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Attack on Pearl Harbor

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Coordinates: 21°22′N 157°57′W / 21.367°N 157.950°W / 21.367; -157.950

Attack on Pearl Harbor
Part of the Asia and the Pacific Theater of World War II
Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view.jpg
Photograph of Battleship Row taken from a Japanese plane at the beginning of the attack. The explosion in the center is a torpedo strike on USS West Virginia. Two attacking Japanese planes can be seen: one over USS Neosho and one over the Naval Yard.
Date December 7, 1941; 76 years ago (1941-12-07)
Location Primarily Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, U.S.
Result

Major Japanese tactical victory; precipitated the entrance of the United States into World War II

Belligerents
 United States  Imperial Japan
Commanders and leaders
United States Navy ADM Husband E. Kimmel
LTG Walter Short
Empire of Japan VADM Chūichi Nagumo
ADM Isoroku Yamamoto
CDR Mitsuo Fuchida
Strength
8 battleships
8 cruisers
30 destroyers
4 submarines
3 USCG Cutters[nb 1]
47 other ships[4]
≈390 aircraft
Mobile Unit:
6 aircraft carriers
2 battleships
2 heavy cruisers
1 light cruiser
9 destroyers
8 tankers
23 fleet submarines
5 midget submarines
414 aircraft
Casualties and losses
4 battleships sunk
4 battleships damaged
2 other ships sunk[nb 2]
3 cruisers damaged[nb 3]
3 destroyers damaged
3 other ships damaged
188 aircraft destroyed
159[6] aircraft damaged
2,335 killed
1,143 wounded
4 midget submarines sunk
1 midget submarine grounded
29 aircraft destroyed
64 killed
1 sailor captured[7]
Civilian casualties
68 killed[8][9]
35 wounded[10]
3 aircraft shot down

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The attack, also known as the Battle of Pearl Harbor,[11] led to the United States' entry into World War II. The Japanese military leadership referred to the attack as the Hawaii Operation and Operation AI,[12][13] and as Operation Z during its planning.[14]

Japan intended the attack as a preventive action to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions they planned in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. Over the next seven hours there were coordinated Japanese attacks on the U.S.-held Philippines, Guam and Wake Island and on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong.[15]

The attack commenced at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time (18:18 GMT).[nb 4][16] The base was attacked by 353[17] Imperial Japanese aircraft (including fighters, level and dive bombers, and torpedo bombers) in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers.[17] All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four sunk. All but the USS Arizona were later raised, and six were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship,[nb 5] and one minelayer. One hundred eighty-eight U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded.[19] Important base installations such as the power station, dry dock, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section), were not attacked. Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 64 servicemen killed. One Japanese sailor, Kazuo Sakamaki, was captured.

The surprise attack came as a profound shock to the American people and led directly to the American entry into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters. The following day, December 8, the United States declared war on Japan,[20][21] and several days later, on December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. The U.S. responded with a declaration of war against Germany and Italy. Domestic support for non-interventionism, which had been fading since the Fall of France in 1940,[22] disappeared.[21]

There were numerous historical precedents for unannounced military action by Japan, but the lack of any formal warning, particularly while negotiations were still apparently ongoing, led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaim December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy". Because the attack happened without a declaration of war and without explicit warning, the attack on Pearl Harbor was later judged in the Tokyo Trials to be a war crime.[23][24]

Background to conflict

Diplomatic background

War between Japan and the United States had been a possibility that each nation had been aware of (and developed contingency plans for) since the 1920s, though tensions did not begin to grow seriously until Japan's 1931 invasion of Manchuria. Over the next decade, Japan continued to expand into China, leading to all-out war between those countries in 1937. Japan spent considerable effort trying to isolate China and achieve sufficient resource independence to attain victory on the mainland; the "Southern Operation" was designed to assist these efforts.[25]

Pearl Harbor on October 30, 1941, looking southwest

From December 1937, events such as the Japanese attack on USS Panay, the Allison incident, and the Nanking Massacre (the International Military Tribunal of the Far East concluded that more than 200,000 Chinese non-combatants were killed in indiscriminate massacres, though other estimates have ranged from 40,000 to more than 300,000) swung public opinion in the West sharply against Japan. Fearing Japanese expansion,[26] the United States, the United Kingdom, and France provided loan assistance for war supply contracts to China.

