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World War 2 Pearl Harbor WW II

Updated on August 13, 2013

Surprise Attack

On the 7th of December 1941 at 7:53 am Japanese warplanes attacked the American fleet as it lay at anchor in Pearl Harbor, the Naval base in Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands.

40 minutes later a second wave of 170 warplanes attacked the harbor.

Without a declaration of war from the Japanese, the attacks came as a complete surprise to the American nation although war with Japan was expected to break out at anytime.

Political relationships between the USA and Japan had broken down in 1937 when Japan attacked China to add to their growing empire, having already taken control of Korea and Manchuria, The Japanese aim was to also take control of British French and Dutch colonies in the Far East and the American controlled Philippines.

The Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek who was resisting the Japanese attack had the full support of Washington, and America imposed sanctions on Japan.

In Italy on the 27th of September 1940 The Japanese signed the Tripartite Pact with the Germans and Joined the Axis.

USS Arizona

Japanese Flag

Japan's Ultimatum

On the 20th of November 1941 America received an Ultimatum from the Japanese government stating that the US must withdraw its support of China, lift the trade embargo with Japan and supply them with oil.

6 days later on the 26th of November, the USA replied to the Japanese ultimatum, refusing to comply and outlining their self-determination.

America knew that this would be unacceptable to the Japanese, but what they didn't know was that the Japanese navy was already under sail.

The Japanese Fleet

The Japanese Fleet

On November a heavily armed Japanese navy set sail including 6 aircraft carriers, which between them carried 423 warplanes, 2 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser, 2 destroyers and 9 battle ships.

The fleet sailed slowly at 12 knots to allow re-fuelling from the slower but vital support ships.

As the fleet sailed radio signals were broadcast to make it appear that the ships were still in their home-ports.

To avoid the main shipping lanes the fleet sailed northwards and kept complete radio silence, they arrived at a position North east of the Hawaiian Islands on December the 6th.

On the night of December 6th, 2 Japanese Submarines sailed close to the coast of Oahu to deploy 5 two man midget subs, which were also used to attack the Pacific Fleet.

hachimaki Headscarf which reads "Certain Victory"

Japanese Zero Fighter Plane

En route to Pearl Harbor

At around 3:40 am on Sunday December the 6th 1941 whilst on a routine patrol the USS Condor spotted a periscope from one of the midget submarines just outside Pearl Harbour's anti-submarine netting, the destroyer USS Ward was summoned to search the area.

Submarine sightings in the area were often reported as they were a regular occurrence.

By the 6th of December it was known by the American government that the Japanese navy had sailed but it was not known where they were.

At around 4:50 am Japanese aircraft carriers turned into the wind, pilots readied themselves for the battle to come, each one wearing around their head a Hachimaki Headscarf which read "Certain Victory".

By 6:20 am 181 aircraft were in the air heading for Pearl Harbor, bad weather caused one planes to crash on take off and another had to return to the ship because of engine trouble, Included in the attack were 100 bombers 51 of which were dive bombers, 40 torpedo planes and 41 Zero Fighter planes (considered to be the finest in the world at that time).

The supply ship USS Antares, spotted another submarine just outside Pearl Harbor at around 6:30 am, the USS Ward was again Summoned to the area, the Ward took aim and fired and the midget submarine took the shell through it's conning tower, the ward then completed the kill by firing depth charges.

At around 7am the Japanese attack flight leader Commander Fuchida picked up a signal from a Hawaiian radio station, he locked onto it for the rest of the journey into Pearl Harbour.

A few minutes later US radar operators spotted a blip on the screen which indicated that over 50 aircraft were approaching, they reported the incident but were told that a flight of United Stated B17's were due at the base that morning.

Dive Bomber

Attack on pearl harbour

Tora Tora Tora!

As the Japanese planes began the attack on Pearl Harbor at 7:53am, Fuchida sent the now Famous Radio message "Tora Tora Tora" (Tiger Tiger Tiger) The signal meant that the Americans had been caught completely by surprise.

At the sound of the first bomb dropping it was thought by most Americans who heard it, to be an accident, a bomb dropped by one of their own aircraft.

When a dive-bomber blew up a hangar at the Ford Island Command centre, Commander Logan Ramsey realised that the island was under attack and he sent out the message "Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is no drill".

