70 years ago today the Sunday morning calm at Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor was broken at 7:55 AM local time by a surprise Japanese attack on the bases and airfields in the area from six carriers commanded by Imperial Japanese Navy Admiral Chuichi Nagumo and a two wave carrier aircraft strike force under the command of IJN Captain Mitsuo Fuchida.
The Japanese were also busy that morning on the other side of the International Date Line launching air attacks on Hong Kong, Singapore, Guam, Wake Island and Clark Air base near Manila.
They also launched ground invasions of Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Malaya in the opening steps of their drive to conquer Southeast Asia and build what they euphemistically called the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.”
But the Japanese were deeply concerned about the US Pacific Fleet and its 3 carriers, 8 battleships and other ships anchored at Pearl Harbor. They wished to neutralize it before they continued their plans of military conquest.
‘The day that will live in infamy’ as President Franklin Roosevelt called it resulted in the catastrophic loss of the battleship USS Arizona when its magazine exploded and three other battleships, damage to four others, the battleship USS Nevada grounded, 2 destroyers sunk, 188 aircraft destroyed, 2402 people killed along with 57 civilians and 1247 people wounded.
Fortunately for the United States the carriers USS Lexington, USS Enterprise and USS Hornet were not at Pearl Harbor on that fateful day and Admiral Nagumo decided not to launch a third air strike to lay waste to the drydocks, oil storage tank farm and other Pearl Harbor support facilities and head back to the Japanese home islands despite the urging of Captain Fuchida and other officers to do so .
The successful surprise attack galvanized and unified the US population on a level we haven’t seen since and led to the entry of the United States into World War II.
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