Pearl Harbor

On the morning of December 7, 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States officially entered World War II. The rest of the world had been fighting for years already and the Allies were ready for the United States to be formally involved. Since the beginning of the war the United States had been sending war supplies to the Allies in Europe while declaring its neutrality, through the Lend-Lease Act. The country still remembered the affects of World War I and was hesitant to send its young men to die in a war they considered to be far away and not in the best interests of the country. President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt differently, he wanted to join the war and help our allies. Some historians even believe that the government had cracked the Japanese codes and Roosevelt knew about the Japanese attack but did nothing so that he would have an excuse to send the country to war.[1] At the time, the biggest fear was sabotage by Japanese Americans who lived in Hawaii. As a result, the navy had the ships anchored close together in the harbor and all the airplanes at the various airfields grouped in one big clump. They felt it would make it easier to guard against sabotage. Unfortunately, it made them all really easy for the Japanese to destroy with out much effort. As the sun rose on December 7, 1941 the United States Navy at Pearl Harbor was unprepared. Early in the morning a patrol boat spotted a Japanese sub and radioed a destroyer. Around 6:30a.m., the destroyer sinks the sub and sends a message to the commanding officers. The officers put the report in a file with other unconfirmed reports and forgot about it. A little after 7:00a.m., a radar station on the island sees something on the screen. When the men ask there superiors about it they are told not to worry about it because they were expecting a group of B-17s later that day. The actual attack begins shortly before 8:00a.m. The air fields were the first targets so that the planes could not get in the air and fight back. The Japanese sent two waves and crippled the fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor. The attack lasted a little under two and a half hours.[2]

For a detailed timeline of events see

Pearl Harbor Project

[1] Hans L. Trefousse, Pearl Harbor: The Continuing Controversy (Malabar, FL: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1982), 22, 43.

[2] “Pearl Harbor Timeline,” (accessed November 9, 2008).