For the next 2 hours torpedoes from the midget subs slashed through the water hitting the hulls of the American Battleships, and bombs rained from the air attack.

From broken ships brave gunners managed to return fire, although to prevent sabotage they were short on ammunition, because it had been locked in storage boxes.

The second wave was divided into three groups. One was tasked to attack Kāneʻohe, the rest Pearl Harbor. The separate sections arrived at the attack point almost simultaneously, from several directions.

The Japanese bombed airfields and attacked ships with very little opposition from the Americans.

Tora Tora Tora!

The Aftermath

The damage left Pearl harbor in ruins, the Arizona, was completely destroyed, the Oklahoma capsized, the Nevada, California and West Virginia were sunk at their moorings three other battleships, three cruisers and 3 destroyers and many other craft also suffered damage, 169 American aircraft were destroyed and another 150 damaged mainly on the ground, 2403 Americans were killed and 1176 people were wounded.

The Japanese losses were minimal they lost up to 69 planes, all 5 of their Midget Submarines and 1 fleet submarine, and under 100 Japanese were killed in action, including some suicide bombers (Kamikaze Pilots).

Roosevelt signs the Declaraton of War

Pearl Harbour


Pearl Harbor was not the only attack carried out by the Japanese on the 7th of December 1941, attacks were also launched on Hong Kong, Guam, The phillipeans, Wake Island, and the japanese attacked Midway Island,in a day that was to become known in history as "The day of Infamy"

on the 8th of November President Roosevelt delivered the following message to congress.

"Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 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.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But 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.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding 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 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire."

The Senate Passed resolution by 82 votes to none, and the house of representatives by 388 votes to 1.

At ten minutes past four pm America declared war on Japan and on the same day Britain also declared war on Japan.

Hitler declared war on America on the 11th of November 1941.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This is such a well writen report! I really hope this will help me with my year 11 Modern History assignment! Is this report off the top of your head, or do you possibly have any bibliographies that i could use if possible?

    • jimmythejock profile imageAUTHOR

      James Paterson 

      5 years ago from Scotland

      Contact me through my profile page if you are for real Ray.....jimmy

    • profile image

      Ray William Johnson 

      5 years ago

      can i do an interview with u guys on this story. i want to make an awesome viral video if u can.


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      researching for project

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      omg this story so sad

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      WOW you have put together some amazing and informative information into this article.......... + i had to do a project on something in ww2 and you realy saved my ass

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      this is a rally go websit. this helped me with all the stuff i needed

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      this is a wicked piece of info

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This page was good, I copied and pasted it all, hehe;) anyway it's very full of information and quite hard for a fourteen year old to understand:/ but oh well;) thanks guys;) xx

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      thanks for all the information need it so much got all the ifo. thamks. plus it is so crazy the things that happen in peral habor.

    • profile image

      Griffin Purtzer 

      6 years ago

      i never knew so much about pearl harbor but now i do.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love this site I got an A+ on social studies

    • profile image


      6 years ago




    • profile image

      local boy 

      6 years ago

      I can say dat dis war is happn 4 a reason, a very deep reason.....

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      @jinz19 you have no respect for war veterans...just know its not the leaders tht win the war its the soldiers fighting it, and if it wasn't for them you prolly wouldn't be here.

    • Vernpaulwriter profile image


      7 years ago from backwoods of Nevada

      I love the history of Pearl Harbor. My father was a witness to the attack and aftermath. He was eight when the planes attacked, on his way to church. I have been there numerous times. My favorite visit was when I was a naval officer and our ship rendered honors to the USS Arizona.

    • profile image

      Yo' Bear 

      7 years ago

      this is what I call a story, it is great to know the U.S wasn't soft on those people!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      wasn't the attack on dec 6th not nov.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      reseaching for project lol!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      i love this story

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I was so touch about this story.......i feel sad about the americans who died at the pearl harbor.......XD

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i remember my uncle was in the war

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      300 word essay lol

    • RunAbstract profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      Great look at the history of WWII. My Dad joined the Navy after the attack on Pearl, and stayed in for 6 years to fight the good fight.

      Good videos too!

    • profile image

      8 years ago

      Hi, thank you so much for doing this webpage, I have a GCSE exam tomorrow, for English Literature and my text piece is "Heroes" by Robert Cormier. It mentions the Pearl Harbor; although I already knew a little about it, I wanted a more indepth description of events.

