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The Attack on Pearl Harbor

a small boat in a large body of water

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Navy proceeded an unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor. The day after the attack, the United States declared war on Japan, officially entering World War II. It was more three-quarters of a century ago, however Pearl Harbor still evokes great national memory. Thousands of people passed away that day: approximately 1,400 crew members and 1,177 sailors were killed. All in all, Americans lost 2,395 people. Furthermore, four battleships, a cruiser, several auxiliary ships and 188 aircraft were destroyed.

How did the attack start?

The attack on Pearl Harbor began at 7:55 a.m. Hawaiian time. After receiving the command  from Tokyo, more than 300 aircraft took off from the aircraft carriers. In addition, mini-submarines took part in the attack as well. December 7, 1941, was supposed to be a day of rest for the military soldiers at Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor naval base. Therefore, the U.S. military was entirely unprepared for the subversive and surprise attack, which drastically changed the course of World War II. However, there were several crucial reasons for that attack, which make it seem nearly inevitable. Since the tension between Japan and the United States had been growing for a long period of time.

The attack on Pearl Harbor

Diplomatic background of the Pearl Harbor attack:

An Increased demand for natural resources

The U.S. and Japan had been at feud with each other for decades and it was fatally that disagreements would eventually turn into a war. Japan had enormous ambitions to expand to China to solve some demographical and economical issues and, likewise, to take over the Chinese import market. When in 1937 Japan decided to declare war on China, America was very against this aggression and reacted with trade embargoes and economic sanctions. Specifically, the oil embargo that America organized with the British and the Dutch was a provocation for Japan, which imported 90% of its oil. Without oil Japan’s military could not function and all war strivings would come to an end. Negotiations had been going on for months between Washington and Tokyo, without any denouement. Consequently, Japan decided to attack first.

Expansion in the Pacific

President Roosevelt moved the US Pacific Fleet from California to Pearl Harbor in 1939. And this move was a threat to Japan, because they wanted to expand in the Pacific. Politicians and Military leaders of Japan saw a war between the U.S. and Japan as inevitable, with the only one solution to attack first. Therefore, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor to destroy the USA Pacific Fleet and weaken the American army. The objective was a quick USA capitulation enabling Japan to continue imperial expansion. 

Learn more about this historic event that caused the United States to enter World War II in our Facebook group

Pearl Harbor is the most visited attraction in Hawaii. Every year millions of people visit Pearl Harbor. To make sure you make the most of your time at the Pearl Harbor Museums, it makes sense to hire a guide to take you to Pearl Harbor. Come on a guided Pearl Harbor tour with DanielsHawaii, Learn about the attack that happened December 7th, 1941. Enjoy an interesting half day excursion to Pearl Harbor National Park, Downtown Honolulu, the I’olani Palace, Aloha Tower, King Kamehameha Statue and more spots.

Pearl Harbor Tour Hawaii