In 1940, Japan invaded French Indochina in an effort to control supplies reaching China. The United States halted shipments of airplanes, parts, machine tools, and aviation gasoline to Japan, which was perceived by Japan as an unfriendly act.[nb 6] The U.S. did not stop oil exports to Japan at that time in part because prevailing sentiment in Washington was that such an action would be an extreme step that Japan would likely consider a provocation, given Japanese dependence on U.S. oil.[28][29]

Early in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the Pacific Fleet to Hawaii from its previous base in San Diego and ordered a military buildup in the Philippines in the hope of discouraging Japanese aggression in the Far East. Because the Japanese high command was (mistakenly) certain that any attack on the UK's Southeast Asian colonies, including Singapore,[30] would bring the U.S. into war, a devastating preventive strike appeared to be the only way to avoid U.S. naval interference.[31] An invasion of the Philippines was also considered necessary by Japanese war planners. The U.S. War Plan Orange had envisioned defending the Philippines with a 40,000-man elite force. This was opposed by Douglas MacArthur, who felt that he would need a force ten times that size, and was never implemented.[32] By 1941, U.S. planners anticipated abandonment of the Philippines at the outbreak of war and orders to that effect were given in late 1941 to Admiral Thomas Hart, commander of the Asiatic Fleet.[33]

The U.S. ceased oil exports to Japan in July 1941, following Japanese expansion into French Indochina after the Fall of France, in part because of new American restrictions on domestic oil consumption.[34] This in turn caused the Japanese to proceed with plans to take the Dutch East Indies, an oil-rich territory.[nb 7] On August 17, Roosevelt warned Japan that the U.S. was prepared to take steps against Japan if it attacked "neighboring countries".[36] The Japanese were faced with the option of either withdrawing from China and losing face or seizing and securing new sources of raw materials in the resource-rich, European-controlled colonies of Southeast Asia.

Japan and the U.S. engaged in negotiations during the course of 1941 in an effort to improve relations. During these negotiations, Japan offered to withdraw from most of China and Indochina when peace was made with the Nationalist government, adopt an independent interpretation of the Tripartite Pact, and not to discriminate in trade provided all other countries reciprocated. Washington rejected these proposals. Japanese Prime Minister Konoye then offered to meet with Roosevelt, but Roosevelt insisted on coming to an agreement before any meeting.[37] The U.S. ambassador to Japan repeatedly urged Roosevelt to accept the meeting, warning that it was the only way to preserve the conciliatory Konoye government and peace in the Pacific.[38] His recommendation was not acted upon. The Konoye government collapsed the following month when the Japanese military refused to agree to the withdrawal of all troops from China.[39]

Japan's final proposal, on November 20, offered to withdraw their forces from southern Indochina and not to launch any attacks in Southeast Asia provided that the U.S., the UK, and the Netherlands ceased aiding China and lifted their sanctions against Japan.[39] The American counter-proposal of November 26 (November 27 in Japan) (the Hull note) required Japan to evacuate all of China without conditions and conclude non-aggression pacts with Pacific powers. However the day before the Hull Note was delivered, on November 26 in Japan, the main Japanese attack fleet left port for Pearl Harbor.

Military planning

Preliminary planning for an attack on Pearl Harbor to protect the move into the "Southern Resource Area" (the Japanese term for the Dutch East Indies and Southeast Asia generally) had begun very early in 1941 under the auspices of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, then commanding Japan's Combined Fleet.[40] He won assent to formal planning and training for an attack from the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff only after much contention with Naval Headquarters, including a threat to resign his command.[41] Full-scale planning was underway by early spring 1941, primarily by Rear Admiral Ryūnosuke Kusaka, with assistance from Captain Minoru Genda and Yamamoto's Deputy Chief of Staff, Captain Kameto Kuroshima.[42] The planners studied the 1940 British air attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto intensively.[nb 8][nb 9]

Over the next several months, pilots were trained, equipment was adapted, and intelligence was collected. Despite these preparations, Emperor Hirohito did not approve the attack plan until November 5, after the third of four Imperial Conferences called to consider the matter.[45] Final authorization was not given by the emperor until December 1, after a majority of Japanese leaders advised him the "Hull Note" would "destroy the fruits of the China incident, endanger Manchukuo and undermine Japanese control of Korea."[46]

