Pearl Harbor “A date which will live in infamy”


Have you ever wondered what happened at Pearl Harbor? Well, in this research paper we will find where and when everything happened why do it happened and a little bit of information about what happened later. And for the thesis, The Pearl Harbor attack was an unnecessary attack that caused the US’s intervention in WWII.

“A date which will live in infamy”

-President Franklin D. Roosevelt

How it all started.

Well, over several years the U.S. tightened the economic vise, responding to Japanese aggression in China and Southeast Asia by cutting off supplies of aircraft materials in 1939, scrap steel in 1940, and machine tools and metal ore in 1941. The final blow came with the suspension of oil deliveries in summer 1941. After the cut of supplies, Japan tried to convince the US to reinitiate the deliveries of supplies, but the US denied.

After such an event like this Japan could not continue the invasion in China and Southeast Asia. This is why admiral Isoroku Yamamato began to plan the assault on Pearl Harbor.

In the Sea.

After leaving Japan on November 26, the Japanese fleet traveled east across the Pacific, reaching a point about a thousand miles north of Hawaii on December 3. During their silent run, the Japanese ships were scattered by a sudden Pacific storm that lasted two days which make the Japanese fleet travel to open sea where the storm could not get them, after the storm the fleet used short-range radios to locate each other and continue the journey to Pearl Harbor.

Massive Assault, Destructive Outcome.

December 7, 1941, This day is when Japan executed their assault at Pearl Harbor that destroyed or severely damaged many battleships and capital ships. This attack consisted of 2 waves.


The minesweeper USS Condor spotted a midget submarine outside the harbor entrance and alerted destroyer USS Ward. Five midget submarines had been assigned to torpedo U.S. ships after the bombing started. None of these returned, and only four have been found since. One of these mini-subs entered the harbor and successfully fired a torpedo into the USS West Virginia, what may have been first shot by the attacking Japanese.

First Wave: Target acquired

There were three groups: the first group targets were battleships and aircraft, second group targets were in Ford Island and Wheeler Field, and the last group targets were aircrafts at Ford Island, Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, Barber’s Point, and Kaneohe. When the first wave approached Oahu, Army SCR-270 radar at Opana Point detected them and called in a warning. An untrained officer at the new and only partially activated Intercept Center, Lieutenant Kermit A. Tyler, presumed the scheduled arrival of six B-17 bombers was the source because the direction from which the aircraft were coming was close. Numerous U.S. aircraft were shot down as the first wave approached land; one at least radioed a somewhat incoherent warning. Other warnings from ships off the harbor entrance were still being processed, or awaiting confirmation, when the planes began bombing and strafing. The air portion of the attack on Pearl Harbor began at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time with the attack on Kaneohe. A total of 353 Japanese planes in two waves reached Oahu. Slow, vulnerable torpedo bombers led the first wave, exploiting the first moments of surprise to attack the most important ships present, while dive bombers attacked U.S. air bases across Oahu, starting with Hickam Field, the largest, and Wheeler Field, the main U.S. Army Air Corps fighter base. The 171 planes in the second wave attacked the Air Corps’ Bellows Field near Kaneohe on the windward side of the island, and Ford Island. The only air opposition came from a handful of P-36 Hawks and P-40 Warhawks. The defenders were much unprepared. Ammunition lockers were locked, aircraft parked wingtip to wingtip in the open to deter sabotage, guns unmanned. Despite this and low alert status, many American military personnel responded effectively during the battle. Ensign Joe Taussig got his ship, USS Nevada, underway from dead cold during the attack. One of the destroyers, USS Aylwin, got underway with only four officers aboard, all Ensigns, none with more than a year’s sea duty; she operated at sea for four days before her commanding officer managed to get aboard. Captain Mervyn Bennion, commanding USS West Virginia, led his men until he was cut down by fragments from a bomb hit to USS Tennessee, moored alongside.

Second Wave: Casualties

This wave consisted of 54 B5Ns, 81 D3As and 36 A6Ms and is divided into three groups. One was tasked to attack Kaneohe, the rest Pearl Harbor proper. 2,386 Americans died (55 were civilians, most killed by unexploded American anti-aircraft shells landing in civilian areas), a further 1,139 wounded. Eighteen ships were sunk, including five battleships. Of the American fatalities, nearly half of the total was due to the explosion of USS Arizona’s forward magazine after a modified 40cm shell hit it. Nevada was already damaged by a torpedo and on fire forward, Nevada attempted to exit the harbor. Many Japanese bombers targeted her as she got underway, sustaining more hits from 250 lb bombs as she was deliberately beached to avoid blocking the harbor entrance. Two bombs and two torpedoes hit USS California. The crew might have kept her afloat, but were ordered to abandon ship just as they were raising power for the pumps. Burning oil from Arizona and West Virginia drifted down on her, and probably made the situation look worse than it was. Twice torpedoes holed the disarmed target ship USS Utah. Seven torpedoes hit USS West Virginia, the seventh tearing away her rudder. Four torpedoes, the last two above her belt armor, which caused her to capsize, hit USS Oklahoma. USS Maryland was hit by two of the converted 40 cm shells, but neither caused serious damage. There were 402 American aircraft in Hawaii, 188 were destroyed and 159 damaged. Almost none were actually ready to take off to defend the base.

The Counterattack

The elimination of the battleships left the U.S. Navy with no choice but to place its faith in aircraft carriers and submarines.

Submarines were sent to immobilize the Imperial Japanese Navy’s heavy ships and brought Japan’s economy to a standstill by crippling transportation of oil and raw materials.

“The Planning of Pearl Harbor.” Mental Floss. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. <>. Staff. “Pearl Harbor.” A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. <>.

“Pearl Harbor.” – World History Wiki. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. <>.

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