World War 2:

The Attack on Pearl Harbor

(Dec. 7, 1941)

Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor

On the morning of December 7, 1941, warplanes took off from the decks of six aircraft carriers of the Japanese Imperial Navy. Their mission was to strike a crippling blow to the United States military forces stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japanese leaders were ready to seize the rich oil fields of the Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia, and believed a pre-emptive attack on the American military was necessary to prevent American interference in the invasion plans. To accomplish what they hoped was a "knockout blow", Japanese forces planned to launch attacks on U.S. forces in the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam, and, most importantly, at the U.S. Navy ships stationed at Pearl Harbor.

Tensions between the U.S. and Japan had been escalating for several years over America's displeasure at the brutal war Japan was waging in China. The U.S. gave moral support to the Chinese, including the fateful act of cutting off sales of oil, tin, and scrap metals to Japan's industry. As Japan had no oil resources of her own, the Japanese government looked to their south at the lucrative oil fields of the Dutch East Indies. In 1940, Nazi Germany conquered the Dutch homeland in Europe, leaving the Dutch colonies in Asia in a very lonely and exposed position.

Given America's opposition to their war in China, Japanese leaders assumed the U.S. would oppose their attacks on the Dutch. U.S. military forces stationed in the Philippines (located between Japan and the Dutch East Indies) and based out of Pearl Harbor posed too great a threat to be left alone. Thus, Japan decided to begin her Pacific War with a powerful blow at Pearl Harbor, followed by attacks on American forces in the Philippines and elsewhere. Japan harbored similar fears of British involvement, and also launched successful attacks on British forces at Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaya.

The attack on Pearl Harbor caused great damage, sinking several powerful battleships, but the top prize, America's Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers, were not in port at the time, as they were at that time delivering new planes and supplies to American outposts on other islands. Japan damaged the U.S. Navy, but did not cripple it. What they did do was make America extremely angry and thirsting for revenge and retribution on their new enemies. Thus began the four-year Pacific War portion of World War Two between the U.S. and Japan.

 See also: Images and Pictures of the Attack on Pearl Harbor and Sino-Japanese Wars (wars between China and Japan)


Outcome: Japanese tactical victory

Attack on Pearl Harbor

Conflict: World War II, Pacific War

Date: December 7, 1941

Location: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

Outcome: Japanese tactical victory


United States of America

Empire of Japan


Husband Kimmel --Admiral, U. S. Navy

Walter Short -General--U.S. Army

Chuichi Nagumo --Admiral, Japanese Imperial Navy


8 battleships, 6 cruisers, 29 destroyers, 9 submarines, 390 planes

6 carriers, 2 battleships, 3 cruisers, 9 destroyers, 441 planes, 5 midget submarines


3,581 military, 103 civilians killed or injured; 5 battleships sunk, 3 damaged; 3 cruisers sunk; 3 destroyers sunk; 188 planes destroyed, 155 planes damaged

29 planes destroyed, 55 airmen killed, 5 midget submarines sunk, 9 submariners killed, 1 captured.

Sources on Pearl Harbor:


At Dawn We Slept-- by Gordon W. Prange

Day of Infamy--By Walter Lord

Pearl Harbor Ghosts : The Legacy of December 7, 1941 --By Thurston Clarke

Days of Infamy--by Harry Turtledove: This speculative novel examines what could have happened if the Japanese had launched a third air strike and a follow-up invasion of Oahu.


National Geographic - Pearl Harbor: Legacy of Attack--Documentary on the Pearl Harbor attack.

Pearl Harbor--2001 fictional movie starring Ben Affleck. Not overly accurate in a detailed historical sense, but it does give an idea of what the attack itself was like to those at Pearl Harbor.

The History Channel's Pearl Harbor-Documentary on the Pearl Harbor attack.


National Geographic: Remembering Pearl Harbor - with multimedia map and time line, survivors' stories, and more.

Attack At Pearl Harbor, 1941 - eyewitness account of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Full Pearl Harbor Casualty List:December 7, 1941

Pearl Harbor--Wikipedia article.

A Japanese Pilot Remembers --account by a pilot from the Japanese carrier Akagi.

Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941 - extensive information including images, action reports, and oral histories from the U. S. Naval Historical Center.

Pearl Harbor Raid, 7 December 1941 - overview and photos of the attack from the Naval Historical Center.

Pearl Harbor: Remembered - includes information about the Pearl Harbor visitors center and the Arizona Memorial. Plus history, battle maps of the attack, and personal accounts of survivors.