By late 1941, many observers believed that hostilities between the U.S. and Japan were imminent. A Gallup poll just before the attack on Pearl Harbor found that 52% of Americans expected war with Japan, 27% did not, and 21% had no opinion.[47] While U.S. Pacific bases and facilities had been placed on alert on many occasions, U.S. officials doubted Pearl Harbor would be the first target; instead, they expected the Philippines would be attacked first. This presumption was due to the threat that the air bases throughout the country and the naval base at Manila posed to sea lanes, as well as to the shipment of supplies to Japan from territory to the south.[48] They also incorrectly believed that Japan was not capable of mounting more than one major naval operation at a time.[49]

Objectives

The Japanese attack had several major aims. First, it intended to destroy important American fleet units, thereby preventing the Pacific Fleet from interfering with Japanese conquest of the Dutch East Indies and Malaya and to enable Japan to conquer Southeast Asia without interference. Second, it was hoped to buy time for Japan to consolidate its position and increase its naval strength before shipbuilding authorized by the 1940 Vinson-Walsh Act erased any chance of victory.[50][51] Third, to deliver a blow to America's ability to mobilize its forces in the Pacific, battleships were chosen as the main targets, since they were the prestige ships of any navy at the time.[50] Finally, it was hoped that the attack would undermine American morale such that the U.S. government would drop its demands contrary to Japanese interests, and would seek a compromise peace with Japan.[52][53]

Striking the Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor carried two distinct disadvantages: the targeted ships would be in very shallow water, so it would be relatively easy to salvage and possibly repair them; and most of the crews would survive the attack, since many would be on shore leave or would be rescued from the harbor. A further important disadvantage—this of timing, and known to the Japanese—was the absence from Pearl Harbor of all three of the U.S. Pacific Fleet's aircraft carriers (Enterprise, Lexington, and Saratoga). IJN top command was so imbued with Admiral Mahan's "decisive battle" doctrine—especially that of destroying the maximum number of battleships—that, despite these concerns, Yamamoto decided to press ahead.[54][page needed]

Japanese confidence in their ability to achieve a short, victorious war also meant other targets in the harbor, especially the navy yard, oil tank farms, and submarine base, were ignored, since—by their thinking—the war would be over before the influence of these facilities would be felt.[55]

Approach and attack

Route followed by the Japanese fleet to Pearl Harbor and back
An Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter on the aircraft carrier Akagi

On November 26, 1941, a Japanese task force (the Striking Force) of six aircraft carriers—Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, Hiryū, Shōkaku, and Zuikaku—departed Hittokapu Bay on Kasatka (now Iterup) Island in the Kurile Islands, en route to a position northwest of Hawaii, intending to launch its 408 aircraft to attack Pearl Harbor: 360 for the two attack waves and 48 on defensive combat air patrol (CAP), including nine fighters from the first wave.

The first wave was to be the primary attack, while the second wave was to attack carriers as its first objective and cruisers as its second, with battleships as the third target.[56] The first wave carried most of the weapons to attack capital ships, mainly specially adapted Type 91 aerial torpedoes which were designed with an anti-roll mechanism and a rudder extension that let them operate in shallow water.[57] The aircrews were ordered to select the highest value targets (battleships and aircraft carriers) or, if these were not present, any other high value ships (cruisers and destroyers). First wave dive bombers were to attack ground targets. Fighters were ordered to strafe and destroy as many parked aircraft as possible to ensure they did not get into the air to intercept the bombers, especially in the first wave. When the fighters' fuel got low they were to refuel at the aircraft carriers and return to combat. Fighters were to serve CAP duties where needed, especially over U.S. airfields.[citation needed]

Before the attack commenced, two reconnaissance aircraft launched from cruisers Chikuma and Tone were sent to scout over Oahu and Maui and report on U.S. fleet composition and location. Reconnaissance aircraft flights risked alerting the U.S.,[58] and were not necessary. U.S. fleet composition and preparedness information in Pearl Harbor was already known due to the reports of the Japanese spy Takeo Yoshikawa. A report of the absence of the U.S. fleet in Lahaina anchorage off Maui was received from the fleet submarine I-72.[59] Another four scout planes patrolled the area between the Japanese carrier force (the Kidō Butai) and Niihau, to detect any counterattack.[60]

