Essay About Pearl Harbor

The Attack on Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941 one of the worst attacks ever on the United States occurred. More than 3,000 people lost their lives or were injured that morning, and the attack propelled us into war against the Axis Alliance. Through the misjudgement of numerous U.S. armed forces personnel, the Japanese were able to carry out this terrible attack, which crippled the United States' Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

In 1887, the United States government obtained exclusive use of the inlet called Pearl Harbor, and the right to maintain a repair and coaling station for ships. The area was established as a naval base in 1908, then in 1911 dredging of a channel from the sea was completed, across a sandbar and a coral reef at the mouth of the harbor. This made that channel accessible to the largest naval vessels, as it was now 35 feet deep, with a maximum depth of 60 feet. During the Japanese attack, this center for United States military action in the Pacific Ocean was nearly completely destroyed.

Between the middle of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, Japan looked to transform itself from a closed, feudal society into a modern industrial and military power. In the early 1930's, the Japanese army engaged in battles with the Chinese in Manchuria and prevailed. Because of their losses in these battles, Manchuria became a part of the Japanese political system. In 1937, conflict again began between Japan and China, this time near the Marco Polo bridge in Beijing. This conflict led to a full-scale war known today as the Sino-Japanese War, which was one of the bloodiest in history and lasted until the defeat of Japan in 1945.

In 1939, World War II began with a string of German victories. These successes included the defeats of Poland, France and England. Many European nations that Germany now controlled had control of important colonial empires; the East Indies and Singapore in Southeast Asia. These empires were of interest to Japan because they had the natural resources oil, coal, rubber and tin that Japan desperately neaded.

Japan began their expansion with the seizure of Indochina in mid-1941. To this, the United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in strict opposition, but many others in America wanted to leave the situation alone. So the United States provided materials to countries who were at war with Germany and Japan, but tried to stay neutral and prevent war. This was not effective, however and President Roosevelt created an embargo on the shipment of oil to Japan. Without this critical resource, Japan's industrial and military forces would quickly come to a halt, so they viewed the embargo as an act of war. Only a few months later in September, Japan formed the Axis Alliance along with Italy and Germany. Things were beginning to look worse for the United States.

Officials in the United States tried to come to a resolve with Japan over their differences. Japan wanted America to lift the embargo and allow them to take over China. The United States refused to do either, and saw Japan's refusal to budge on their stance as a sign of hostility. Because of neither nation's willingness to compromise, it seemed that war was now inevitable.

The most powerful and important part of the United States' defense in the Pacific Ocean was the Pacific Fleet, which was usually on the west coast but made a training cruise to Hawaii every year. Because of the overshadow of war at the time of its training cruise in 1941, the fleet was moved to Pearl Harbor naval base. This was a perfect location because it was halfway between the U.S. west coast and Japanese bases in the Marshall Islands.

The Pacific Fleet arrived at Pearl Harbor on April 2, 1940 and was scheduled to depart and return to the United States mainland around the 9th of May. However, this plan was seriously altered because of the increasing activity in Italy and Japan's attempts to expand in Southeast Asia. President Roosevelt's theory was that the presence of United States forces in Hawaii would deter any Japanese attempt at a strike on American forces. Admiral James O. Richardson of the Pacific Fleet was in complete opposition to the proposed long stay at Pearl Harbor. However, when Admiral Stark suggested to him the idea of anti-torpedo nets, after British torpedo bombers launched an attack on Taranto Harbor in Italy, he thought they were neither practical nor necessary. Unfortunately, all of Richardson's protests and meetings with the president only got him dismissed and in February of 1941 he was officially replaced by Admiral Husband E. Kimmel. Kimmel also didn't like the idea of his fleet in Pearl Harbor, but kept his objections to himself after seeing what had happened to Richardson.

The Pacific Fleet was to be used as a defensive measure to direct Japan's attention away from Southeast Asia by:

"a) Capturing the Caroline and Marshall Islands

b) Disrupting Japanese trade routes, and

c) Defending Guam, Hawaii and The United States mainland." (The Attack on Pearl Harbor. Brill.acomp.usf.edu/~mportill/assign.html)

Kimmel was supposed to prepare the fleet for war with Japan.

