Pearl Harbor Attack Facts: How The Japanese Navy Killed Over 2,000 Americans

What Happened At Pearl Harbor?

On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked the Navy Yard at Pearl Harbor with 353 enemy planes on board 6 aircraft carriers.

Many reasons were behind the air raid, but let’s look at the major points. Historically, Japan kept to itself on the global stage, but in 1853, Japan opened itself up to world trade.

Society became more modern, and the government began growing its presence and military. By the early 20th century, Japan wanted to be more powerful, but since it is a collection of small islands, it did not have a lot of resources like coal or rubber.

Pearl Harbor Attack
Images from the Pearl Harbor attack- USS West Virginia.
Take a close look at this image taken of USS West Virginia. The Japanese shot seven torpedoes at her. The
battleship sank that day, but it was raised and repaired in 1944.

With this in mind, Japan invaded area countries like China in the 1930s in order to use their resources and gain power. By 1940, Japan had taken control of Eastern China and modern day Vietnam and Cambodia.

The United States saw these actions as a potential threat, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an embargo on Japan, preventing them from getting American oil.

Japan desperately needed this oil, as they did not have any of their own.

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Roosevelt also moved a fleet from California to Pearl Harbor to prepare for a potential threat.

Imperial Japan then signed a pact with Nazi Germany and Italy, but they were still worried about the United States and needed to keep the US from entering World War II. Eventually, Japan decided to attack Pearl Harbor in hopes of destroying American aircraft carriers and battleships in order to weaken the US Navy. The attack was scheduled for the morning of December 7, 1941.


How long did the attack on Pearl Harbor last?

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began at 7:55 that morning. The entire attack took only one hour and 15 minutes.

Captain Mitsuo Fuchida sent the code message, “Tora, Tora, Tora,” to the Japanese fleet after flying over Oahu to indicate the Americans had been caught by surprise.

The Japanese planned to give the U.S. a declaration of war before the attack began so they would not violate the first article of the Hague Convention of 1907, but the message was delayed and not relayed to U.S. officials in Washington until the attack was already in progress.

Pearl Harbor Attack: Timeline of Events: December 7, 1941

  • • 6:05- Six aircraft carriers, located 230 miles north of Pearl Harbor, begin launch with 183 planes.
  • • 6:20- Commander Fuchida of the Imperial Navy notifies polite that they are attacking Pearl Harbor, about an hour and a half away. Pilots did not know the mission until the moment.
  • • 6:45- USS Ward, a destroyer ship, locates and sinks a Japanese submarine. Higher ranks are notified, but no action was taken.
  • • 7:02- 2 Privates in Oahu see many planes on their radar, but no action was taken.
  • • 7:05- Second wave of planes leave the aircraft carriers north of Pearl Harbor, making 353 fighter planes in total.
  • • 7:49- Nearing the Harbor, Fuchida commands the attack.
  • • 7:53- Fuchida send a signal saying”Tora, Tora, Tora!” meaning the attack is a complete surprise to the US Navy.
  • • 7:55- Air attack on Pearl Harbor begins.
  • • 8:00- Admiral Kimmel signals the attack “This is no drill”
  • • 8:05- USS Oklahoma sinks with 429 people inside.
  • • 8:10- The USS Arizona explodes, killing 1,177 on board.
  • • 8:54- Second wave of Japanese planes arrive,
  • but this time, the US Navy is more prepared with return gunfire
  • • 9:45- Imperial Japanese planes return back to their aircraft carriers. The attack is over.
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How many planes attacked Pearl Harbor?

The Japanese strike force consisted of 353 aircraft launched from four heavy carriers. These included 40 torpedo planes, 103 level bombers, 131 dive-bombers, and 79 fighters. The attack also consisted of two heavy cruisers, 35 submarines, two light cruisers, nine oilers, two battleships, and 11 destroyers.

How Many Died At Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor Attack
Source: TheSocialTalks

The attack killed 2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians, and destroyed or damaged 19 U.S. Navy ships, including 8 battleships. The three aircraft carriers of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were out to sea on maneuvers. The Japanese were unable to locate them and were forced to return home with the U.S. carrier fleet intact.

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The battleship USS Arizona remains sunken in Pearl Harbor with its crew onboard. Half of the dead at Pearl Harbor were on the Arizona. A United States flag flies above the sunken battleship, which serves as a memorial to all Americans who died in the attack.

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Each year on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Survivors, veterans, and visitors from all over the world come together to honor and remember the 2,403 service members and civilians who were killed during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. A further 1,178 people were injured in the attack, which permanently sank two U.S. Navy battleships (the USS Arizona and the USS Utah) and destroyed 188 aircraft.

On Aug. 23, 1994, the United States Congress designated Dec. 7 as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Every year, remembrance events are held at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, culminating in a commemoration ceremony on Dec. 7. To see photos of these events, please go to our Flickr page. To see videos of these events, please visit our YouTube page.

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