      Thanks again :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      this info really helped me w/ my english hw.......very informational....

    • profile image

      Cody Gross 

      8 years ago

      I thought it was really cool, but I think that "newsfootage pearlhabor aftermath" needs to be put back on it could really help a lot of people. =)

    • profile image

      chase cook 

      8 years ago

      this site is awesome and has helpeed me with my two page essay cook

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This was a cool site

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What I feel about Pearl Harbor is that it was a sad attact for a warand a sad place to take a war in a place like Pearl Harbor. If would of not happened of the Japanese, everyone in Pearl Harbor could have been safe.I am glad I was not involved!!!!!

    • profile image

      dellor 34 

      8 years ago

      thanks very much you have helped me a lot on my history homework thanks

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This site gave me a lot of information thank you.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      thanks im making a brochure on pearl harbor and this helped me a lot

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      thankk you so muchh .i am doinqq a project on pearl harbor.and need to write a 1500 word research paper.and this is very helpful for mee .(: thankss

    • profile image

      Lisa Johnson  

      8 years ago

      sweet one

    • profile image

      sweet guy 

      8 years ago

      cool this sould help every 1 now more on history and have a awsome day

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      thanx for this very interesstant and helpful link. i have learned lots of tbins that bi didn't already know.

      thanx again

      jessy x

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      this article is so informative and helped me a lot. im so glad that u have a liking for amerian history. if u wouldn't have wrote this id hav e detention for not turning in my essay on pearl harbor and 9/11

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      My Dads dad was killed on the USS Oklahoma god rest his soul. Thank God that the Big E was not there at the time of the attack we may have lost her. Only if the USS Oklahoma was not lost maybe my dads dad would still be alive. Thank you NAVY for fighting the japs .I know that it was not easy .

    • profile image


      9 years ago


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      i think pearl harbor rocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • balisunset profile image


      10 years ago from A tropical paradise island

      when I see Pearl Harbor...I always think about alternative histories...

      What happen if, radar report is taken into full account and Pearl Harbor is in full alert, it would be nice to see hundreds of P-40 and P-36 smashed with hundreds of Zeros, Vals and Kates

      What happen if Enterprise and Hornet were anchored at Pearl during the time attack

      What happen if the giant fuel storage is the main target of IJN instead of attacking derelict USN battleships, USN naval operations would surely be curtailed for months!

      What happen if USS Nimitz nuclear carrier dueled with Kido Butai,instead of sucked back into the wormhole. I remember a funny scene when Zero pilots's jaw dropped when he saw a F-14 flew with supersonic speed, anyone saw The Final Countdown?

    • jimmythejock profile imageAUTHOR

      James Paterson 

      10 years ago from Scotland

      Thanks for your comments guys, I hope that you will enjoy the rest of the series on world war 2 battles.....jimmy

    • Marian Swift profile image

      Marian Swift 

      10 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      I lived and worked in Pearl Harbor in the early 80s, and grew up in nearby Pearl City, so this piece of history has much inportance for me.

      Thank you for a well-written and richly-featured Hub!

    • SweetiePie profile image


      10 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Very well written and informative hub. Have you been to the Pearl Harbor Memorial site? I went back in 2002 and I must say it is worth seeing if you have not been yet.

    • jacobworld profile image

      Jakub Wawrzyniak 

      10 years ago from Ireland

      Thia attack was mostly designed by the American government itself.

      America has to in a state of war - its the economy mates

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      My uncle was stationed at Pearl Harbor on that day as a National Gaurdsman. He and his best buddy usually rented a small plane on Sunday mornings and went out to fly just for fun. They both had a passion for flying. This particular morning, however, he was confined to quarters because of some disagreement with the military police on Saturday night in a nearby tavern.

      His buddy went flying without him that day -- and no one knows what became of him. The theory is that he encountered some of those zeros on their way in.

      My uncle survived the war, and became an observer pilot. Did such a good job that they let him go to the Koren War, too, where he evacuated wounded to th MASH facilities.

      Thanks for researching the events of that day. It gives a lot of insights of what the men went through on that day.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image


      10 years ago from NW Indiana

      This piece of history is sad and heart breaking. I am against war but I do believe we have to defend ourselves. Good job Jimmy, Maybe reading this does some sort of wake up to our situation in the world now. I know it makes me wonder about a lot of things.


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