Because of the United States' presence in the Pacific, Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, commander-in-chief of his country's Combined Fleet needed to be careful of his positions there. If he allowed his forces to be too concentrated, the mainland was susceptible to and attack from a European nation or America. Yamamoto created a plan which involved a strong opening blow to the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and offensive attacks against the British, U.S. and Dutch forces in Southeast Asia. His main purpose was to cripple the United States while he quickly gathered the natural resources of Southeast Asia. He hoped that his opening attack would demoralize American forces and require us to sign a peace settlement, thus allowing Japan to remain as the strongest power in the Pacific. Only one month after the British attack on Taranto Harbor, Yamamoto reasoned that if war was inevitable with the United States he would launch a carrier attack on Pearl Harbor.

In January of 1941, Yamamoto began to commit to his strategy, planning the attack and showing it to other Japanese officials. He developed eight guidelines for the attack, and they are as follows:

"1) Surprise was crucial

2) American aircraft carriers should be the primary targets.

3) United States aircraft there must be destroyed to prevent aerial opposition

4) All Japanese aircraft carriers should be used.

5) All types of bombing should be used in the attack

6) A strong fighter element should be included in the attack for air cover for the fleet

7) Refueling at sea would be necessary

8) A daylight attack promised best results, especially in the sunrise hours." (The Attack Pearl Harbor. brill.acomp.usf.edu/~mportill/assign.html)

General staff members were in opposition to the attack but continued preparations despite their knowledge that the attack would be difficult.

Secrecy and surprise were the two most important elements to the success of the Japanese plan. However, the flow of information around the Japanese Imperial Naval staff was not completely secure. On January 27, Joseph C. Grew, the United States Ambassador to Japan wired Washington that he had discovered information that Japan, in the event of problems with the United States, would plan a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, no one in Washington believed this information, but if someone had, it is possible that the terrible attack could have been prevented. Instead of an attack on Pearl Harbor, most United States officials thought that the Japanese would attack Manila, in the Philippine Islands. During this time period, American intelligence officers continued to monitor secret Japanese messages.

American scientists had previously developed a machine, whose code name was "magic," that gave intelligence officers the ability to read top secret Japanese message traffic. "Magic" provided the United States much high quality information, but because of ignorant ideas in Washington, most of this data was not followed up on and important pieces of the attack puzzle were missed. Japanese consular traffic was also intercepted, which provided the United States with even more important information. Although America had enough essential information to paint itself a crystal-clear picture of Japanese intentions, there was an internal struggle between the Office of Naval Intelligence and the War Plans Division, and the information was lost in the shuffle. In Japan, Admiral Nomura informed his superiors that he thought Americans were reading his message traffic, but no one believed him and their code was not changed.

In addition to listening in on Japanese message traffic, the United States also knew that Hawaii was full of Japanese intelligence officers. Because of our constitutional rights however, very little could be done. One such spy was Takeo Yoshikawa.

Yoshikawa was a Japanese naval reserve ensign. He retired after only two years of service, then contemplated suicide. The navy offered him a job with its general staff's intelligence division, and over the next four years Yoshikawa studied English as well as the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor. Wisely, he did not overuse any one observation post or method as he carefully watched goings on in Pearl Harbor and Hickam Airfield. He used many different costumes during his spying years, but never illegally entered military bases or stole confidential documents. Due to American openness, he received nearly all the information he needed by legal methods. He turned out to be one of the best sources of information for the Japanese military, but at the end of his career received neither honors nor pension, and was left asking, "Why has history cheated me?"

As the United States began to fear more and more the Japanese attack, they increased peace negotiations, which occurred up until about November 27, 1941. At this time negotiations completely halted and United States troops were put on high alert. On December 6, President Roosevelt made a final appeal for peace to the Japanese Emperor. Late the same day American intelligence officers decoded thirteen parts of a fourteen part message which brought forth the possibility of a Japanese attack. Around 9:00 a.m. on December 7th, the last piece of the message was decoded, which stated a severance of Japanese ties with America. One hour later a Japanese message was decoded, instructing their embassy to deliver the same 14-part message at 1:00 p.m., Washington time. Upon receiving this message, Washington sent a commercial telegraph to Pearl Harbor because communications were down. However, this message was not received until noon Hawaiian time, three hours after the bombing had been completed.