NPR: A Final Struggle Over the Pearl Harbor Attack --Sixty-three years ago today, Americans were shocked by news that a Japanese force had attacked the U.S. military base at Pearl Harbor. As NPR's John Ydstie reports, the family of a U.S. commander blamed for the attack refuses to accept the government's version of events.

Pearl Harbor Attacked - moderated message board featuring expert information and serious discussion on the attack of Pearl Harbor.

Air Raid Pearl Harbor - collection of American and Japanese photographs showing Pearl Harbor and the U.S. fleet before, during, and after the attack. From NavSource.

Japanese Monograph No. 97 : PEARL HARBOR OPERATIONS: General Outline of Orders and Plans--Collection of English-language orders from the Japanese military related to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

My Story: Pearl Harbor - eyewitness accounts, chronology of events, a timeline of three centuries of relations between the U.S. and Japan, and a teacher's guide offered by Scholastic.

Battleship Row - photographic look at the United States Navy during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Days of Infamy: December 7 and 9/11 - American Radioworks presents the recorded voices of ordinary Americans as they reacted to two deadly surprise attacks against the United States: Japan's assault on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Pearl Harbor Attack, 1941 - presents a timeline of events, photos, and a map of the harbor at 7:55 a.m., December 7, 1941.

Pearl Harbor Documents - contains two Department of State bulletins from after the attack and the text of a December 6th message from the President to the Emperor of Japan.

Naval Institute: Pearl Harbor - compilation of magazine articles, books, photographs, oral histories, and multi-media about Dec. 7, 1941, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Ginger's Diary - account of a 17-year-old American girl living at Hickam Field, Hawaii, at the time of the Pearl Harbor bombing.

Pearl Harbor Survivors Association - veterans group that encourages the historical study of "The Day of Infamy."

Pearl Harbor Attack Hearings, The - includes the Joint Congressional Committee report and eight other official investigations into the attack.

TIME Magazine: The Attack on Pearl Harbor - picture essay.

Naval History Magazine: Pearl Harbor - Attack from Below - naval experts using digital photo imagery argue that Japanese midget submarines did inflict damage during the attack.

Japanese Navy Ships -- Midget Submarines - article about the Type A midget submarines used in the attack plus images of recovered subs.

National Geographic: Expedition Pearl Harbor - underwater investigation and reporting on the Arizona memorial wreckage and other WWII ships, planes, and a possible Japanese submarine on the seafloor off Pearl Harbor.

Day After Pearl Harbor, The - documentary from Sound Portraits exploring recordings made by the Library of Congress on December 8, 1941 interviewing U.S. citizens about the Pearl Harbor bombing.

Pearl Harbor Pictures, Maps and Historical Information - features overview of the events on December 7, 1941 and links.

Pearl Harbor Operations - collection of Japanese orders and plans regarding the attack on Pearl Harbor.

U.S. Ships at Pearl Harbor:

USS Arizona

USS Arizona Memorial - straddles the sunken hull of the battleship USS Arizona and commemorates the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. From the National Park Service.

Arizona Memorial Museum Association - produces interpretive and educational materials and operates book and memorabilia shops at the USS Arizona Memorial visitor center and parks on Molokai and Guam.

Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund - campaign to raise funds to construct a new Pearl Harbor Memorial Museum and Visitor Center. Site includes details on the memorial, as well as facts and history about the tragic event.

Pearl Harbor and Arizona Memorial Web Cam - live streaming video.

Submerged Cultural Resources Study: USS Arizona and Pearl Harbor National Historic Landmark - document dealing with the sunken ship of Pearl Harbor.

USS Arizona - University of Arizona Special Collections - papers, photographs, and memorabilia of the USS Arizona.

USS Arizona and Pearl Harbor Remembered - pictures and background.


USS Arizona (BB-39)

Pearl Harbor: The USS Utah (BB31/AG16) Story - official site covering Pearl Harbor attack, actions of the crew, survivor list, photo gallery, and more.

USS Utah (BB 31) - official site from the United States Navy featuring ship information, pictures, and statistics for the USS Utah.

USS Utah Story - includes ship statistics, information, and pictures of the USS Utah.


USS West Virginia (BB-48)

Battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) - tribute to those who served aboard the Wee-Vee. Features the ship's history, crew list, stories, and more.

Battleship Photo Archive: USS West Virginia

West Virginia BB-48 - article from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.


USS California (BB-44)

USS California - history of the ship plus statistics from the California Military Museum.

USN Ships -- USS California (BB-44) - short article and images from the U.S. Naval Historical Center.


USS Oklahoma (BB-37)

Remembering the USS Oklahoma - with photos, a roster of crew members, and more.

Oklahoma BB-37 - article from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.


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