Japan Commits Harikiri at Pearl Harbor
|A Japanese bomber, its diving flaps down, was photographed by a U.S. Navy photographer as the plane approached its Pearl Harbor objective on December 7.|
|Japan was on the march long before Pearl Harbor|
Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and continued its expansion into China for the remainder of the decade, with the war officially declared in 1937. While Japan earned scorn from the rest of the world for the brutality of its army, the Western powers remained aloof except for one instance: an undeclared border war between Japan and the Soviet Union. Having taken possession of Manchuria, the Japanese military decided to continue north into the Soviet Union. They attemped at the Battle of Lake Khasan in 1938 and the battles along the Khalkin Gol River to do this through their puppet state Manchukuo. The Soviets controlled Mongolia. The whole conflict arose over a dispute of less than ten miles about the precise location of the border between the two puppet states.
|Japanese infantry on the march at Nomonhan, Manchua, 1939.|
|Midget Japanese submarine beached at Bellows Field, Hawaii, after the attack on Pearl Harbor of Dec. 7, 1941. photo and caption credit - National Archives and Records Administration Public Domain Photographs.|
US President Franklin Roosevelt and Congress had been imposing sanctions on Japan in order to induce them to leave Vichy French Indo-China (China apparently being of less concern for some reason). The politics of that era were odd, to say the least.
|Uncle Sam blocking the flow of an oil pump to a Japanese tank. The U.S. ceased oil exports to Japan in the summer of 1941 after Japan invaded French Indochina. Cartoon by Willard Wetmore Combes.|
|Japanese bombers taking off from the Japanese carrier fleet to bomb Pearl Harbor.|
|December 7, 1941: Eight miles from Pearl Harbor, shrapnel from a Japanese bomb riddled this car and killed three civilians in the attack. Two of the victims can be seen in the front seat. The Navy reported there was no nearby military objective..|
|Commander Fuchida. He coordinated the attack from his plane and took pictures of Pearl Harbor as it blew up. He also was involved in the Japanese investigation of Hiroshima four years later and ultimately regretted his participation in the war.|
|Battleship row is clearly visible in this shot, with Ford Island behind the ships.|
|A Japanese torpedo bomber fished out of the mud of Pearl Harbor. This gives a great idea of how big the planes were.|
|Aerial photograph, taken by a Japanese pilot (perhaps Fuchida), of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a Japanese bomber in the lower-right foreground. That appears to be taken from the north side of Ford Island, with Battleship Row on the other side.|
|Ford Island burning.|
|View from Pier 1010, note the capsized ship in the foreground.|
|A Navy photographer captures the explosion of USS Shaw, 7 December 1941.|
|With the fires raging nearby, sailors try to turn a PBY-5 Catalina patrol bomber to get it airborne. Most of them were bombed and strafed before they could escape.|
|Smoke pouring from the U.S. California. The ship in the center appears to be picking up survivors.|
|Anti-aircraft bursts and burning battleship Arizona dominate this dramatic shot of the Pearl Harbor attack on 7 December 1941.|
According to American Admiral Chester Nimitz, later Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, this oversight enabled a quick U.S. recovery and shortened the war by two years. However, Nagumo had accomplished his objective, and he figured there was no reason to take any more risks. An invasion, which some Japanese officers had recommended, was really the proper follow-on, but that was never in the plan.
|A pre-war shot of the U.S.S. Arizona in the East River of New York, approaching the Brooklyn Navy Yard.|
|Hawaii, Oahu, Pearl Harbor, Aerial view of the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Missouri. Ford Island is to the left, Honolulu off to the right.|
|Pearl Harbor after the attack. It took several years to clean up the wreckage.|
|An early headline and summary.|
|Newsroom in Washington, D.C. running for the telephones after being briefed on the strike.|
|The final draft of the most famous speech of the 20th Century.|
|Headlines in newspapers (here, in San Francisco on 8 December) were full of scary yarns calculated to scare and excite people - but without an ounce of truth. Similar baseless stories circulated after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.|
But they did unite an entire continent against them. So they had that going for them.
Color Shots of the Pearl Harbor Attack
The vivid color photographs below were taken from various sources, many of them are stills from color footage while others are kodachrome photographs. They show the thick black choking smoke and the raging fires which took hold of ships and shore installations.
The photographs show the hangers of the US Naval Air Station at Wheeler Field ablaze with wrecked aircraft strewn across the runway and the flames from USS Arizona. There are desperate efforts of sailors to quell fires and escape stricken vessels, rescue attempts, and guys in the water. Some of the details, of course, can be difficult to see.