Submarines

Fleet submarines I-16, I-18, I-20, I-22, and I-24 each embarked a Type A midget submarine for transport to the waters off Oahu.[61] The five I-boats left Kure Naval District on November 25, 1941.[62] On December 6, they came to within 10 nmi (19 km; 12 mi) of the mouth of Pearl Harbor[63] and launched their midget subs at about 01:00[clarification needed] on December 7.[64] At 03:42[65] Hawaiian Time, the minesweeper Condor spotted a midget submarine periscope southwest of the Pearl Harbor entrance buoy and alerted the destroyer Ward.[66] The midget may have entered Pearl Harbor. However, Ward sank another midget submarine at 06:37[66][nb 10] in the first American shots in the Pacific Theater. A midget submarine on the north side of Ford Island missed the seaplane tender Curtiss with her first torpedo and missed the attacking destroyer Monaghan with her other one before being sunk by Monaghan at 08:43.[66]

A third midget submarine, Ha-19, grounded twice, once outside the harbor entrance and again on the east side of Oahu, where it was captured on December 8.[68] Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki swam ashore and was captured by Hawaii National Guard Corporal David Akui, becoming the first Japanese prisoner of war.[nb 11] A fourth had been damaged by a depth charge attack and was abandoned by its crew before it could fire its torpedoes.[69] Japanese forces received a radio message from a midget submarine at 00:41 on December 8 claiming damage to one or more large warships inside Pearl Harbor.[70]

In 1992, 2000, and 2001, Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory's submersibles found the wreck of the fifth midget submarine lying in three parts outside Pearl Harbor. The wreck was in the debris field where much surplus U.S. equipment was dumped after the war, including vehicles and landing craft. Both of its torpedoes were missing. This correlates with reports of two torpedoes fired at the light cruiser St. Louis at 10:04 at the entrance of Pearl Harbor, and a possible torpedo fired at destroyer Helm at 08:21.[71]

Japanese declaration of war

The attack took place before any formal declaration of war was made by Japan, but this was not Admiral Yamamoto's intention. He originally stipulated that the attack should not commence until thirty minutes after Japan had informed the United States that peace negotiations were at an end.[citation needed] However, the attack began before the notice could be delivered. Tokyo transmitted the 5000-word notification (commonly called the "14-Part Message") in two blocks to the Japanese Embassy in Washington. Transcribing the message took too long for the Japanese ambassador to deliver it on schedule; in the event, it was not presented until more than an hour after the attack began. (In fact, U.S. code breakers had already deciphered and translated most of the message hours before he was scheduled to deliver it.)[72] The final part is sometimes described as a declaration of war. While it was viewed by a number of senior U.S government and military officials as a very strong indicator negotiations were likely to be terminated[73] and that war might break out at any moment,[74] it neither declared war nor severed diplomatic relations. A declaration of war was printed on the front page of Japan's newspapers in the evening edition of December 8,[75] but not delivered to the U.S. government until the day after the attack.

For decades, conventional wisdom held that Japan attacked without first formally breaking diplomatic relations only because of accidents and bumbling that delayed the delivery of a document hinting at war to Washington. In 1999, however, Takeo Iguchi, a professor of law and international relations at International Christian University in Tokyo, discovered documents that pointed to a vigorous debate inside the government over how, and indeed whether, to notify Washington of Japan's intention to break off negotiations and start a war, including a December 7 entry in the war diary saying, "[O]ur deceptive diplomacy is steadily proceeding toward success." Of this, Iguchi said, "The diary shows that the army and navy did not want to give any proper declaration of war, or indeed prior notice even of the termination of negotiations ... and they clearly prevailed."[76][77]

In any event, even if the Japanese had decoded and delivered the 14-Part Message before the beginning of the attack, it would not have constituted either a formal break of diplomatic relations or a declaration of war. The final two paragraphs of the message read:

Thus the earnest hope of the Japanese Government to adjust Japanese-American relations and to preserve and promote the peace of the Pacific through cooperation with the American Government has finally been lost.

