On December 7th 1941, arguably the most memorable event of World War II occurred; the attack on Pearl Harbor. A surprise Japanese aerial attack on the US port of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the moment is seen as the entry point of the United States into World War II. At that point, it had been an ongoing conflict for two years between the Western European Coalition and the Axis of Japan, Germany and Italy.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor stemmed from a long and hostile relationship between the Japanese and the US. Japan’s planned invasion of mainland China in 1937 was condemned by the League of Nations, but when the now formidable military power refused to cease offensive actions against China, the United States placed an embargo of all scrap metal and oil to Japan, as well as closing the Panama Canal to Japanese naval traffic.
Contrary to popular belief, it was a well-known fact that the Japanese government and inner cabinets were contemplating an attack on Pearl Harbor. Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo was concerned with the idea of “losing face” and honour if forced to comply with international demands. As such, they demanded that, if Japan’s demands were not met by early October, Japan would initiate hostilities against the US, Britain and Netherlands. Pearl Harbour was already known to be a key US port, and there are many reports that the US government knew of a possible attack against the port.
A Japanese military contingent left Japan on November 26, 1941, armed with six aircraft carriers, and 441 planes among numerous other ships and submarines, all under radio silence. Japan had planned to halt all negotiations with the US thirty minutes before the attack, but due to decryption times and administrative failures, the last message did not reach the US until hours after the attack began.
The attack began at 7.53am Hawaii time on December 7, and lasted an hour and half. The Japanese contingent had eight American battleships to contend with, of which one was destroyed, a further two sunk, and the remaining five damaged to some extent. Two thousand, four hundred and three American soldiers and civilians died in the attack, as opposed to sixty-four Japanese soldiers. The harbour only faced two air strikes, after which the US base was too prepared and ready in order to warrant a third Japanese strike on the base.
US President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941. Germany and Italy subsequently declared war on the US on December 11, 1941, in concordance with the Axis Agreement between the three countries. The Pearl Harbour was the first in many attacks by the Japanese on Pacific harbours, ports and land bases that led to Japanese expansion in the pacific as far south as Papa New Guinea. The US began to take back Pacific territory with key attacks on the Philippines and various other islands in late 1944, until Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945.
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