew. The USS Oklahoma was hit by several torpedoes causing her to roll completely over, trapping more than 400 men inside. The USS California and USS West Virginia sank at their moorings, while the USS Utah capsized with over 50 of her crew. The USS Maryland, USS Pennsylvania, and USS Tennessee all suffered significant damage. The USS Shaw and the USS Sotoyomo were destroyed along with a dry dock. The USS Nevada attempted to run out to sea but took several hits and was beached to avoid sinking and blocking the harbor entrance. At the airfields around the island planes were destroyed on the ground and hundreds of men were killed or wounded. Some American planes were able to take off from the airfields and shot down as many as 12 Japanese planes. By 10:00 a.m. the fighting was over.
The attack at Pearl Harbor delivered a crushing blow to the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The Japanese sank four battleships and heavily damaged four others. They also sank or damaged ten other ships, destroyed 188 airplanes, and caused almost 3,700 casualties.
The American losses were heavy, but the surprise attack was not the permanently crippling strike the Japanese had hoped for: the American aircraft carriers were not in the harbor at the time of the attack and escaped harm. The Japanese thought that attacking the American battleships would deliver a decisive blow to the Pacific Fleet, but it turned out that aircraft carriers were the dominant weapon in the Pacific naval war.
In addition, many of the military installations at Pearl Harbor remained intact. The shipyards, fuel storage areas, and submarine base suffered only slight damage. The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, within an hour of President Roosevelt’s famous speech, Congress declared war on Japan. A few days later Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. America was now fully engaged in World War II.
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