During the Great Depression, the Empire of Japan began on conquests to gain more resources and land for its people. They took over Manchuria, Taiwan, Korea, and parts of French Indochina. However, there were some resources that the Empire of Japan did not have in its territory or influence, rubber and oil. They had to trade for oil with the United States and rubber from Britain. The United States was unhappy about the way Japan treated the local residents of the areas they conquered. The United States and Britain tried to discourage Japanese expansion through high tariffs for products, trade embargoes, as well as supporting rebel groups in China. This caused more sour feelings for the Empire of Japan against the US.
When the Empire of Japan entered French Indochina, the United States stopped sending oil altogether to Japan, in hopes of stopping Japanese power and expansion in Asia. Japan thought if they could take over the southeastern Asian colonies, where major products such as oil, rubber, and metal, they could take over Indochina. However, the only thing that stood in their way of success was the U.S. military power. Many members of the Japanese leaders felt that destroying the American Pacific fleet, repair stations, oil supplies, and military sites, would prevent the United States from entering the war. The Empire of Japan believed if they attacked at all of the fleet’s resources and equipment that the US would be unconfident and have no desire to enter the war.
The Japanese began to plan an attack a year before the event, despite the fears of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Japan trained the Taskforce for four months before the attack. The Empire of Japan modified aerial torpedoes to be able to swim through the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor. The torpedoes were known as the Thunder Fish. They added small wood fins to the tail cone, which allowed the Thunder fish to have a shorter dive distance and allowed it not to hit the ocean floor.
How were the Americans unprepared? Why were the Japanese so successful?
The United States pacific fleet was stationed on the island of Oahu in Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor was seen as impenetrable by the US Navy due to the small access points and shallow waters that wouldn’t allow for deep water torpedos to hit anything. As well Hawaii is 4000 miles away from the island of Japan, the US never expected Japan to attack so far from their home. While airfields had aircrafts lined up from tip to tip. Allowing for Japan to attack multiple targets at once.
Most battleships and air stations were mostly unmanned on Sundays, allowing for less chance of defense from the Americans and minimal anti-craft fire. On the day of the attack, a new lieutenant was working the radar station and assumed the Japanese planes spotted were actually American B-17s to arrive that morning. The spot was not reported to a commanding officer. As well on the USS Oklahoma all interior doors and exterior ports were opened the night before in anticipation of an inspection from the USS Maryland’s Admiral the following Monday, December 8th. Strategically the first wave from Japan came from the East, where the mountains were due to the Radar Dead zone, allowing them to enter the island undetected (no alarms went off). Locals were so used to the sound of planes training when they began to attack no one realized that they were the Japanese.
What happened during the day of the attack?
December 7th of the year 1941, at 5 AM pilots of the Empire of Japan wake up and get ready for the attack on Pearl Harbor. There were 3 planned waves of pilots. At 6 AM the first wave of pilots is off to Pearl Harbor, while simultaneously the pilots from the United States leave from the mainland to the same location. At 6:10 AM the second wave of Japanese pilots is in the air. The three waves each had specific missions. The first wave is to come from the east and attack all military bases around the island Oahu. The second wave would come from the south end of the island and was to target specific bases, airfields, and battleships. While the third wave was to come from the east later on in the day and attack fuel storage, dry docks, repair sights, and air repair stations. At 6:30 AM the new lieutenant spotted the Japanese planes on the radar, but assumed they were the American planes coming to the island. The base was mainly understaffed, due to the fact it was a Sunday.
The first wave arrived from the east side of the island at 7:50 AM, where the mountains were. The mountains created a dead zone, allowing the pilots to come on the island undetected. Many of the locals were not alarmed by the sound of planes, as American pilots often practiced their routines on the island. At 7:55 AM the Empire of Japan began their surprise attack. They shot at civilian homes and streets, bombed military bases and navy ships. Many people were confused at the beginning; no one understood that they were under attack. Quickly the people began to escape, while the military and navy began to head back to work. Grabbing any gun they could find, the United States militia began to fire back unaware of who they were actually fighting.
At 8 AM the planes from the United States mainland arrived and were caught between two different sides. During the first wave the Japanese were able to destroy 126 fighter airplanes damaging 84 planes and destroying 42 from Wheeler’s field. Hit battleships damaging the USS West Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, and California. The USS Arizona was blasted and exploded, killing 1,102 sailors and marines. The USS Oklahoma was turned upside down, and sank within less than 10 minutes. However 6 fighter planes were able to get in the air to defend.
The second wave arrived at 8:50 AM. Several people began to work on saving people in the toppled USS Oklahoma. While he Japanese fired at more air bases and damaged the USS Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Shaw.
By 10 AM the island was covered in thick smoke and flames, 1143 people were wounded, 2403 people were killed, 1173 marine and navy servicemen were killed, and the island was in mass hysteria and paranoia. Hospitals were buried with people, and many of the civilians were paranoid that there would soon be an Japanese invasion and hostile take over. The military were stationed at their posts in preparation of an attack. However rescuers were able to save 32 men were saved from the USS Oklahoma, while 415 were killed.
The second and first waves arrived back at their ships as a huge success. The admiral decided not to send the third wave, as it seemed they had prevented the United States from entering the war. The empire of Japan lost only 29 aircraft, 5 midget submarines, and 129 soldiers were killed.
That night seven American planes flew over from the mainland to see why no one could reach the island of Oahu. They were shot down before they even reached the island, in fear it was the Japanese.
What happened as a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor?
The United States people were outraged by the attack. On December 8th the following Monday President Franklin Roosevelt appealed to congress to declare war on Japan. The vote was 388 to go to war and 1 against going to war. Three days later, Congress declared war on the Axis powers.
As for those who remained in Pearl Harbor, many got back to work restoring planes, battleships, and naval bases preparing to go to war.