At this time, Pearl Harbor was not on a state of high alert. Senior commanders had concluded that there was no reason to believe an attack in the near future is inevitable. For this reason, aircraft were left parked wingtip to wingtip on airfields, anti-aircraft guns remained unmanned, and many ammunition boxes stayed locked in storage in accordance with American peacetime regulations. There were no torpedo nets protecting the Pacific Fleet anchorage. Because the 7th of December was a Sunday and it was early in the morning, most officers and crewmen were leisurely ashore.

The Americans were taken completely by surprise by the attack. The attacking Japanese planes came in two waves, the first of which took off from carriers located 230 miles north of Oahu around 6:00 a.m. This wave consisted of 183 fighters, bombers and torpedo planes. The previous night, about 10 miles outside the entrance to Pearl Harbor, five midget submarines were launched, each carrying two men and two torpedoes. It was their mission to remain submerged and once the attack got underway, cause as much damage as possible. Meanwhile in Pearl Harbor, the 130 vessels of the Pacific Fleet sat calmly. At 7:02 a.m., two army operators at Oahu's norther shore radar station detect the Japanese air attack approaching, but their junior officer disregarded their reports, thinking they were American B-17 bombers, which were expected to arrive from the west coast. At 7:15 a.m., the second wave of 160 planes took off from their carriers. In the event that followed, thousands of lives were lost, as well as incredible amounts of American naval property.

Around 6:40 a.m., the crew of the destroyer USS Ward spotted the conning tower of one of the midget submarines. The submarine was by depth charges and gunfire, and Ward radioed the news to headquarters. At 7:53 a.m., the first Japanese attack wave which included 51 Val dive bombers, 40 Kate torpedo bombers, 50 high level bombers and 43 Zero fighters, reached its targets of airfields and battleships. Meanwhile the attack leader, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida was sending coded messages "Tora, Tora, Tora," informing the fleet that the attack had begun and that absolute surprise had been attained. During this attack, Hickam Airfield's mess hall received a direct hit, killing 35 men who were having breakfast.

While the attack on the harbor grew increasingly intense, many other United States military installations on Oahu were hit. Hickam, Wheeler and Bellows airfields, Ewa Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station and Schofield Barracks were all damaged, with hundreds of planes destroyed on the ground.

After about five minutes, American anti-aircraft fire began to register hits, but they did not amount to much of a resistance. After a short pause, like in the eye of a hurricane, the second attacking wave reached its targets of ships and shipyard facilities at 8:55 a.m. This attack brought continued destruction, and reduced the American's ability to retaliate. However, Army Air Corps pilots managed to take off in a few fighters, and may have shot down up to ten enemy planes, but this was obviously too little too late.

At approximately 8:10 a.m., the USS Arizona received a direct hit from a 1,760 pound bomb, which penetrated the ship's forward ammunition magazine. This created a catastrophic explosion, which ripped apart the ship's sides. Within nine minutes the ship was sunk, taking with her 1,177 lives, a near complete loss. The USS Oklahoma was also hit by several torpedoes and completely rolled over, trapping inside over four hundred crew members. One surviving crew member of the USS Arizona relives his nightmare:

"I was about three quarters of the way to the first platform on the mast when it seemed as though a bomb struck our quarterdeck. I could hear shrapnel or fragments whistling past me. As soon as I reached the first platform, I saw Lieutenant Simonson lying on his back with blood on his shirt front. I bent over him and taking him by the shoulders asked if there was anything I could do. He was dead, or so nearly so that speech was impossible. Seeing that there was nothing I could do for the Lieutenant, I continued to my battle station...A terrible explosion caused the ship to shake violently. I looked at the boat deck and everything seemed aflame forward of the mainmast...{After being told to abandon ship,} I started swimming for the pipeline which was about one hundred and fifty feet away. I was about halfway when my strength gave out entirely. My clothes and shocked condition sapped my strength, and I was about to go under when Major Shapley started to swim by, and seeing my distress, grasped my shirt and told me to hang to his shoulders while he swam in. We were perhaps twenty-five feet from the pipe line when the Major's strength gave out and I saw that he was floundering, so I loosened my grip on him and told him to make it alone. He stopped and grabbed me by the shirt and refused to let go. I would have drowned but for the Major." (Attack at Pearl Harbor, 1941. www.ibiscom.com/pearl.htm)

By 9:55 a.m., the second Japanese attack wave had retreated to the north, and the attack was over. By 1:00 p.m., the carriers that had launched the planes from 274 miles off the coast of Oahu were headed back to Japan with a victory under their belts. In actuality however, they had sealed their own fates, as shortly after the attack the United Stated entered World War II and eventually defeated Japan.

