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Pearl Harbour Attack

Pearl Harbour Attack


The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was a defining moment in World War II and in American history. This surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service against the United States led to the United States’ formal entry into World War II. The event had profound and far-reaching consequences, reshaping global politics and military strategy.

Historical Context

  1. Rising Tensions in the Pacific: Throughout the 1930s, Japan pursued aggressive territorial expansion in Asia, invading Manchuria in 1931 and China in 1937. These actions strained relations with Western powers, particularly the United States, which opposed Japan’s expansionist policies.
  2. Economic Sanctions: In response to Japanese aggression, the United States imposed economic sanctions, including an oil embargo, which threatened to cripple Japan’s military and industrial capabilities. Japan viewed these sanctions as a direct threat to its national survival and expansionist goals.
  3. Diplomatic Negotiations: In the months leading up to the attack, diplomatic efforts between Japan and the United States aimed at resolving their differences failed. Japan decided that a decisive military strike against the United States would be necessary to secure its dominance in the Pacific.

The Attack

  1. Planning and Strategy: The Japanese naval command, led by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, meticulously planned the attack on Pearl Harbor. The objective was to incapacitate the U.S. Pacific Fleet, thereby preventing it from interfering with Japanese expansion in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
  2. Execution: On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The assault began at 7:55 AM local time and involved two waves of aircraft, totaling over 350 planes, including bombers, torpedo bombers, and fighters.
  3. Targets and Damage: The attack targeted battleships, aircraft carriers, airfields, and other military installations. Key results included:
    • Battleships: Eight battleships were damaged, with four (USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS West Virginia, and USS California) being sunk. The USS Arizona suffered the greatest loss of life, with over 1,100 sailors killed.
    • Aircraft: Nearly 200 U.S. aircraft were destroyed or damaged.
    • Personnel: The attack resulted in 2,403 Americans killed and 1,178 wounded.

Immediate Aftermath

  1. U.S. Declaration of War: The day after the attack, on December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed Congress, famously declaring December 7 “a date which will live in infamy.” Congress swiftly passed a declaration of war against Japan, officially bringing the United States into World War II.
  2. Allied Reactions: The attack unified American public opinion in favor of entering the war. The United States’ entry into World War II significantly bolstered the Allied powers’ efforts against the Axis powers.
  3. Japanese Miscalculations: While the attack was initially a tactical success for Japan, it failed to achieve strategic objectives. The U.S. aircraft carriers, crucial to naval warfare in the Pacific, were not in port and thus escaped destruction. Additionally, the attack galvanized American resolve, leading to a massive mobilization of military and industrial resources.

Long-Term Consequences

  1. Pacific Theater of WWII: The attack on Pearl Harbor set the stage for the Pacific Theater of World War II, where the United States and its Allies engaged in a prolonged and brutal conflict against Japan. Key battles included Midway, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima, ultimately leading to Japan’s surrender in 1945.
  2. Military and Industrial Mobilization: The United States rapidly mobilized its military and industrial capacity, transitioning to a wartime economy. This mobilization played a critical role in the eventual Allied victory.
  3. Japanese-American Internment: In the wake of the attack, fear and suspicion of Japanese-Americans led to the internment of around 120,000 individuals, most of whom were U.S. citizens. This controversial and tragic episode remains a significant blemish on American history, leading to later government apologies and reparations.
  4. Global Impact: The attack on Pearl Harbor had a profound impact on global geopolitics, leading to the solidification of the Allied powers and eventually contributing to the establishment of the United Nations and the onset of the Cold War.
  5. Legacy and Memory: Pearl Harbor remains a symbol of American resilience and determination. The USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor serves as a poignant reminder of the lives lost and the event’s significance in American history.


The attack on Pearl Harbor was a watershed moment in World War II, prompting the United States’ entry into the conflict and significantly altering the course of the war. The event underscored the devastating impact of military aggression and the importance of preparedness and intelligence in national defense. Its legacy continues to be felt today, both in the strategic lessons learned and in the enduring memory of those who lost their lives.

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