Pearl Harbour

The attack on Pearl Harbour and the consequences that followed.

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Pearl Harbour is a harbour on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii. Most of the harbour is U.S. property, and is the location of United States Navy deep-water naval base, and the U.S. Pacific Fleet. In this report I will try to express both the things most people know about the harbour, as well as the things that are less commonly known of.



Pearl Harbour was originally an extensive, shallow bay called Wai Momi (meaning the harbour of Pearls). It was also called Pu’uloa by the native Hawaiians, and got its name after the teeming pearl-production that lasted until the late 1880’s.


The 19th century

During the 19th century, American influence on the island of O’ahu, and the whole Honolulu region in general gradually increased. In the 1820’s and 30’s many American warships visited Honolulu, none with hostile approaches, of course. In many of these cases, the commanding officers brought with them letters from the U.S. government, all friendly and helpful towards the Hawaiian sovereign. Many of these letters also contained advices on how to rule, and how to behave in and treat matters regarding international affairs and relations towards foreign governments. Since 1868, U.S. naval officers have played an important role in internal affairs of Hawaii. They served as negotiators of trade agreements and somewhat lawyers, who defended law and order.


Pre World War 2

During the period between 1899 and 1941 American influences grew more and more. Many new companies were established in the Honolulu area, among others the Oahu Railway and Land Company and the Inter-island Steam Navigation Company, Ltd. In 1908, the Pearl Harbour Naval Shipyard was established, helping the U.S. Naval Fleet operate more smoothly in the Pacific, obviously because there were now shorter distances to repair stations and such. Not much more of interest happened before the 7th of December 1941.


How important was Pearl Harbour?

Pearl Harbour was, and still is one of the United States most important naval bases in the Pacific. At the end of World War 1, the air force had become an important element in the countries warfare and defence against outer threats. On Oahu several air strips were built for bombers, aircraft carriers and fighters. After the attack, the U.S army and marines were of course weakened, but they still had fire power.


World War 2

World War 2 started in 1939 when Germany under the lead of Adolf Hitler invaded Poland. This invasion evolved into a major conflict which divided most of the world’s countries into two sides, The Allies and the Axis-powers. The Axis-powers consisted mostly of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. The war caused the death of over 60 million people worldwide, and is the deadliest conflict ever to occur. The financial cost of the Second World War was about a trillion 1944 U.S. Dollars, making it the most costly war both in lives and in money.


The Attack

On the 7th of December 1941 something that would set track for the rest of the Second World War occurred, the attack on Pearl Harbour. Early that Sunday morning the soldiers on the U.S war ships heard a distant sound of airplane engines, but they did not think there was more to it than maybe a light aircraft. Besides, many of the men were hung over after the shore leave the day before. The Japanese army had spies on the island, who fed them with intelligence about the naval base. This way, the Japanese attack force knew exactly when to hit, and also where to hit. The Americans were so unprepared of any attack that the Japanese used local radio signals to take bearing of the base.



The two waves attack.


The first wave of attacks

At 7:48 am on December 7th the first strike occurred at the naval aircraft base Kaneohe. All 33 American aircraft carriers at the base were destroyed.  In the immediate 35 minutes several other attacks occurred on the main base. A total of 183 Japanese aircrafts participated in the first wave, nine was destroyed, and an additional nine were injured.


The air attack against Pearl Harbour was so successful that history seems to have forgotten another side of the operation. Japanese Submarines were supposed to strike with the same mortally efficiency. That did not happen. Five submarines were sent to Pearl Harbour in hope of destruction of American targets in what became a Kamikaze attack for 9 out of 10 crew members. Only one of them survived. And only one of the submarines hit American targets, the “California” and the “West Virginia”.



The Japanese submarines crewmembers.


The second wave of attacks

About 20 minutes after the first wave, 167 new Japanese aircrafts took off to carry out the second wave of attacks. They arrived at Pearl Harbour around 8:40 am, and this time around the Americans were waiting for them. The Japanese aircrafts met a wall of anti-aircraft artillery. 20 of the aircrafts were gunned down, 65 injured. Four minutes after commodore Shimakazi, the leader of the second wave gave the order, Japanese bombers hammers on American air bases and ships. In dry dock, the battleship “Pennsylvania” was hit, as well as the destroyers “Cassin”, “Downes” and “Shaw”.



USS Arizona: 1177 casualties.


A total of 353 Japanese aircrafts participated in this attack, causing damages to about 1/3 of the United States pacific fleet. The attack wrecked five U.S Navy Battleships, one minelayer and two Destroyers beyond repair, destroyed 188 aircrafts, and caused the death of 2402 people, including 57 civilians. In addition, another 1247 military and 35 civilians were wounded. In comparison, the Japanese attack force only lost 5 midget submarines, 29 aircrafts and 64 people.


The aftermath

This was not a silent attack; Japan did not want it to be. Japan wanted the rest of the world to see how hard they could hit, if they really wanted to. The day after the attacks, it was on the cover of every serious newspaper in the world, and on every news channel. Everywhere you could see Americans in shock, almost the whole country was filled with intense silence, the kind you would think only appeared in movies. Suddenly, the United States was a part of the terrible war that would last for another four years. Monday the 8th of December was a day of silence, a day of sorrow, and a day of anger.


The consequences

The immediate effects of the attack was that now, every American, either he liked or not, suddenly found themselves standing in the middle of a war with Japan. About 100.000 Japanese immigrants in the U.S was gathered and incarcerated in camps, not unlike the ones in Poland. The biggest difference was that the camps in the U.S were human. Another direct effect of the attack was that Germany now declared war on the United States, which made it a lot easier for President Roosevelt to help Great Britain in their battles against the Nazis. On the 8th of December, President Roosevelt sent a telegram to the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill saying “Today we are in the same boat as you and the people of the Empire and that is a ship that cannot be sunk”.    


In times after the attack on Pearl Harbour, the consequences of these actions are often spoken of. Many people, me included would say that this attack was crucial for the development of the Second World War. The United States of America had up until that point done everything they could not to get involved in the ongoing war, but now, President Roosevelt no longer had any choice. There had to be counter attacks. One of the most famous speeches in history came in the time after the terrible attack on Pearl Harbour, actually the day after. It was performed by the U.S President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It went like this: "Yesterday, December 7, 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...As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defence that 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...With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounded 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 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire. "



American propaganda poster.


As the Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamomoto said “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve”. And that was really all they did. The United States Navy did not fall under after the attack and the losses at Pearl Harbour; on the contrary, they grew bigger and stronger of hate and vindictiveness. The United States of America was in war, primarily against Japan, but also against all of Japans allied. December 11th, Japans allies, Germany and Italy declared war on The United States, which responded immediately by declaring war on them as well. This can be said as the real beginning of the Second World War.


In the United States counter attacks were being planned, and enrolling campaigns were initiated. The government used propaganda posters, newspapers and even TV-channels against Japan to wake the vindictiveness out of people, and making them ready to fight for those who fell in the attacks on Pearl Harbour. It worked. In the three years following the attacks, the enrolment of cadets in the United States Navy boosted, and grew with an incredible 1600%!  This is one of the reasons why the U.S armed forces grew stronger and could join the Allies in the war against the Axis.


To sum it all up, one can say that without the foul Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, there would probably have been a completely different World War 2 from the one we know. The axis would have gained more power, and perhaps won the war without American involvement. So it really was a turning point in the Second World War. Thank you, Japan, for attacking Pearl Harbour, it was a foul attempt, but it may also be the number one reason why the whole world is not Nazi or Communistic to this day.






 (Pearl Harbor)

(Attack on Pearl Harbor)



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