Essay on Pearl Harbor: Attack on Pearl Harbor A Day of Infamy

The "Day of Infamy" will never be forgotten. Early in the morning on Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor (a principal navy ship port and base) was attacked by the Japanese. Nearby military airfields were also attacked by the Japanese. Commanding the task force was Admiral Nagumo. The attack was a success to the Japanese, but a terrible tragedy and defeat for the United States.

Pearl Harbor, located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii about six miles west of Honolulu, was a major housing port for American naval ships and was a major threat to the Japanese. This naval base was closest to the Philippines and Japan, and if ordered, the entire United States Naval Fleet could assemble and attack Japan with extreme and terrific force. Since Pearl Harbor was a powerful offensive and defensive naval ship port, it was no wonder that Japan chose to attack it.

If the Japanese were to attack the US, they would need to destroy naval ships such as carriers, battleships, destroyers, cruisers and aircraft which were transported on carriers. Pearl Harbor housed all of these ships, and it was a major threat to the Japanese since it was so close to their country.

In the 1930s, Japan was attacking China and it needed a lot of resources (because it had none of its own) such as oil and steel to continue its strikes against China. Eventually, the United States government stopped selling these resources to Japan because Japan was not following US policies of keeping their navy and armies to a certain size. After the US stopped the oil trade to Japan, Japan claimed this as an act of war and said that that US made an alliance with their Chinese enemy.

Warnings of the Attack

Early in the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, at 3:42 a.m., a mine sweeping boat named the Condor sighted a periscope of a midget submarine about 40 feet long operated by two people. The Condor then contacted a patrol destroyer called the Ward to go and investigate the sighting.

At 6:10 a.m. 220 miles away, Admiral Nagumo ordered the launch of the first wave of 185 aircraft off six Japanese carriers (Commander Fuchida was in command of the first wave). Two Japanese aircraft were lost during take-off.

Meanwhile at Pearl Harbor, the destroyer Ward was notified again of a sub sighting, this time spotted by the supply ship Antares at 6:30 a.m. A PBY was sent to the scene of the sighting. At 6:45 a.m., the Ward sighted and opened fire on the coning tower of the submarine and then dropped depth charges soon followed by an air attack from the PBY. Captain Outerbridge, commander of the destroyer Ward, sent a message to the Commandant 14th Naval District that they had fired and dropped depth charges upon a sub operating in the defensive sea area.

AT 7 a.m., the first wave of Japanese aircraft were on their way to Oahu and in range to receive the local Honolulu radio station.

At 7:02 a.m., two privates stationed at a radar station picked up an unidentified flight of aircraft 132 miles north of Oahu, and phoned Fort Shafter of the incident at 7:10 a.m. An officer named Lt. Tyler talked with the two privates.

At 7:15 a.m., the Japanese had launched their second wave of 168 aircraft towards Hawaii and the destroyer Ward's message finally got delivered to the 14th Naval District. At 7:20 a.m., Lt. Tyler said to the two privates to shut down the radar because he felt that the unidentified aircraft were a flight of B-17s scheduled to arrive from the mainland. At 7:40 a.m., the first Japanese wave sighted the north shore of Oahu and then the deployment of the Pearl Harbor attack began.

The Attack Begins

The entire Japanese mission was based on speed and secrecy. If detected, the mission would fail and the Japanese would be forced to turn back. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. At 7:49 a.m., the commander of the first wave ordered for the attack to begin on Pearl Harbor and on military airfields. Four minutes later, Commander Fuchida radioed in the code "Tora, Tora, Tora," to the ships they previously left, which indicated that the total surprise on Pearl Harbor was a success. At 7:55 a.m., the wide Japanese attack began.

Japanese dive bombers began their run on airfields Kanoehe, Fort Island, Hickam, Bellows, Wheeler and Ewa. The Japanese torpedo planes began their run on ships in Pearl Harbor.

Ships were torpedoed by special torpedoes designed to travel through shallow water. Damaged by these special torpedoes were the light cruisers, Helena and Oglala, the battleship Utah and the battleship Oklahoma which both began to capsize. At 8 a.m., the B-17s arrived from the mainland along with aircraft from the carrier Enterprise and were caught between both enemy and friendly fire. At 8:02 a.m., the battleship Nevada opened fire on Japanese aircraft hitting two but receiving a torpedo in the port bow.

At 8:05 a.m., the battleship Arizona opened fire and the battleship California got hit with another torpedo on its side. At 8:08 a.m., high altitude Japanese bombers dropped armored piercing bombs, and scored a number of hits on battleships including the Arizona. At 8:10 a.m., the forward magazines on the battleship Arizona ignited resulting in a million pounds of gun powder, blowing up and sinking the Arizona within nine minutes. At 8:17 a destroyer called Helm cleared Pearl Harbor. It then spotted a midget sub and then fired upon it, but missed and it the submarine submerged.

At 8;39, a sea plane named Curtiss spotted a midget sub, and commenced fire on it while the destroyer Monaghan sped toward the sub at ramming speed. A minute later the Monagahan hit the sub, and dropped depth charges. The Americans also identified the airplanes to be Japanese at that time.

Lt. Commander Shimazaki of the second wave ordered for the second attack on the military bases on Oahu at 8:50 a.m. The second wave of bomb shock waves rocked the destroyed Shaw, and sent debris everywhere.

At 10 a.m., the first wave of attacking Japanese arrived back at their own carriers for refueling, more bombs and ammo, but they were never sent again. At 11 a.m., Commander Fuchida of the first wave flew over Pearl Harbor to see what damage had been done by their attack. At 1 p.m., Fuchida returned to his carrier and discussed the option of a third wave with Admiral Nagumo, but was quickly denied.

Results of the Attack

The results of the attack on Pearl Harbor were devastating. Many people were killed or wounded, and the damage on US ships was tremendous as shown in the chart below.

Killed Wounded

Navy 2001 710

Marines 109 69

Army 231 364

Civilians 54 35

Totals 2395 1078

Destroyed Damaged

Planes 164 -

Ships 12 9

The Japanese losses were much less. They lost 29 planes and five midget submarines. Only 64 Japanese died during the attack compared to the approximately 2,395 Americans who were killed.


After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Commander in Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet was quoted, "I fear all we have done is to awake a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve. His fears were correct because the Japanese attack marked the entrance of Japan into World War II on the side of Germany and Italy, and the entrance of the United States on the Allied side.

The US started fighting in Europe and in the Pacific. After the US defeated the Germans and Italians, the US developed the nuclear bomb to wipe out the Japanese. The United States bombed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear bombs, and the Japanese surrendered because they could not fight against the US nuclear power.

In my opinion, several things can be done to avoid an attack like Pearl Harbor again. The United States should stay out of other countries' affairs and not order them on what to do and how to do it. Something happening again like the Pearl Harbor bombing would be hard to accomplish because how we have radar, sonar, satellites, infrared and better weaponry today than we did 59 years ago.


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