Although the attack caused much damage, it was not a complete success. Most of the Pacific Fleet was destroyed, but its aircraft carriers had not been in port at the time of the attack and were still afloat. Surprisingly, Pearl Harbor was very much intact. Although fuel tanks along the Kamehameha Highway and North Road were incompletely camouflaged and visible to Japanese attackers, they were spared because they were not targets. This allowed what was left of the Pacific Fleet to continue operating at Pearl Harbor and not withdraw to the United States west coast. Among the dead from the attack were 2,335 servicemen, 68 civilians and a total of 1,178 injured. A complete account of damage and casualties can be found in the following table.

"December7, 1941 Losses

United States Japan

Personnel Killed

Navy 2,388

Marine Corps 1,998 64

Army and Army Air Corps 109

Civilian 48

Personnel Wounded 1,178 unknown

Navy 710

Marine Corps 69

Army and Army Air Corps 364

Civilian 35

Ships

Sunk or beached** 12 5

Damaged* 9

Aircraft

Destroyed 164 29

Damaged 159 74

*Figures are subject to further review

**All U.S. Ships except Arizona, Utah, and Oklahoma were salvaged and later saw action."

(USS Arizona Memorial. www.nps.gov/usar/ExtendWeb1.html)

As can be seen from this table, United States losses were considerably greater than

those of the Japanese.

The Pearl Harbor bombing rallied Americans behind President Roosevelt in declaring war on Japan the next day. Roosevelt called December 7, "...a date which will live in infamy." (Franklin D. Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor Speech. bcn.boulder.co.us/government/national/speeches/spch2.html) On December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, dragging us into a global conflict. Seven months after the attack, the fuel supplies that had not been targets in the attack helped in the defeat of the Japanese carrier task force by the United States Pacific Fleet at the battle of Midway, the battle that turned the war around. The United States later dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, forcing Japan and their Axis Alliance partners to completely surrender on August 14, 1945.

Soon after the attack, President Roosevelt appointed a commission of inquiry to determine if negligence had contributed to the success of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. Their report found that naval and army commanders of the Hawaiian area, Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and Major General Walter C. Short were guilty of "derelictions of duty," and "errors of judgement." The two subsequently retired from the armed forces. A bipartisan congressional committee opened an investigation in November of 1945 in which testimony from many people was heard, and the attack was reviewed. The committee reported in July, 1946 that primary blame was to be placed on Short and Kimmel, who were not declared guilty of derelictions of duty, only errors of judgement.

Fifty-nine years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it remains one of the worst defeats of the United States in our history. At many points along the time line of events could this tragedy have been prevented, but through a series of errors and poor decisions, nothing was done until it was too late. Today, fifty-nine years after the attack the USS Arizona National Memorial now stands above the remains of the battleship, commemorating those Americans who died. Despite the tremendous losses that day, the patriotism of many Americans only increased, and pride was not lost. The crews on many of the ships at Pearl Harbor were on the decks for morning colors and the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner. Although one band was interrupted by the gunfire and bombing from Japanese planes, not a single crew member moved until the last note was sung.

Bibliography

1) Deac, Will. The Pearl Harbor Spy... www.thehistorynet.com/WorldWarII/articles/1997/05973_text.htm

2) Attack At Pearl Harbor, 1941. www.ibiscom.com/pearl.html

3) Attack on Pearl Harbor, The. brill.acomp.usf.edu/~mportill/assign.html

4) Commander, Navy Region Hawaii. www.hawaii.navy.mil/New%20Homepage/7Dec98/virtour.htm

5) Franklin D. Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor Speech. bcn.boulder.co.us/government/national/speeches/spch2.html

6) The History Place World War Two in Europe. www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/pearl.htm