It is tempting to believe that these have been colorized recently. However, there was plenty of color film available in 1941. My understanding is that these are original color, not something added later, but no guarantees. Some of these shots are familiar in black and white from numerous reproductions in non-color publications, but they take on a whole other resonance in color.
TIMELINE OF 7 December 1941 PEARL HARBOR ATTACKNovember 26, 1941, a Japanese strike force, code name Kido Butai, departs Japan for Hawaii, with orders to attack Pearl Harbor and to maintain radio silence. It takes a northerly route not used by merchant ships to avoid detection.
Saturday, December 6, Washington DC: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt makes a final appeal to the Emperor of Japan for peace. There is no reply. Late this same day, the U.S. code-breaking service begins intercepting a 14-part Japanese message and deciphers the first 13 parts, passing them on to the President and Secretary of State. The Americans believe a Japanese attack is imminent, most likely somewhere in Southeast Asia.
Sunday, December 7, Washington DC: The last, 14th part of the Japanese message, stating that diplomatic relations with the U.S. are to be broken off, reaches Washington in the morning and is decoded at approximately 9 a.m. About an hour later, another Japanese message is intercepted. It instructs the Japanese embassy to deliver the previous message to the Americans at 1 p.m. The Americans realize this time corresponds with early morning time in Pearl Harbor, which is several hours behind. The War Department then sends out an alert but uses a commercial telegraph because radio contact with Hawaii is temporarily broken. Delays prevent the alert from arriving at headquarters in Oahu until noontime (Hawaii time), four hours after the attack has already begun.
Islands of Hawaii, near Oahu, first light: The Japanese attack force under the command of Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, consisting of six carriers with 423 planes, is about to attack. At 6 a.m., the first attack wave of 183 Japanese planes takes off from the carriers located 230 miles north of Oahu and heads for the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. United States Naval patrols identify 'suspicious' craft - the Japanese have sent midget submarines in for observation purposes - near the harbor entrance, but treat it as a fairly normal incident.
Pearl Harbor, 7:02AM: Two Army operators at Oahu’s northern shore radar station detect the Japanese air attack approaching and contact junior officer Kermit Tyler, who disregards their reports, thinking they are American B-17 planes which are expected in from the U.S. west coast.
Near Oahu, 7:15AM: A second attack wave of 167 planes takes off from the Japanese carriers and heads for Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor is not on a state on high alert. Senior commanders have concluded, based on available intelligence, there is no reason to believe an attack is imminent. Aircraft are therefore left parked wingtip to wingtip on airfields, anti-aircraft guns are unmanned with many ammunition boxes kept locked in accordance with peacetime regulations. And since it is Sunday morning, many officers and crewmen are leisurely ashore or still asleep in their bunks.
7:53AM: The first Japanese assault wave, with 51 ‘Val’ dive bombers, 40 ‘Kate’ torpedo bombers, 50 high-level bombers, and 43 ‘Zero’ fighters, commences the attack.
The first attack wave targets airfields and battleships; The second wave targets secondary ships and shipyard facilities. The air raid lasts until 9:45 a.m. Eight battleships are damaged, with five sunk. Three light cruisers, three destroyers and three smaller vessels are lost along with 188 aircraft. The Japanese lose 27 planes and five midget submarines which had attempted to penetrate the inner harbor.
Despite this apparent success, the prime targets—Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers Lexington, Enterprise, and Saratoga—escape damage, along with the base fuel tanks. After recovering all surviving aircraft, Admiral Nagumo decides that launching a third attack wave is not worth the risk and likely casualties and heads west.
The casualty list for the US includes 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians killed, with 1178 wounded. Included in that tally are the 1,104 men aboard the battleship USS Arizona who were killed after a 1760-pound air bomb penetrated the forward magazine, causing catastrophic explosions. If the men weren’t dead from the explosions, they suffocate slowly under the water.
In Washington: Various delays prevent the Japanese diplomats from presenting their war message to Secretary of State, Cordell Hull until 2:30 p.m. Washington time. At the same point in time, Hull has just begun to read the first reports on the air raid at Pearl Harbor.
Monday, December 8: The United States and Britain declare war on Japan.
Thursday, December 11: Germany and Italy declare war on the United States, uniting the European and Southeast Asian wars into one gigantic global conflict. The US immediately responds with pro forma declarations of war.