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You are here -> HOME - RETROVILLE - 1941 - In the News - Pearl Harbor
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Welcome to Retroville! It's 1941!
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Fleet attacked Pearl Harbor. Under the command of Admiral Nagumo, the fleet consisted of six carriers with 423 planes.

At 6:00 a.m. the first attack wave of 183 Japanese planes took off from carriers 230 miles north of Oahu. They arrived at Pearl Harbor at 7:02 a.m.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt - President - United States - Portrait of the President seated in the White House
Two Army operators at Oahu's norther shore radio station detected the approaching Japanese planes. Thinking they might be American B-17s arriving from the West Coast, the officer the operators informed ignored the report.

At 7:15 a.m. 167 additional Japanese planes left their carriers en route to Oahu.

At 7:53 a.m. the first wave of Japanese bombers arrived over Pearl Harbor. The entire military installation was caught off guard, with many officers and crewmen on leave engaged in leisure activities.

The first wave of planes targeted airfields and battleships.  The second wave targeted ships and shipyard facilities. The air assault lasted until 9:45 a.m.

The losses at Pearl Harbor were extensive. Eight battleships were damaged. Five battleships were sunk. Three light cruisers, three destroyers, and three smaller vessels were destroyed. 188 aircraft were destroyed as they sat parked, wing tip to wing tip, on the exposed airfields.

Japanese losses during the raid were minimal. They lost 27 planes and five midget submarines when they attempted to penetrate the inner harbor to launch torpedoes.

American losses and casualties were staggering. 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians were killed. 1,178 military and civilians were injured. The most severe loss were the 1,104 men who died aboard the U.S.S. Arizona when a 1,760 pound bomb penetrated the forward magazine causing catastrophic explosions.

Following the attack, many American radio stations interrupted their programming to provide the sketchy details about the "sneak" attack as they came in. Within days, thousands of young men were at their local military recruiting stations signing up to fight.

On December 8, the morning following the raid on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made his now-famous "infamy" speech and announced that the United States had declared war on Japan. Later that day, Great Britain declared war on Japan, as well.

By December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.

On December 17, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was appointed commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. His appointment followed a hasty investigation and accusations made against former Navy Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and Army Lt. General Walter C. Short.

Despite news of the attack being deciphered by the War Department up to five days prior to the actual attack, nobody in command at Pearl Harbor was put on notice. As late at the morning of the attack, powers in Washington were aware that a large fleet of Japanese vessels was moving in the general direction of Oahu. By the time Washington decided to put Pearl Harbor on notice, the radio system was down and the unreliable and time-consuming telegraph system was used. The warning from Washington reached Pearl Harbor hours after the conclusion of the attack.

After many investigations by various governmental agencies and commissions, the blame was laid at the feet of the two military commanders at Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack -- Kimmel and Short. Both men received tremendous support by the American people and, after Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts headed yet another Pearl Harbor inquiry, and it was determined that key messages about the raid had been destroyed and testimony had been coerced, both the army and navy courts concluded that principal blame lay in Washington. The conclusions were not made public.

All of the facts surrounding who knew what when will likely never be known. Many of the key players in the raid are now dead. The remaining witnesses will likely take the truth, the whole truth, to their graves, as well. One thing is certain, however, without the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt was unlikely to get the United States involved in World War II. The day after Pearl Harbor, the United States went to war.

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