The True Story of Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941, the attack of the Japanese army on the American naval base of Pearl Harbor marked the Second World War.
Pearl Harbor: a strategic American military base
Pearl Harbor was an American military base located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on the island of Oahu, near Honolulu, in the Hawaiian archipelago. In French, its name translates as “port de la perle”, because this island was previously known for the production of pearl oysters.
But since 1887, Pearl Harbor has been an annex of the United States that hosts one of the largest naval bases of the American army. With its strategic location halfway between the American west coast and Japanese waters, it therefore took on particular importance in the context of the Second World War.
In 1941, when the conflict took a global turn, the United States joined the Allies against the threat of the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and the Empire of Japan) and their supporters. Control of the Pacific Ocean is becoming a major issue. The Japanese wish to extend their influence towards the south, and threaten certain American positions. To weaken the enemy and destabilize him economically, the United States establishes a trade blockade. The Empire is quick to respond.
Japanese Empire Revenge
In response, General Tojo studies the option of a destructive raid on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, and mobilizes extraordinary means.
On December 7, 1941, to the great surprise of the American soldiers on the base who received no warning, the Japanese went on the attack. Stationed off the Hawaiian coast, their planes torpedo American ships based in the harbor of Pearl Harbor.
In barely two hours, the Japanese army destroyed all of the American planes and ships, with the exception of the three aircraft carriers which were patrolling offshore. The island of Oahu is completely destroyed.
The consequences of the attack on Pearl Harbor
In addition to significant material losses, the human toll is heavy on the American side with more than 2,400 dead and nearly 1,200 injured. The attack on Pearl Harbor immediately plunges the United States into World War II.
Why did the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor?
During World War II, Japan was part of the Axis forces. Therefore, the country is an ally of Germany and Italy. Faced with the Japanese occupation of Chinese territory and its expansionist ambitions, the United States formed an alliance with China. In addition to freezing Japan’s financial credits, President Roosevelt created an embargo on raw materials, such as oil, destined for the Japanese archipelago. This reaction has a noticeable impact on the armament of the Japanese military forces.
Despite attempts at negotiation, the two countries are sticking to their positions. Preparations for the attack on Pearl Harbor were entrusted to Commander-in-Chief Isoroku Yamamoto, himself placed under the orders of Admiral Chuichi Nagumo.
When and how did the attack on Pearl Harbor take place?
The attack on Pearl Harbor takes place on Sunday, December 7, 1941. The deployment of Japanese forces takes place at night, off the coast. The first observations on reconnaissance devices are made between 4am and 6am. Under Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the first wave consisted of 183 aircraft. At 7 a.m., the devices are noticed by the operators, but no alert is given. Between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m., the first bombings took place. They are coordinated with submarine attacks on the American fleet. The second wave occurs between 8:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. It involves 167 Japanese aircraft. It is led by Lieutenant Commander Shigekazu Shimazaki. Within two hours, the American army was taken by surprise. She deplores the substantial human and material losses. Despite the American anti-aircraft defenses at work, the Japanese naval air fleet was almost intact. It counts the loss of 29 planes and 5 submarines.
Where is the port of Pearl Harbor?
The port of Pearl Harbor is located on the island of Oahu, within the Hawaiian archipelago. It was a port specializing in the culture and trade of pearl oysters until the end of the 19th century. The harbor nestles in a shallow bay. In 1884, the United States made it a naval base. This decision comes after the signing of the reciprocity treaty with the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1875. In return, the Hawaiian state is authorized to export sugar exclusively to the United States, without having to pay duties. customs. For the American armed forces, Pearl Harbor is a strategic site which reveals its importance during the Spanish-American war of 1898. In 1908, Pearl Harbor also becomes a shipyard. The main objective of the military base is to establish the American presence in the Pacific and to develop its air forces. It also aims to stem the expansionism of the Empire of Japan. After exercises and military simulations, General Harry Yarnell warns against a potential attack on the island of Oahu, particularly exposed and vulnerable to the enemy, from 1932.
How many people died at Pearl Harbor?
On the United States side, there are 2,403 dead and 1,178 injured. Just under half of the fatalities, or 1,177 fatalities, were due to the loss of the battleship USS Arizona. There are also the destruction of 188 planes and 3 American ships. Variable damage was observed on 11 other boats and about 130 planes. For the Japanese empire, the losses are limited to 64 deaths in their ranks. Four Japanese midget submarines are sunk. Another is captured by the US Army. As far as the Japanese Air Force is concerned, 29 planes are destroyed.
What are the consequences of the attack on Pearl Harbor?
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered the war alongside the allied forces, including France, the United Kingdom and Canada. President Roosevelt signs the declaration of war on December 11, 1941. Seven months later, the Allies initiate the Manhattan Project which leads to the creation of the atomic bomb.
This weapon gave rise to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively on August 6 and 9, 1945, leading to the surrender and then the collapse of the Japanese empire. The attack on Pearl Harbor also marks the beginning of the Pacific War which lasts nearly four years, until September 2, 1945. An American commission of inquiry takes place in December 1941 and highlights the negligence and shortcomings of the base officers on duty that day. Until July 1946, six other commissions take place. There is also a special commission.
Is the Pearl Harbor movie close to reality?
Directed by Michael Bay and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer in 2001, the film Pearl Harbor retraces the historic attack on Pearl Harbor from the point of view of the American protagonists of the naval base. The cast of the film is made up of Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, Josh Hartnett, Jennifer Garner, among others, not to mention Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Alec Baldwin. Over the course of the three-hour program, the story also touches on other significant events of World War II such as the Battle of Britain and the Doolittle Raid.
With nearly $450 million generated at the global box office, Pearl Harbor was an undeniable commercial success. On the part of specialists as well as the public, the criticisms are on the other hand more mixed.
Some specialists even define it as a “propaganda film”. In addition to the Manichean tone of the subject, this is due to several historical approximations. One thinks of the attack on hospitals which did not take place in the same way, of Roosevelt’s exaggerated state of health or even of inconsistencies in the military hierarchy. We can also mention anachronisms in equipment and vehicles, such as the use of aircraft carrier catapults that did not exist at the time. Similarly, there are time shortcuts to make the Battle of Britain coincide with the main plot. If it is entertaining and spectacular, Pearl Harbor is therefore relatively far from the real facts.
Can we visit Pearl Harbor today?
For the purpose of commemoration, it is possible to visit the memorial and historical sites of Pearl Harbor. Departing from Honolulu, it takes half a day to complete an excursion that includes a visit to Battleship Row and the National Monument. The latter offers many exhibitions dedicated to the Second World War.
Visit this official website, to get more information: https://www.nps.gov/perl/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm
Thereafter, the trip includes a stop at the USS Arizona Memorial. Accessible by boat, it was built above the wreckage of the battleship. Note that the Pearl Harbor naval base is still in operation. It is basically a military port that provides maintenance services and trains military personnel. It accommodates submarines as well as surface ships. Since 1964, Naval Station Pearl Harbor has been recognized as a National Historic Site.
- Derivative work: Wallach79
- Original file: Historicair