This Wednesday, December 7th, 2011 marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, an event that brought the United States into the Second World War and opened up the so called ‘Pacific War’.
Japan had been engaged in a war of expansion into China since the mid 1930s and in 1940 had invaded French-Indochina to cut off relief supplies to the Chinese. This act resulted in the United States placing an embargo oil exports, cutting off the Japanese Navy from their primary source of fuel. In order to secure new oil supplies, the Japanese turned their attention to the Dutch East Indies and the Philippine Islands, an American territory. An attack in this rejoin was sure to provoke an American response.
Rather than wait and react to America, the Japanese High Command instead decided to launch a pre-emptive strike on the US Pacific Fleet, stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The attack, code named Operation AI, involved a total of six aircraft carriers and more than 300 aircraft, and their escorts. The attack began at
approximately 7:48 local time on the morning of December 7thand achieved total surprise. A total of four battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship and one minelayer were sunk, with a further 4 battleships suffering damage. One hundred and eighty eight US aircraft were destroyed and more than 2400 Americans killed, with a further 1282 wounded. The Japanese lost only 29 aircraft, five midget submarines and 65 servicemen killed or wounded.
On the day following the attack, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his now famous “Day of Infamy” speech and the US declared war on Japan and entered the Second World War on the side of the Allies.
Today, the still submerged wreck of the battleship USS Arizona is marked as a memorial to the attack. The battleship USS Missouri (BB63), the ship aboard which the Japanese signed their surrender to the Allies is permanently moored 460m from the Arizona.