The Attack on Pearl Harbor – December 7, 1941 The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, surprised everyone in the United States military. Japan’s bombers found Pearl Harbor totally unprepared. President Franklin Roosevelt quickly addressed Congress to ask for a declaration of war. Although he never mentioned Europe or the fact that Germany had already declared war on the United States, the Pearl Harbor attack allowed him to begin the larger participation in the European war he had long wanted. In the 1930's, Japan was overcrowded and needed more living space for its population of over 60 million people. The world was in an economic depression and Japan's industries were in trouble. They needed natural resources such as steel, oil, and rubber. They also needed farmland to grow food.
To solve these problems, Japan decided to expand and take over countries to gain needed resources. In 1931, Japan invaded and conquered northern China. Japan was quickly becoming a great military power and planned to control all of Asia.
War began in Europe in 1939. Japan joined Nazi Germany in the Axis Alliance and watched as Nazi armies controlled more of Europe. In Southeast Asia, Japan set its sights on European colonies rich with natural resources. But the United States had an interest in Asia too, and was not going to let Japan dominate the Pacific.
Japanese leaders believed an oil embargo by the United States was a threat to their nation's security. A decision was made by these leaders to destroy the only force America had to stop the Japanese --- the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
The American military was well aware that a surprise attack on Hawaii was possible and they thought they were prepared. Military leaders believed that the greatest danger was not air attack but saboteurs. To make their aircraft easier to guard, they were parked wing-tip to wing-tip in the middle of the airfield.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, at 6:15 a.m., the first wave of 184 Japanese planes took off from the Japanese aircraft carriers. At 7:55 a.m., the Japanese fighters and bombers began to swarm over the island --- their main target, Pearl Harbor. One hundred forty-five vessels of all kinds were docked at Pearl Harbor, from small boats to battleships.
Only a few men aboard the American ships anchored in the harbor were awake and on duty when the attack started. Most were either onshore or asleep in their bunks. Three minutes after the first bomb fell on Ford Island, a message was radioed to the United States mainland, "Air Raid, Pearl Harbor - This is no drill."
In just one hour and forty-five minutes, a horrifying scene of death and destruction covered the island. Most of the ships of the United States Pacific Fleet were sunk or damaged. More than 2,300 army, navy, air force, and marine corps personnel were killed, 960 were missing, and over 1,200 were wounded. Of the 394 aircraft on the island, 188 of the army and navy aircraft had been completely destroyed and over 150 were severely damaged.
Of the 392 Japanese aircraft that had attacked Pearl Harbor, 324 returned to their carriers. A few had been lost in takeoff or landing while the others had been shot down by United States aircraft or anti-aircraft fire. Less than 60 Japanese airmen lost their lives. One Japanese squadron leader had deliberately crashed his burning plane into a hangar at an airfield. This was known as a kamikaze, or "divine wind," suicide attack.
Japan officially declared war on the United States at 11:40 a.m., December 7,1941, four hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor had started. Once the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor spread throughout the United States, the feelings of most Americans changed. Previously, many had thought that the war in Europe had nothing to do with them. They also thought that the Japanese wouldn't attack the big and powerful United States.
Many Americans now began to look at Japanese Americans differently. Japanese Americans whose families had lived in America for generations and were loyal American citizens were thought of as possible enemies. Within just a few weeks, plans were being made to send all Japanese Americans to internment camps where most of them would have to live until the war was over.
On Monday, December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called together the nation's senators and congressmen to ask them to declare war on Japan. Although most Americans felt they should also declare war on Germany and Italy, Roosevelt did not, since there had been no direct attack on the United States by those two nations. The problem was solved, however, when Adolf Hitler of Germany and Benito Mussolini of Italy both declared war on the United States a few days later.
Roosevelt's Speech Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:
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. But 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.
Attacks on US – Comparisons
Pearl Harbor World Trade Center December 7, 1941 September 11, 2001
Hawaii New York
Naval Base Financial Center
Japan Terrorists (Middle East)
2,000 people died 3,000 people died
Mostly military men Mostly civilians
Entered WWII “Unofficial” war in Afghanistan & Iraq
Write the past participle of each verb:
declare: wound: Fill in the blanks using the passive voice:
China by Japan in 1931.
War in Europe in 1939.
Pearl Harbor by Japan on December 7, 1941.
Americans by this attack.
Over 2,000 people .
About 1,200 people .
Half of the aircraft .
The USS Arizona during the attack.
Plans to send Japanese-Americans to internment camps in the US.
An important speech by President Franklin Roosevelt on December 8, 1941.