The Military Strike on Pearl Harbor Brought America Into World War II

"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." -FDR
Written by Cedric Crumbley on Dec 03, 2018
The Military Strike on Pearl Harbor Brought America Into World War II

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a well-planned military strike by the Japanese Navy Air Service. The event triggered America to enter World War II. Before that, America was helping the allied powers (Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union) with weapons, food, and money to fight the axis power (Germany, Italy, and Japan). This historic event happened the morning of December 7th, 1941 around 8 am. The Japanese bombed the Pearl Harbor with the aim of destroying the U.S. fleet and their naval base. After this fateful attack, America changed its perception about the war and decided to join the allied power for reinforcement and revenge.

The surprise bombing shocked, bewildered, surprised, and angered the Americans. The following day after the attack, President Roosevelt in his speech about the fateful attack said that “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.” Roosevelt requested Congress to declare war against Japan, which it did. In retaliation, Germany and Italy; Japan’s allies declared war on the United States.

Reason for the attack

On July 25th, 1941, the United States froze all Japan’s assets, in seeing this, Great Britain and Netherlands also froze assets from Japan. This was followed by the United States cutting off Japan from oil exports which it relied on in the war. By attacking Pearl Harbor, Japan aimed at crippling the US Pacific fleet so that the Japanese navy would reign in the Pacific.

Japan also wanted to strategically and tactfully gain knowledge of creating an Asian co-prosperity sphere—“Asia for Asians”—this meant that Japan would take over the Asian colonial holdings of Europe and the United States. With the British, French, and Dutch caught up in the war in Europe, the Japanese believed the European powers would be unable to defend their Asian colonial holdings. Indeed, in the eight hours following the Pearl Harbor attack, Japan also attacked British-held Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaya, and the US territorial possessions of the Philippines, Guam, and Wake Island.

Forewarnings about the attack

Previously, U.S had broken the Japanese diplomatic code in a project known as “Magic,” on the same day of the attack, General George Marshall, was given a decoded Japanese message. Marshall sent the message immediately to the US base at Pearl Harbor before the attack to alert the army. However, atmospheric conditions delayed transmission of Marshall’s message, and it did not arrive until after the attack. All through, the United States was suspicious of Japan attack, but it did not know their target, but they thought the target was somewhere in the Philippines or in the South Pacific near Japan. Pearl Harbor was away from Japan; about 3,500 miles from Japan

In addition, during a Japanese imperial conference on November 5th, 1941, Japanese warned the United States that it could go to war if negotiations to break diplomatic impasses did not work by 1st December 1941. Furthermore, plans to attack Hawaii were discussed during this meeting. The attack was as a result of the United States negligence.

After the controversial attack, some of the ultimate questions that people had were: How were the U.S forces caught unaware whereas they had been warned and they knew that Japan had a tendency for surprise attacks? Who was to be held accountable for the attack?

Protests were conducted in America as people believed that the attack was as a result of the incompetence of top security officers such as Admiral Husband Kimmel and Lieutenant General Walter Short. The two officers were relieved of their duties and later arrested and accused of failing to protect the Pearl Harbor. In their case, the Supreme court concluded that “It was a dereliction of duty on the part of each of them [i.e., Short and Kimmel] not to consult and confer with the other respecting the meaning and intent of the warnings [sent by the War and Navy Departments regarding the danger of war with Japan], and the appropriate measures of defense required by the imminence of hostilities” (Burtness, 755).

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was a tragic event in the history of World War II. The attack which lasted two hours, claimed about 2,500 innocent lives, injured around 1,000 people and destroyed about 300 planes and 18 ships. The attack was the genesis of the United States entry into the World War II. The main aim of the U.S entering into the war was probably to revenge as evidenced in the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima which marked the end of the World War II. It is believed The Pearl Harbor attack could have been avoided with top competent government officials in place.


Author:  Cedric Crumbley