7) Pearl Harbor. encarta.msn.com/find/Concise.asp?ti=046f8000

8) Road to Pearl Harbor. history.acusd.edu/gen/WW2Timeline/RD-PEARL.html

9) USS Arizona Memorial. www.nps.gov/usar/ExtendWeb1/html

Pearl Harbour

On December 7, 1941, the U.S. suffered a tremendous loss due to the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When news of the attack was released, America was shocked. The question of, 'How could a small island country do so much damage so far away from their home and in such little time'? Most of the shock and disbelief was due to the stereotypical Japanese citizen: a nation with people of short stature with exaggerated oriental features.
America's response towards the attack had quickly gone from shock and disbelief to anger. The day after the attack President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his famous speech: 'Yesterday, December 7th, 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. The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack. It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace. The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu. Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island. Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation. As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory. I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us. Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God. I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.' (Roosevelt 1). America's leaders responded quickly. The Senate made a unanimous vote for war against Japan. There was one woman named, Jeannette Rankin who voted against war saying that she wanted to show that a good democracy does not vote unanimously for war.
Three days after the attack, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. The Congress passed another joint resolution which officially joined the US in World War II. By January 1942, the Japanese had landed in Manila. American forces held out until early May until they were forced to surrender. This resulted in the Bataan Death March in which thousands of Philippine and Americans marched 65 miles to a Japanese prison camp.
At this time, President Roosevelt was undergoing immense emotional of American Prestige in the Pacific. At the same time he was still trying to honor his commitment with the British Allies against Hitler. Before Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt agreed that the defeat of the Nazi rule in Germany had to be the first priority. Until America could recover from the large naval losses due to Pearl Harbor and mobilize towards a two-front war, the decision was made to accept the loss of the Philippines, Wake, and Guam and also to focus on a defensive triangle that involved Alaska, Hawaii, and Panama.
It did not take long for the US Navy to change the result of the Pacific War. Fortunately, during the Pearl Harbor attack, US carriers were not in Port. By summer of 1942, US Navy aircraft carriers were making long-distance blows to Japanese naval forces in the battles of The Coral Sea and Midway that would create the end of any Japanese naval expansion in the Western Pacific and give America more hope in the wake of the previous tragedy.

` The surprise attack had been a massive wake-up call and a huge mobilization of the nation's manpower and industrial potential. Young men were brought in for combat duty and women volunteered for support duties. Even before that sad Sunday morning, America had been getting ready. Between July 1, 1940 and July 1945, the United States had made a great number of 296,601 aircraft, 71,060 ships, and 85,388 tanks. Women, of course, did their part with working in defense plants doing industrial and hard labor that had beforehand had only been done by men, thus ending the argument that a woman's place was forever in her home. As America prepared for war, another argument was also settled. Isolationists could no longer say that America should stay out of foreign entanglements and war.
The only thing left to do was to defeat the suspects of the attack that had resulted in the death of 2,000 Americans. In the environment of suspicion and paranoia that had resulted from the attack, America's government disbanded the pro-Nazi German-American Organization. American citizens of Japanese descent were forced to relocate from the West Coast, due to the fear of spies.
As more and more bad news came from the Far East, the national energy and purpose from America grew stronger. Volunteers of the Red Cross, Irving Berlin patriotic songs, speeches, and intense effort to mobilize the US were all a part of the extreme need for America to show that she could fight back at Japan. Out of this period of frustration an idea had grown for a bold bombing raid on Tokyo by Colonel James Doolittle that will be known as the Doolittle raid.
Although, the Doolittle raid did little damage to the Japanese city and had no effect on the outcome of the war, the psychological effect on America and national moral was electric. The amazing feat of B-25medium bombers from the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet that was 670 miles from Tokyo absolutely excited American citizens who were eager to receive any good news of the war's first year.
To say the least, America's response to 'the date which will live in infamy' was shock turned into anger and resolve. The Japanese Admiral, Isoroku Hamamoto, was the man who had planned and succeeded in the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is said that Admiral Hamamoto said, 'I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and to fill him with terrible resolve.' (Hamamoto 1). No one has ever verified if the words were written or spoken, but regardless of how they came into existence, they were prophetic. America's strength eventually led to the complete defeat of Japanese, German, and Italian fascism and made the United States gain its high rank post-war reputation as a true power. The movie Pearl Harbor says, 'America suffered, but America grew stronger.' Indeed, she did

Source: Essay UK - http://www.essay.uk.com/free-essays/history/pearl-harbour.php


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