Attack on Pearl Harbor

Attack on Pearl Harbour

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941 became a most significant milestone in the history of the war. A well-planned and skilfully executed single attack destroyed the threat posed by the US warships to the Japanese empire and its planned expansion in Southeast Asia. The United States of America, which was not prepared for such an attack (and which was internally divided on the need to participate in the war), was abruptly thrown into the Second World War and found itself significantly weakened. 18 months earlier, the US President transferred the US fleet to Pearl Harbour, with the intention of deterring Japan from continuing to carry out their policy in Asia Japan which had been involved in war with China since 1937, desperately needed oil and raw materials for its war effort.

The ability of the Japanese to obtain commercial access to raw material resources declined in the course of 1941 as soon as the Western powers effectively boycotted trade with Japan. This is in addition to the economic and military support of China - the enemy of Japan - in the war being waged in Asia, to the point where the Chinese air force was reinforced  by an American "volunteer " unit (AVG) under the command of General Chennault which was recruited in the US, and this policy directly pushed Japan to desperately seek sources of oil and other raw materials in South- East Asia, and hence, war in the Pacific became inevitable.

At the end of November 1941, it was quite clear that the negotiations for peace between Japan and the US were at an impasse. The American High Command, which was well informed of Japanese strategy and the activities of its armed forces (due to the breaking of Japanese military and diplomatic codes ”Operation Magic“) was expecting a Japanese attack on the East Indies islands Malaya, and the Philippines, but they did not believe the Japanese would attack eastwards as well toward the Hawaiian Islands.

At 0755 On Sunday December 7th, 1941, the Japanese combined fleet under Admiral Isorkou Yamamoto attacked the main base of the US Navy in Pearl Harbour, This attack was carried out by the largest aircraft carrier force ever assembled by any fleet in the history of naval warfare.353 Aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy carried out a surprise attack on the US central Pacific base in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. In this surprise attack, the United States lost more than 2,400 service men, and it was this event finally induced the US to enter the War.

On November 26tha fleet of six aircraft carriers under the command of Japan's Vice -Admiral Chuichi Nagomo left Hitokappu Bay heading for Pearl Harbour. On the morning of December7th, 1941, Japanese naval aircraft bombed the US Air Force bases on the island and the American warships anchored there.349 American aircraft that were parked densely on the ground were destroyed. Only a few combat planes managed to take off and fight the attacking planes. Five of the eight battleships were sunk, and the rest were damaged, 15 additional ships were sunk or damaged and 2,403 American sailors were killed. The battleship USS Arizona exploded and sank with more than 1,100 seamen, about half of those who lost their lives in the attack.

Luckily, for the Americans, their three aircraft carriers were not in the port at the time of the attack and therefore were saved and could serve as a nucleus for a new fleet to be built in the future.

The first shots and the first casualties in the attack on Pearl Harbour actually occurred when the destroyer USS Ward on a routine patrol encountered and sank a midget Japanese submarine right in the approaches to the American base. There were five midget submarines at Pearl Harbour which were planned to hit American Naval ships by means of torpedoes after the bombing began. None of the submarines returned safely. Four of the five submarines were found in the depths of the ocean after the war.

Japanese aircraft carriers were Akagi, Hiryu, Kaga, Zuikaku, Soryu and Zuikaku. These carried 441 aircraft, including fighters, torpedo bombers, dive-bombers and fighter-bombers.  29 planes with 55 aircrew were destroyed. The Japanese planes attacked in two waves. Admiral Ngomo decided to cancel the third wave which had been planned originally in view of the great success achieved by his pilots and preferred to withdraw.

The attack on Pearl Harbour had successful results both strategically and militarily. The attack, which was perceived by the American people as a pure treachery, united most of the nation (which had been divided before and more than half the population advocated isolationism) with one common goal - to fight the Japanese and their allies until the end, and to invest every effort and make every sacrifice to defeat them. However on the operational side American complacency led to more than half a year where the Japanese navy ruled the Pacific and Indian Oceans, destroying most of the Allied ships, conquering a large empire from Burma in the West and as far as the Central Pacific in the East as far as New Guinea and the Australian border in the South. The effort to recapture these territories took four years, huge casualties, and the dropping of two Atom bombs on Japan.