The Japanese Government regrets to have to notify hereby the American Government that in view of the attitude of the American Government it cannot but consider that it is impossible to reach an agreement through further negotiations.[78]

First wave composition

The Japanese attacked in two waves. The first wave was detected by U.S. Army radar at 136 nautical miles (252 km), but was misidentified as USAAF bombers arriving from the American mainland
Top:
A. Ford Island NAS B. Hickam Field C. Bellows Field D. Wheeler Field
E. Kaneohe NAS F. Ewa MCAS R-1. Opana Radar Station R-2. Kawailoa RS R-3. Kaaawa RS
G. Haleiwa H. Kahuku I. Wahiawa J. Kaneohe K. Honolulu
0. B-17s from mainland 1. First strike group 1-1. Level bombers 1–2. Torpedo bombers 1–3. Dive bombers 2. Second strike group 2-1. Level bombers 2-1F. Fighters 2-2. Dive bombers
Bottom:
A. Wake Island B. Midway Islands C. Johnston Island D. Hawaii
D-1. Oahu 1. USS Lexington 2. USS Enterprise 3. First Air Fleet
  < 21 feet (6.4 m)
  22–23 feet (6.7–7.0 m)
  29 feet (8.8 m)
  30–32 feet (9.1–9.8 m)
  33–34 feet (10.1–10.4 m)
  34–35 feet (10.4–10.7 m)
  36–37 feet (11.0–11.3 m)
  38–39 feet (11.6–11.9 m)
  40–41 feet (12.2–12.5 m)
  42–48 feet (12.8–14.6 m)
  > 49 feet (14.9 m)
  City
  Army base
  Navy base
Attacked targets:
1: USS California
2: USS Maryland
3: USS Oklahoma
4: USS Tennessee
5: USS West Virginia
6: USS Arizona
7: USS Nevada
8: USS Pennsylvania
9: Ford Island NAS
10: Hickam field
Ignored infrastructure targets:
A: Oil storage tanks
B: CINCPAC headquarters building
C: Submarine base
D: Navy Yard

The first attack wave of 183 planes was launched north of Oahu, led by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida.[79] Six planes failed to launch due to technical difficulties.[60] It included:[nb 12]

As the first wave approached Oahu, it was detected by the U.S. Army SCR-270 radar at Opana Point near the island's northern tip. This post had been in training mode for months, but was not yet operational.[82] The operators, Privates George Elliot Jr. and Joseph Lockard, reported a target.[83] But Lieutenant Kermit A. Tyler, a newly assigned officer at the thinly manned Intercept Center, presumed it was the scheduled arrival of six B-17 bombers from California. The Japanese planes were approaching from a direction very close (only a few degrees difference) to the bombers,[84] and while the operators had never seen a formation as large on radar, they neglected to tell Tyler of its size.[85] Tyler, for security reasons, could not tell the operators of the six B-17s that were due (even though it was widely known).[85]

As the first wave planes approached Oahu, they encountered and shot down several U.S. aircraft. At least one of these radioed a somewhat incoherent warning. Other warnings from ships off the harbor entrance were still being processed or awaiting confirmation when the attacking planes began bombing and strafing. Nevertheless, it is not clear any warnings would have had much effect even if they had been interpreted correctly and much more promptly. The results the Japanese achieved in the Philippines were essentially the same as at Pearl Harbor, though MacArthur had almost nine hours warning that the Japanese had already attacked Pearl Harbor.

The air portion of the attack began at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time[16] (3:18 a.m. December 8 Japanese Standard Time, as kept by ships of the Kido Butai),[86][nb 4] with the attack on Kaneohe. A total of 353[17] 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 (the battleships), 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 Forces fighter base. The 171 planes in the second wave attacked the Army Air Forces' Bellows Field near Kaneohe on the windward side of the island, and Ford Island. The only aerial opposition came from a handful of P-36 Hawks, P-40 Warhawks, and some SBD Dauntless dive bombers from the carrier Enterprise.[nb 13]

A destroyed Vindicator at Ewa field, the victim of one of the smaller attacks on the approach to Pearl Harbor

In the first wave attack, about eight of the forty-nine 800 kg (1760 lb) armor-piercing bombs dropped hit their intended battleship targets. At least two of those bombs broke up on impact, another detonated before penetrating an unarmored deck, and one was a dud. Thirteen of the forty torpedoes hit battleships, and four torpedoes hit other ships.[87] Men aboard U.S. ships awoke to the sounds of alarms, bombs exploding, and gunfire, prompting bleary-eyed men to dress as they ran to General Quarters stations. (The famous message, "Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not drill.",[nb 14] was sent from the headquarters of Patrol Wing Two, the first senior Hawaiian command to respond.) The defenders were very unprepared. Ammunition lockers were locked, aircraft parked wingtip to wingtip in the open to prevent sabotage,[88] guns unmanned (none of the Navy's 5"/38