Pearl Harbor attack by Japan - US enters WWII

December 07, 2018

On 7 December 1941 (for two hours from around 8am), fighter planes from six aircraft carriers of the then imperial Japanese Empire heavily bombed America’s main Pacific naval base of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii – wreaking destruction and dragging the US into World War II.

The surprise attack crippled or destroyed over 300 US aircraft (of the nearly 400 grounded there) and 20 navy vessels in dock (of the 100 assigned there). This included sinking several US battleships (killing or drowning a combined crew of nearly 1,500), damaging the rest of the eight in dock (all were later repaired for future battle) and wiping out nearly a dozen other vessels (including six cruisers and destroyers). In total, nearly 2,500 Americans were killed and over 1,000 wounded in the attack.

From a strategic sense, it was fortunate that none of the three US Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers were damaged as they were all away from dock on various missions.

  • As plane capacities and capabilities were improving fast, especially during WWII, the utility of aircraft carriers was rising rapidly just as that of battleships and other easily-swooped vessels was waning.

Moreover, the attack barely touched the naval base’s oil storage depots, submarine base, repair shops, ship yards and other vital onshore facilities. As such, the Americans were well geared to avenge the attack and defend the Pacific, especially once their industrial machine kicked into gear (and repairs were made to the vessels damaged).

The day after 'Pearl Harbour', then US Democrat President, Franklin D Roosevelt, sought and received approval from Congress to declare war on the imperial Japanese Empire with his “A date which will live in Infamy” speech. Within three days, Germany and Italy – Japan's European Axis allies – declared war against the US, which the President and Congress quickly reciprocated.

The following year (1942) became a WWII turning point in both Europe and the Pacific as the once-isolationist America was now fully engaged in both arenas with all its conviction, determination and might – both economically and militarily.

It also ensured that an invaluable ally – with potent Pacific air and naval forces – was engaged in our region, as Australia would come under heavy Japanese attack in the year ahead, beginning with the Bombing of Darwin (19 Feb 1942) and including the Battle of the Coral Sea (4 May 1942) and the grinding Battle of the Kokoda Track (July-Nov 1942). The partnership and ties built up with America during WWII helped to establish the ANZUS Treaty and our crucial Australia-US security alliance in 1951.

Commemorate this anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbour and world-changing event by:

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