Today We Remember Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona

On this day, our nation observes the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese pulled off a surprise attack on the United States on December 7th, 1941. Due to this deliberate action, the United States declared war on the Empire of Japan on December 8th. Italy and Germany declared war on the United States on December 11, and the U.S. reciprocated that same day.

pearl harbor
Japanese Zero

Japan intended to cripple the United States Navy in one blow, effectively preventing the American Military from interfering with the military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. History does not seem to point to Japan wanting a long drawn out conflict with the United States.

Japanese fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers attacked Pearl Harbor. All eight U.S. Navy battleships sustained damaged, with four sinking to the bottom. American repair crews raised, repaired, and returned to service all but two later in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. The human toll was also heavy, 2402 Americans died, while 1,282 were wounded.

The resulting outcry from the American people was unanimous and swift. The support for isolationism in the U.S. diminished completely, and the military found itself gearing up for the largest string of military campaigns in history. Support for the United Kingdom upgraded from clandestine supply and funding, to an open alliance. England was to become the staging area for the largest invasion the world had ever known.

USS Arizona
USS Arizona

In the Pacific theatre, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines took island after island away from the Japanese. The primary goals were to get close to Japan itself, then launch massive strategic air attacks, improve the submarine blockade, and finally, only if necessary, execute an invasion. This would prove difficult, since the Japanese had a great deal of time to set up defenses on the island bases that they held. After a series of Japanese victories, the Battle of Midway resulted in a turning point in the war. This resulted in American forces taking and holding ground. Eventually the Japanese surrendered after the Army Air Forces dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but not before both the U.S. and Japan suffered massive casualties.

Today, some Japanese still feel they were compelled to fight because of threats to their national interests and an embargo imposed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. The most important embargo was on oil on which its Navy and much of the economy was dependent. For example, the Japan Times, an English-language newspaper owned by one of the major news organizations in Japan (Asahi Shimbun), ran numerous columns in the early 2000s echoing Kurusu’s comments in reference to the Pearl Harbor attack.

Americans currently see December 7th as a day to remember those who’s lives were lost, not only during the attacks on Pearl Harbor, but the entire Second World War. Some Japanese and American survivors of the battle have even made amends. In December of 2006, Takeshi Maedam, a Japanese veteran, was in Honolulu for a series of anniversary observations. The Japanese veteran gripped the arm of an American veteran who fought at Pearl Harbor with his left hand and briefly hesitated, as if he was searching for the right words. Then he said, “I’m sorry.”

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Comments (4)

  1. God Bless all those who died that day, and all the courageous Men and Women who answered the call the defend the United States. Sadly we are loosing this “Great Generation” due to time and age. We must always remember what they fought and died for!

  2. I don’t mean to nit pick, but the Jap plane in the article is NOT a “Zero”, its a Nakajima B5N “Kate” Torpedo bomber!

    We must never forget those who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago today!

  3. A sad day when FDR sacrificed our military men and manipulated the American public to turn the tide garner support for entering WWII.

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