Hawaii January 13, 2018
One Of The Worst Disasters In U.S. History Happened Right Here In Hawaii
The United States’ involvement in World War II was profound, but perhaps nowhere was the war more impactful than in Hawaii, especially on Pearl Harbor. After all, it was the attack on Pearl Harbor that lead to America’s entry into World War II, in both European and Pacific theaters. December 7, 1941 is a day that lives on in infamy as one of the most tragic attacks on the United States — as well as one of the worst disasters in American history.
The Japanese Imperial Navy attacks against United States Naval Base Pearl Harbor began at approximately 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Standard Time on that fateful Sunday morning more than 76 years ago.
The now-famous military base was attacked by 353 Japanese aircraft including fighters, level and die bombers, and torpedo bombers in two waves launched from six aircraft carriers approximately 275 miles north of Hawaii.
Hours before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Admiral Husband Kimmel, the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, received a message from the Navy reading "This dispatch is to be considered a war warning. Negotiations with Japan looking toward stabilization of conditions in the Pacific have ceased and an aggressive move by Japan is expected within the next few days. Execute an appropriate defensive deployment preparatory to carrying out the tasks assigned." This message, however, did not mention Pearl Harbor as a potential attack site. Instead, the United States was expecting an attack on the Philippines.
It is said that on the morning of December 7, 1941, a U.S. Army private who noticed this large flight of planes on his radar screen was told to ignore them. After all, a flight of B-17s from the United States was expected at that time. Unfortunately, the anchored ships in the harbor made perfect targets for the Japanese bombers, and since it was Sunday morning, the ships were not fully manned.
Most of the damage to the U.S. battleships was inflicted in the first thirty minutes of the assault. The attack damaged all eight U.S. Navy battleships. All but the USS Arizona were later raised, and six returned to service and went on to fight in World War II.
Approximately 2,403 Americans were killed in the attack, including civilians, and another 1,178 were wounded. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, one minelayer, and an anti-aircraft training ship.
Also destroyed were more than 180 U.S. aircraft. Luckily, important base installations, such as the power station, dry dock, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities were not attacked.
The attack climaxed a decade of deteriorating relations between the United States and Japan. Japan’s invasion of China in 1937, its alliance with the Axis powers in 1940, and its occupation of French Indochina in July 1941 prompted the U.S. to respond by freezing Japanese assets in the U.S. and declaring an embargo on vital war materials and petroleum shipments to Japan. Nearly 56 percent of Japan’s imports at the time came from the United States as Japan had limited natural resources.
By late 1941, practically all commercial and financial relations with Japan were severed by the United States. Instead of negotiations, the Japanese government decided on war.
The American people were shocked by the surprise attack, and directly resulted in the United States’ entry into World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan the day after the assault. Several days later, on December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on America, and the United States responded with another declaration of war.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was not only one of the worst disasters on United States soil, but the second deadliest attack in American history, second only to the September 11 terrorist attack.
Believe it or not, the attack on Pearl Harbor wasn’t the only disaster that occurred in this famous harbor during the 1940s. Read more about the West Loch disaster here.
For another glimpse into World War II in Hawaii, check out these 13 rare photographs.