“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 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, a US naval base located in O’ahu, Hawaii, by the Japanese military 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.

Why Japan Attacked Pearl Harbor

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 gain control over Southeast Asia to use their oil for military purposes.

The Japanese government took control over the Chinese Province, Manchuria, for resources. This caused a conflict between them as the US had been a long-term ally of China. 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:

facts about pearl harbor
source:: historynet.com

1. Japanese planned the 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. It is mentioned in the book Countdown to Pearl Harbour: The Twelve Days to the Attack by Steve Twomey that Yamamoto’s Japan was weaker compared to America since they had far more resources. So, Yamamoto wanted dominance over Southeast Asian countries to gain resources and power.

But since the United States base in Hawaii was close to Japan’s targeted countries, Japanese government were concerned about possible defense attack by the American military.  He believed that a surprise assault on America would be their only chance to halt America’s defense for at least a year or two.

facts about pearl harbor
source:: pbs.org

They made extensive preparation for this attack by training for almost a year. To familiarize the pilots and the officers with the area, scale models of the Harbor were used. The Japanese gathered new equipment and modified their weapons. 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 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 of 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, 4 heavy aircraft carriers, 35 submarines, 2 light cruisers, 2 battleships, 9 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.

facts about pearl harbor
source:: finance.yahoo.com

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 they failed to do so.  One submarine was captured by the US. One of the interesting facts about Pearl Harbor for today we can say is “Japnese Even Failed To Complete Their Task.”

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 begin the war 30 mins after the declaration. However, the message was delivered an hour late due to delays at the Japanese Embassy. 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. This is one of the strategic facts about Pearl Harbor used by the Japanese.

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 were able to 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.” Although there are no positives about war, these facts about pearl harbor express what “FAIR WAR” means.

facts about pearl harbor
source:: hawaiipublicradio.org

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 few weeks. Following the attack, the ship was completely wrecked and sank into the shallow water of the Harbor.

To this day, 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 coating of the oil as the “black tears” or the “tears of Arizona.”

Scientists are concerned about the long-term effect on the Hawaiian shoreline. There are governmental agencies and the NPS monitoring the wreck site but are hesitant to perform extensive modification since the area carries emotional sentiment as the “war grave.”


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 incidents. These facts about Pearl Harbor show how the conflict ended with such output and so many casualties. This is just an incomplete story, the aftereffect of Pearl Harbor is Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Let’s not go there!!!!!!!

(Last Updated On: April 24, 2021)