It was 70 years ago today, December 7th 1941, that a fleet of Japanese fighter-bombers carried out the most ferocious of unprovoked attacks on US navy vessels anchored in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
It was 70 years ago today, December 7th 1941, that a fleet of Japanese fighter-bombers carried out the most ferocious of unprovoked attacks on US navy vessels anchored in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This was, undoubtedly one of the most infamous incidents if US military history, a perfectly planned and executed act of aggression with the sole aim of disabling US Naval forces to further Japanese expansion ambitions.
This dastardly event propelled the USA, not previously involved in WWII, immediately into the conflict, changing the course of the war forever. The then president, Franklin D. Roosevelt had chosen Pearl Harbor as a US naval base in 1939, possibly to deter the expected Japanese aggression.
One deciding factor was without doubt the seemingly endless conflict between Japan and China that had been going on since1937, apparently at a stale-mate, Japan in desperate need of commodities being denied to them. In support of the Chinese, western powers effectively ceased all trading with Japan in July 1941, making the situation for the Japanese even more acute
Being faced with such drastic shortages in supply measures, the Japanese turned to Southeast Asia and the East Indies both oil and raw material rich, meaning that Pacific region conflict became simply a matter of time.
Peace negotiations between China and Japan were progressing as 1941 drew to a close, but an assault eastwards, targeting Malaya, the Philippines and the East Indies was expected by Japanese forces seeking to expand aggressively.
The shocking fact was that Japanese military high command genuinely feared the threat of US naval power in the Pacific, Pearl Harbor easily reachable by an aircraft-carrier borne strike force of aircraft. Japanese top brass secretly assembled and dispatched the most outrageous show of force imaginable, a convoy with more destructive air power than had ever before been assembled in one place.
Just after daybreak on December 7th, 1941, before any defense could be organized, the aerial strike force hit devastatingly, five of eight harbor sited battleships sunk or sinking, the rest damaged. Not one US fighter aircraft got off the ground, even more ships sunk or damaged, and 2,500 US servicemen killed.
Japanese planes, within days of this attack, had decimated the Philippine-based US Pair power and a Japanese Army was invading Malaya. The real targets of the Pearl harbor attack, US aircraft carriers, were not there when they attacked. The Japanese high command failure to hit these would prove very costly in the end.
US opinion about entry into WWII had been divided, but the horror of Pearl Harbour gave the nation a determination to achieve payback, and the ferocity of US responses knocked the Japanese sideways. The Battle of Midway was decisive, but Pearl harbor was a tragedy the world should never forget.