“Yesterday, Dec 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan”- President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The Japanese military’s 1941 surprise Pearl Harbor attack on a US naval base located in O’ahu, Hawaii, was one of the most devasting attacks on the US ever.
Thousands of lives were lost that day. On the very next day, the US declared war on Japan and officially entered world war II. These facts about Pearl Harbor might light some of the information explaining why the nation was failed by the successful mission.
Table of Contents
Pearl Harbor Attack
During world war I, Japan and the US were allies. So, what led these two powerful nations into war? To understand this, we need to go back to the 1900s.
During the Meiji restoration (1868-1912), Japan had dissolved its feudal government and restored imperialism. Under this new government, Japan strengthened its military and embraced industrialization.
After victory during the First-Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), the Japanese had expanded their empire and planned to expand their territory all over South-Asia. But then came the Great Depression.
Japan had limited natural resources and depended on international trade for most of its resources. With the global economic crisis, the Japanese government had a hard time stabilizing its economy.
To keep their economy afloat, they wanted to use their oil to strengthen the military. So, Yamamoto wanted dominance over Southeast Asian countries to gain resources and power.
The Japanese government-controlled the Chinese Province, Manchuria, for resources. The US had been a long-term ally of China which caused a conflict between them. So, in July 1939, the US terminated their 1911 Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with Japan.
By the summer of 1940, America had restricted the export of crucial resources for the Japanese war machine, mainly petroleum. Thus, tensions were mounting between these countries, leading to war.
Pearl Harbor Facts
Let’s get a deeper insight into the strategies and the personnel involved in the following incident. The mission was accomplished with some incomplete tasks that Japanese submarines failed to perform. Here are some interesting facts about pearl harbor attack:
1. Planned Pearl Harbor attack for almost a year
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was devised and plotted by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, a formal student at Harvard University.
In the book Countdown to Pearl Harbour: The Twelve Days to the Attack by Steve Twomey, it is mentioned that Yamamoto’s Japan was weaker than America since they had far more resources.
But since the United States base in Hawaii was close to Japan’s targeted countries, the Japanese government were concerned about possible defense attack by the American military.
Yamamoto believed that a surprise assault on America would be their only chance to halt America’s defense for at least a year or two.
The Japanese gathered new equipment and modified their weapons. They made extensive preparation for this attack by training for almost a year.
They were waiting for the moment and training their officers and pilots with the full detailed scale model. The purpose was to have perfect execution, simultaneously destroying all the defense.
They added wooden fins to their aerial torpedoes to work on short runs at a 45-foot average depth of Pearl Harbor. The plan was approved on Nov 5, 1941. These facts about Pearl Harbor display the reason for this disaster.
2. The attack led to the US joining World War II
On the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, President Roosevelt declared war on Japan. Then after three days, Germany and Italy (Japan’s allies) declared war against the US. This led to the United Nations joining world war II, two years after it began.
3. The attack lasted for almost two hours
The attack commenced at 7:55 am HST on Sunday. The Japanese launched their attack from North Hawaii and raged fire from all directions.
Hundreds of Japanese planes targeted ships, airstrips, and buildings. Three hundred ninety-five planes were launched in two waves, about 45 mins apart. The attack ended at 9:45 am HST.
4. Over 300 Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor
Japan had prepared about 353 aircraft for the attack. Out of which, there were 40 torpedo planes,131 level bombers, 103 bombers, and 79 fighters.
Plus, they had 65 ships, four heavy aircraft carriers, 35 submarines, two light cruisers, two battleships, nine oilers, and 11 destroyers. These figures and facts about Pearl Harbor show how brutal the massacre was about to happen.
5. Over 2000 casualties
The devastating attack left 19 US naval vessels and 188 aircraft damaged. In total, 2,280 servicemen and women died, 1109 were left wounded. 68 civilians also lost their lives. Over 1000 of the victims were on the USS Arizona.
6. Japanese submarines failed to do their tasks
Prior to the initial attack by hundreds of Japanese aircraft from the North, the submarines were tasked to scout the area. And release torpedoes at specific targets once the attack began.
These submarines were also supposed to station themselves in designated areas to pick up any stranded soldiers. But the Japanese failed to do so, and the US captured one submarine.
One of the most brutal attacks on the military base recorded in World War not being completely executed is one of the surprising facts about Pearl Harbor.
7. The attack did not destroy all their battleships
As hundreds of planes dropped bombs and torpedoes, Arizona and Oklahoma were completely ruined. Out of the total deaths of that day, over 1000 people were in these ships alone.
However, the Japanese failed to hit three other battleships- California, West Virginia, and Nevada. They were salvaged and were able to return to duty later.
8. Japan declared war before the attack on Pearl Harbor began
Admiral Yamamoto wanted to declare war on the Americans before the attack. He knew that a surprise attack would infuriate the Americans. He allegedly wanted to start the war 30 mins after the declaration.
However, the message was delivered an hour late due to delays at the Japanese Embassy. The admiral wanting a surprise attack on the US to weaken their force is one of the strategic facts about Pearl Harbor that could give Japan the upper hand.
The Americans were aware of the possibility of attack by the Japanese, but their military experts expected the Japanese to strike at the Philippines first.
9. Operation Z
Originally, the codename for the Pearl Harbor attack was “Operation Hawaii.” But since the name was too obvious, they changed it to “Operation Z.”
10. Japan could have inflicted worse damage on Pearl Harbour
The Japanese only attacked the airplanes at Hickman Airfield and the ships at the Naval base but left other areas such as the fuel oil storage areas, repair facilities, and the submarine base.
No US aircraft carriers were present that day too. Hence, the Americans could rebuild and recover quicker than expected after the attack. Japanese Admiral Hara Tadaichi had summed up the operation by saying, “We won a great tactical victory and thereby lost the war.”
These facts about Pearl Harbor explain why and how the US could attack Japan with such a hefty reply right after the day of demolition. Some tasks were incomplete, and pieces of information were incomplete.
11. Fuel continues leaking from USS Arizona’s wreckage
One of the sad facts about Peal Harbor is the “Black Tears.” On Dec 7, 1941, the day before the attack, USS Arizona was fully loaded, with around 1.5 million gallons of oil, before heading for a trip to the mainland in a few weeks.
Following the attack, the ship was completely wrecked and sank into the shallow water of the Harbor. After over 70 years, the ship continues to spill oil (up to 9 quarts of oil) into the Harbor each day.
Roughly 500,000 gallons of oil are seeping out of this submerged ship. Some refer to this oil coating as the “black tears” or the “tears of Arizona.”
Scientists are concerned about the long-term effect on the Hawaiian shoreline.
Governmental agencies and the NPS monitor the wreck site but are hesitant to perform extensive modification since the area carries emotional sentiment as the “war grave.”
12. Ashes of veterans are scattered in Pearl Harbor
Survivors of the attack have the option to either deposit their ashes beneath a sunken Arizona’s gun turrets by divers or have their ashes scattered at the ship’s location. About 44 veterans have chosen to do this.
Moreover, it contains the war history of the Pearl Harbor attack. The aftereffect of Pearl Harbor was Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where two big cities of japan were crushed to mud, and no sign of resistance was seen.
These facts about Pearl Harbor show how the conflict ended with such output and so many casualties. Today, we should diplomatically resolve the warfare between the countries, keeping in mind concerns for civilians.