Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Day of Infamy, December 7, 1941

On the morning of December 7, 1941,  a Japanese strike force of six aircraft carriers steamed eastward under a screen of local Pacific rain squalls. At about 8 a.m. local time, the planes rnoared out of cloud cover for an attack on Pearl Harbor, a military base on the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands.  About 100 American ships were at anchor at Pearl Harbor. The Japanese attacked these ships along with the planes sitting on the airfield.

In hindsight, we can ask ourselves if this attack could have been avoided by diplomacy. Almost certainly, the answer is "no."  The Japanese were determined to dominate the Pacific.

Up to that time, Pearl Harbor was the most disastrous defeat in America history. It was the intention of the Japanese to immobilize the American fleet while they put their main effort against the Philippines, Malaya, and the Dutch East Indies.

The first wave of attacks sent all personnel to their battle stations. They performed bravely, but of 351 Japanese planes, only 27 failed to return.  ,

Almost 2400 Navy personnel were killed and 2000 injured.  Four battleships and three destroyers were sunk.  Many other craft were heavily damaged.

It's not just a coincidence that the attack occurred on a Sunday. The Japanese knew that the Americans considered Sunday a day of rest.

The Japanese made several serious blunders. The planes that were damaged were obsolete; the fleet carriers were at sea, so they escaped the attack. The Japanese didn't attack the machine shops or fuel facilities.  Had these been damaged, that would have made Pearl Harbor untenable and would have forced the fleet back to the mainland.

The American public was so shocked by the attack that investigations were made. The first investigation launched in early 1942 blamed the local commanders, General Short and Admiral Kimmel  These men had already been removed from their commands and forced to retire.

This author remembers Pearl Harbor. My family was listening to a radio program (no TV then) when an announcer interrupted the program to tell of the attack.

On the day following the attack (December 8) President Roosevelt requested the Congress that a state of war existed between the United States and Japan. Congress promptly approved.  On the same day, Britain declared war on Japan. You can listen to Roosevelt's speech here..

Several days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States. Without a dissenting vote,  Congress agreed that a state of war existed.

The First World War--the war to end all wars--failed to achieve its promise. Once more, the United States was at war.

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