Pearl Harbor bombed
On this day, in an early-morning sneak attack, Japanese warplanes bomb the U.S. naval base at Oahu Island’s Pearl Harbor—and the United States enters World War II.
President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull knew a Japanese attack was imminent. Having received intelligence reports of intercepted coded messages from Tokyo to the Japanese ambassador in the United States, the president anticipated Japanese reprisals for his government’s refusal to reverse economic sanctions and embargoes against Japan. The Roosevelt administration had remained firm in its demand that the Japanese first withdraw from China and French Indochina, which it had invaded in 1937 and July 1941, respectively, and renounce its alliance with fascist Germany and Italy.
But Japan refused, demanding that the United States first end the embargo on oil shipments vital for Tokyo’s war machine. Although negotiations between the two nations continued up to the very last minute, Roosevelt was aware of a secret November 25 deadline, established by Tokyo, that confirmed military action on the part of the Japanese should they not received satisfaction from the negotiations. While forewarned, Washington could not pinpoint the time or place of an attack.
Despite initially objecting to war with America, Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto believed that if Prime Minister Hideki Tojo was determined to go to war, it was Japan who had to make a preemptive strike. Yamamoto studied the devastating November 1940 British attack against the Italian fleet at Taranto, and planned and led the sneak attack against the United States. Approximately 360 Japanese warplanes were launched from six aircraft carriers, reinforced by battleships, cruisers, and destroyers.
At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.
With diplomatic negotiations with Japan breaking down, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew that an imminent Japanese attack was probable, but nothing had been done to increase security at the important naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was Sunday morning, and many military personnel had been given passes to attend religious services off base. At 7:02 a.m., two radar operators spotted large groups of aircraft in flight toward the island from the north, but, with a flight of B-17s expected from the United States at the time, they were told to sound no alarm. Thus, the Japanese air assault came as a devastating surprise to the naval base.
Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded, many while valiantly attempting to repulse the attack. Japan’s losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than
100 men. Fortunately for the United States, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea on training maneuvers. These giant aircraft carriers would have their revenge against Japan six months later at the Battle of Midway, reversing the tide against the previously invincible Japanese navy in a spectacular victory.
The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” After a brief and forceful speech, he asked Congress to approve a resolution recognizing the state of war between the United States and Japan. The Senate voted for war against Japan by 82 to 0, and the House of Representatives approved the resolution by a vote of 388 to 1. The sole dissenter was Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a devout pacifist who had also cast a dissenting vote against the U.S. entrance into World War I. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States, and the U.S. government responded in kind.
The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort spanned four long years and cost more than 400,000 American lives.
For more events of this day, visit History.com
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Is the memory fading after 70 years. Read comment here “Remembering Pearl Harbor, 70 years later“
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