Last Sunday marked the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Up to that point in our history, it was the worst naval defeat ever suffered by the United States. Over 2,000 sailors, soldiers and marines lost their lives during the attack. Four battleships were sunk (two of which were later repaired) and four more were heavily damaged. Within two years, six out of the eight battleships that were attacked on that morning were back in service and carrying the fight to the Japanese.
From 7:55 am until 9:45 am, aircraft off of the Japanese carriers flew multiple sorties against the unprepared and surprised military facilities. The attack was planned for Sunday; the Japanese assumed that the Americans would be relaxed and less alert on the weekend and they were correct.
The initial approach was picked up on radar, but the operators thought it was a flight of US Army bombers coming in from west coast of California. By the time the mistake was realized, the attack had already commenced.
The attack on Pearl Harbor shaped a generation of American naval policy after the war. Good fortune had kept all three of the active aircraft carriers in the Pacific from being close enough to the islands to be included in the attack. USS Enterprise was returning to Pearl when the attack commenced and although some of her planes were in the air over the island, the confusion on the ground actually made the situation dangerous for the Navy pilots.
“Please don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! This is an American plane.” – Ensign Manual Gonzales
Enterprise was 150 miles west of Oahu when the attack commenced and was supposed to have been in Pearl Harbor on December 7. The same massive weather system that sheltered the Japanese attack fleet delayed Enterprise and kept her from being in harbor when the attack happened.
After the attack, Enterprise was ordered to seek out and destroy the Japanese fleet, an order, in hindsight, that would have been suicidal if she had actually found the enemy. The Japanese battleships and planes from their six carriers would have sunk the Enterprise.
“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant.” – Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (apocryphal)
Although the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was a tactical victory for the Japanese, strategically it was a thorough and crushing defeat. American military and industrial might would create the perfect instrument to destroy Japanese plans in the Pacific. By the time the war had ended, the United States was producing more war material in a single year than the Japanese had produced during the entire war.
The losses suffered at Pearl Harbor were avenged and the United States had taken its place as the strongest nation in the world. The battleships that had been damaged at Pearl Harbor, with the exception of the USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma, were put back in service and took part in the war in the Pacific.
“Before we’re through with them, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell.” – Admiral William ‘Bull’ Halsey
There are fewer survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor every year. Soon, that generation will have passed from the Earth, but before they are completely gone, before all we have left are photos and written words, we need to appreciate the sacrifice that these men and women made for their country, their families and their way of life.
Before it is too late, we need to thank them for what we have.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
Latest posts by Matt Towns (see all)
- Paying the Price – 7 September, 2016
- Are Navy Carriers Vulnerable? – 30 August, 2016
- USS Indianapolis: After 71 Years, Information is Still Emerging – 24 August, 2016