- Free Essays, Term Papers & Book Notes

The Attack of Pearl Harbor

By:   •  Essay  •  1,437 Words  •  December 6, 2008  •  2,219 Views

Page 1 of 6

Essay title: The Attack of Pearl Harbor

Hawaii's Pearl Harbor is one of the most well known military installations in the world. On December 7, 1941 Japanese fighter planes attacked the United States Naval base Pearl Harbor killing more than 2300 Americans. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto had conceived the surprise attack. Commander Mitsuo Fuchida led the striking force of 353 Japanese aircraft. There had been no formal declaration of war. There were approximately 100 ships of the United States navy present that morning, and it was known as Battleship Row. Battleship Row consisted of battleships, destroyers, cruisers, and other various support ships. During the attack more than 50 percent of the United States pacific fleet was out to sea including carriers.

Nearby Hickman Field also fell victim of the surprise attack by the Japanese. 18 Army air corps including bombers, and fighters and attack bombers were destroyed or damaged on the ground during the attack. A few United States fighters struggled into the air against the invaders and gave a good account of themselves. Ground fire and United States pilots from various military installations on the inland of Oahu shot down a total of 29 Japanese fighters.

The road to war between Japan and the United States began in the 1930's when differences over China drove the two nations apart. In 1931 Japan conquered Indonesia, which until then had been part of China. In 1937 Japan began a long and ultimately unsuccessful campaign to conquer the rest of China. In 1940 the Japanese government allied their country with Nazi Germany in the Axis Alliance, and, in the following year occupied all of Indonesia.

The United States, which had important political and economic interests in East Asia, was alarmed by these Japanese moves. The United States increased military and financial aid to China, created a program of strengthening its military power in the Pacific and cut off the shipment of oil and other raw materials to Japan.

Because Japan was poor in natural recourses its government viewed these steps, especially the embargo on oil, as a threat to the nations survival. Japans' leaders responded by resolving to seize the resources and territories of Southeast Asia, even though that move would certainly result in war with the United States.

The problem with the plan was the danger posed by the United States Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto commander of the Japanese fleet devised a plan to immobilize the United States fleet at the out set of the war with a surprise attack.

The key elements in Yamamoto's plan were meticulously prepared; the achievement was surprise and the use of aircraft carriers and Naval aviation on an unpredictable scale. In the spring of 1941 Japanese carrier pilots began training in the special tactics called for by the Pearl Harbor attack plan.

In October 1941 the naval general staff gave final approval of Admiral Yamamoto's plan, which called for the formation of an attack force commanded by Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo. It centered around six heavy aircraft carriers accompanied by 24 supporting vessels. A separate group of submarines was to sink any American war ship, which escaped the Japanese carrier force.

Vice Admiral Nagumo's fleet assembled in the remote anchorage of Tankan Bay in the Kurile Islands and departed in strictest secrecy for Hawaii on November 26, 1941. The ships route crossed the North Pacific and avoided normal shipping lanes. At dawn on December 7, 1941 the task force had approached undetected to a point slightly more than 200 miles north of Oahu. At 6:00 a.m. the six carriers launched the first wave of 181 planes composed of torpedo bombers, dive-bombers, horizontal bombers, and fighters. Even as they winged south, some elements of Unites States forces on Oahu realized that there was something different this Sunday morning.

In the hours before dawn, United States Navy vessels spotted an unidentified submarine periscope near the entrance to Pearl Harbor. It was attacked and reported sunk by the destroyer USS Ward and a patrol plane. At 7:00a.m. An alert operator of an army radar station at Opana spotted the approaching first wave of the attack force. The officer to whom this report was relayed did not consider them significant enough to take action. The report of the submarine sinking was handled routinely, and the radar sighting was passed off as an approaching group of American planes due to arrive that morning.

The Japanese aircrews achieved complete surprise when they hit American ships and military installations on Oahu shortly after 8:00. They attacked military airfields at the same time they hit the fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor. The Navy bases at Ford Island and Kaneohe bay, the marine airfield at Ewa and the army air corps fields at Bellows, Wheeler, and Hickman

Continue for 5 more pages »  •  Join now to read essay The Attack of Pearl Harbor and other term papers or research documents
Download as (for upgraded members)
Citation Generator

(2008, 12). The Attack of Pearl Harbor. Retrieved 12, 2008, from

"The Attack of Pearl Harbor" 12 2008. 2008. 12 2008 <>.

"The Attack of Pearl Harbor.", 12 2008. Web. 12 2008. <>.

"The Attack of Pearl Harbor." 12, 2008. Accessed 12, 2008.