11 Interesting Facts About the Attack on Pearl Harbor
On the 7th of December 1941, Japan conducted a surprise attack against the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii which damaged all their 8 battleships and killed more than two thousand Americans. The attack on Pearl Harbor had widespread consequences the most important one being that it led to America declaring war against the Axis powers. Know more about the event which changed the course of the Second World War through these 11 interesting facts.
#1 Pearl Harbor was attacked to protect the invasion of “Southern Resource Area”
Japan depended on the United States for supply of natural and industrial resources, especially oil, without which its forces would be significantly hampered. After Japan invaded French Indochina in 1940, America stopped its supply of scrap iron and aviation fuel. Further embargoes followed when Japan signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy. This led to Japan targeting South-east Asia which was rich in minerals and oil. They knew that such an invasion would lead to war against America anyways. So they decided to destroy America’s Pacific Fleet to prevent American interference in its plan to access resources of countries in South-east Asia which Japan called “Southern Resource Area”. This was the primary reason behind the attack on Pearl Harbor which was the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
#2 Hull Note was most likely not an ultimatum
The last Japanese proposal before the attack was that they would withdraw all forces from southern Indochina and would not attack Southeast Asia provided US gave them a specified quantity of petroleum and lifted sanctions, stopped aiding China and didn’t interfere in talks between China and Japan. America broke a Japanese code which revealed that Japan did plan to occupy northern China. US responded with the famous Hull Note which demanded complete removal of Japanese forces from French Indochina and China. Some historians believe that the Hull Note was an ultimatum and forced Japan to go into war against America but it is more widely believed that it did leave Japan an alternative to war.
#3 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor without declaring war
Though the attack took place without formal declaration of war, Japan tried to uphold conventions of war while maintaining surprise by sending a 14-part message. Its first segments indicated that Japan intended to break negotiations and after reading it US President Franklin D. Roosevelt said “This means war” and send a message to Japan’s emperor requesting further negotiations. His will to meet the Emperor was denied by the Japanese PM Hideki Tojo. The last part of the 14-part message which indicated war might break out, couldn’t be delivered before the attack because it was meant to be given just before the attack and it took too long for the Japanese ambassador to transcribe it in time.
#4 American radar detected incoming planes but no action was taken
The first attack wave led by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida consisted of 183 planes. Army radar picked up the incoming planes but when Lieutenant Kermit A. Tyler was warned he presumed it was the scheduled arrival of six B-17 bombers. Although the operators had never seen such a large formation on radar, they neglected and never told Tyler of its size while Tyler never informed them that six B-17s were due for security reasons. Fuchida’s lead dive bomber reached Pearl Harbor to find the defenses unmanned, no AA fire or fighter patrols. He then sent the famous “Tora, Tora, Tora,”message indicating that complete surprise had been achieved. The message was used as title of a well-known war film.
#5 The attack on Pearl Harbor lasted for about two hours
At 7:53 a.m. on December 7, 1941, the first bomb fell at the foot of the seaplane ramp at Pearl Harbor. In the first wave, torpedo bombers attacked the most important ships present while dive bombers attacked US air bases. Within minutes 5 battleships were sunk and 188 aircrafts were destroyed on ground. The second attack wave led by Lieutenant-Commander Shigekazu Shimazaki consisted of 171 planes. It attacked the Army Air Forces’ Bellows Field near Kaneohe, and Ford Island. The Japanese withdrew around 9:45 a.m.
#6 2467 lives were lost in the attack
Americans were completely shocked by the attack. Many of them awoke to the sounds of alarms, bombs exploding, and gunfire. Some thought it was a drill. They were hugely unprepared with lockers locked, guns unmanned etc. 2,403 Americans died and 1,178 others were wounded during the attack. Eighteen ships, including five battleships were sunk and 188 aircrafts were destroyed with 159 others damaged. The Japanese lost 29 aircraft, five midget submarines, and 64 men.
#7 Most of the battleships sunk that day were resurrected
Of the eight battleships targeted during the attacks, all but two were eventually repaired and returned to the U.S. Navy’s fleet. The USS West Virginia and the USS California had both sunk completely, but the Navy raised them, repaired them and reused them.
Furthermore, bullet holes and damage from the attacks can be seen to this day at many of the active military installations on Oahu, including Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield and Hickam Army Air Field. Rather than being repaired or covered up, the bullet holes serve as a reminder of the lives lost that day and as motivation for our military to stand strong still.
#8 The USS Arizona still leaks fuel
The day before the attacks, the USS Arizona took on a full load of fuel, nearly 1.5 million gallons. Much of that fuel helped ignite the explosion and subsequent fires that destroyed the ship, but — amazingly — some fuel continues to seep out of the wreckage. According to the History Channel, the Arizona “continues to spill up to 9 quarts of oil into the harbor each day“ and visitors often say it is as if the ship were still bleeding.
#9 Many tourist from Japan come to visit the memorial
While most people can tell you that the Japanese were responsible for the attacks on Pearl Harbor, not everyone realizes that the Japanese now visit the memorial in droves. Japan, now one of America’s strongest allies, is the largest source of international tourists to the state of Hawaii. Japanese visitors pay their respects at Pearl Harbor just as Americans do; ironically, the state’s economic vitality today depends largely on tourism from Japan.
#10 A baby girl’s remains, along with soldiers, still lie entombed within the sunken battleship
A crew member of the USS Utah had been storing an urn containing his daughter’s ashes in his locker onboard, planning to scatter them at sea, but the Dec. 7 attack prevented him from ever doing so. Sixty-four men died aboard the USS Utah that day, and many of their bodies remain entombed within its sunken hull. The baby girl, who had died at birth, was finally honored with a funeral at the USS Utah Memorial at Pearl Harbor in 2003.
#11 There’s a huge oil plume beneath the harbor
An estimated 5 million gallons of spilled fuel — or nearly half the volume of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska — has been collecting in a large underground plume beneath Pearl Harbor for decades. Though the plume, which lies beneath the main gate of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, is approximately 20 acres, or 15 football fields, in size, the Navy maintains that it is currently stable and not a threat to drinking water.