Perl Harbor


In 1941, one of the largest American military defeats occurred. An
entire naval fleet was destroyed, hundreds were killed, all before
09.00 on a Sunday. The US did not have any knowledge of this attack,
partially because of ignorance, partially because of the military
strategies of their Japanese opponents. The Japanese attack on the US
naval base of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was a classic case of
"It will not happen to me!" Although the US suspected Japanese
actions, they did not take a defensive stance as they believed an
attack would never touch their soil. Through an examination of military
history, tactics and eye witness descriptions, it will be proven that
the US had no knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
In the years before 1941, the war saw little American military
action. After the collapse of France, American President
Roosevelt promised his county that no American troops would be
sent to Europe to aid in the battle against Hitler and his
powerful army. These promises caused Roosevelt to be
criticized by his closest advisors for his indecisiveness about
declaring war . The President's defense to these accusations
was he did not want to out step public opinion. As well, he
believed American intervention would cause a 'mortal blow' to
the Allies cause. In reality, the advisors, as well as
Roosevelt, knew that Britain could not win the war without
American armed intervention. Two oceans to the East, Japan was
deep into a war or her own. Japanese forces were concentrated
on the Chinese front to conquer and obtain. As a result of her
unpopular declaration of war on China, Japan's fuel supply from
the US was eliminated. Consequently, the Japanese turned to
Indonesia to continue the supply of fuel for her war efforts.
Fuel talks broke down as the Dutch, who were in control of the
Indonesian fuel supply and, under heavy influence from the US,
would not supply Japan with fuel. Desperately needing fuel to
continue the war, Japan first thought of attacking Indonesia,
but feared US intervention. After some thought, Japanese
leaders decided that an attack directly on the US would be more
appropriate to bring the US to the fuel supplies negotiating
table . The first acknowledgment that Japan was a war threat
came on November 27, 1941 when Washington ordered a 'War
Warning'. The US feared a Japanese attack, not on America,
but on the Philippines. American military leaders took little
or no precautions upon the issue of warning. Admiral Husband
E. Kimmel and Lt. General Walter C. Short of Pearl Harbor had
done nothing to make the fleet or its defenses ready for
Japanese attack . The commanding officers believed the warning
to be no more than a possible threat of sabotage from the
Japanese living on the island of Oahu. As a result, the
officers ordered that all aircraft in the base be lined up at
wing tip to be easily guarded. Defenses were on limited alert,
with no long distance reconnaissance and no improvements on the
limited anti-aircraft defenses. On board ships, only half of
the anti-aircraft positions were stood at with the ammunition
locked away . "In every reference I've seen and every Pearl
Harbor survivor I've ever talked to, each referred to the
attack as a surprise," said PH1 Goodwin of Pearl Harbor in an
Electronic-mail letter dated December 15, 1997. Mr. Goodwin's
comment is embarrassing at best, subsequently the American
defense stance has been referred to as a 'shameful blunder' .
The lack of preparation for an attack demonstrated by the
officers at Pearl Harbor portrayed the general attitude of
ignorance in the American government. The United States of
America is the strongest, most powerful country in the world.
A country such as Japan, which does not even have the resources
to survive a lengthy war, could not possibly attack them . The
result of the attack would have been much less serious had the
American officers exercised more vigilance. The ignorance was
so great that, on the day of the bombing of Pearl Harbor,
several major and peculiar instances were noted and ignored by
officers on duty. At 03.50 an unidentified periscope was seen
and ignored at the entrance of the harbor. Also, the destroyer
"Ward" depth-charged and sank an unidentified submarine at
06.37. The contact report was taken up much later and with no
degree of urgency. Finally, two radar sightings of a large
mass of aircraft 64 kilometers north of the island were
dismissed by the commanding officer at 07.02 as a 'probable'
flight of B-17s from the US west coast . These events, left
utterly unacknowledged, led up to one of the great military
defeats in US history. At 06.00, the 2 500 foot anti-torpedo
gate that guarded the entrance to Pearl Harbor was opened in a
customary morning maneuver unknowingly welcoming the attack.
Three-hundred and sixty Japanese planes broke through the
clouds above Pearl Harbor at 07.55. The planes attacked in
rows of two or three, dropping torpedoes at 100 knots from 70
feet. The first wave of planes destroyed US hangers and the
planes in the neat, anti-sabotage rows. Other attacks in the
first wave were on 'Battleship Row', cruisers and other
auxiliary ships. Most ships had numerous torpedo hits. To
complete the destruction of the war ships, six submarines aided
in the sinking and destroying of what was not already certain.
When torpedoing planes left the vicinity, bombers carrying 1
600 pound bombs were sent to destroy any remaining ships.
Overlapping the first wave of attack at 08.40 was a second
one. They concentrated on the not yet fully destroyed
airfields. By 09.45 any ship of the US Pacific! Naval Fleet
that was not on the Ocean floor was drifting helplessly. "It [the
Arizona] sank like an earthquake had struck it," a survivor remarked,
1 200 of his crew mates died.
US troops returned from church or brunch to defend as best they
could. Fighting until they drowned or were crushed by
exploding debris, sailors, fliers and anti-aircraft gunners
fought heroically to save their doomed naval base. By reason
of the attack occurring in what Americans thought was peace
time, much of the ammunition was locked away, leaving the
defending US troops with little defense. In the end, the US
had eight battleships, three cruisers and a large number of
smaller vessels sink or rendered out of use. The Japanese lost
30 planes and five submarines. Although the destruction was
not total, Japanese foremost naval strategist, Yamamoto, found
the result better than he had anticipated . Military records
state that the attack sank or destroyed 6 ships, all of which
were raised and rebuilt , except for the Arizona, Oklahoma and
Utah . US casualties included 2 500 as well as over 1 000
wounded. The Japanese lost less than 30 aircraft and about 55
men. Unharmed or salvageable from the attack were land
installation, power stations, all submarines and stores of
gasoline. The gasoline enabled shipyards to repair all the
salvageable ships. Primary targets for the Japanese were the
US carriers Saratoga, Lexington and Enterprise. They weighed
33 000, 33 000 and 19 000 tones respectively. The carriers
were out of port at the time of the bombing, performing deep
sea maneuvers, thereby eluding the attack. The USS Enterpise
was later present at the battle of Midway Island on June 4-6,
1942 The bombing of Pearl Harbor can be seen as a turning point
in the war. Essentially, the war had been of mainly European
involvement, now it took a global turn. The bombing prompted a
US declaration of war on the following day, as well as great American
shock and outrage tempered by anger. The attack was dubbed 'a day of
infamy' by President Roosevelt, as no American could forgive or forget
the actions of the Japanese nation. The Japanese could not have
devised a better way to rally the American citizens into full support
for Roosevelt and his government's plan of US involvement in the
war. A previous promise between British Prime Minister,
Winstin Churchill and President Roosevelt was honored when Britain
declared war upon Japan two hours after the US declaration.
The events surrounding the bombing of Pearl Harbor prove the US
handled the situation very poorly. Many opposing tactics were
noted and ignored. Warnings were thought of as routine. Even
survivors, who were fully aware of the Japanese tendencies of
war on China, the government war warnings and their country's
unprepared state, still describe the attack as a surprise. The
Japanese military strategies were intelligent and well
executed; although, the Japanese attack would not have been
nearly as effective had the Americans not have been so
blatantly ignorant. The US had no knowledge of the attack on
Pearl Harbor in 1941, and it was their fault.


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