On this day in history, Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attack kills 2,403 Americans, launches US into WWII
Category: History & SociologyVia: vic-eldred • 6 months ago • 9 comments
By: Kerry Byrne (Fox News)
Imperial Japan launched a devastating Sunday morning surprise attack on the U.S. Navy and other military assets at Pearl Harbor, rousing a "sleeping giant" and thrusting an enraged America into World War II, on this day in history, Dec. 7, 1941.
"For nearly two hours, Japanese firepower rained down upon American ships and servicemen," reports the National World War II Museum.
The savage raid by aircraft carrier-borne warplanes sunk or damaged 21 U.S. warships — including the USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma — destroyed or damaged 347 aircraft, and killed 2,403 Americans.
"Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan," President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced with determined indignation the following day, while asking Congress for a declaration of war.
"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory."
In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, smoke rises from the battleship USS Arizona as it sinks during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo, File)
That "righteous might" of the American people manifested itself in the most remarkable military, industrial, logistical and spiritual mobilization in human history — leading to the liberation of hundreds of millions of people around the world.
"For nearly two hours, Japanese firepower rained down upon American ships and servicemen."
The Empire of Japan, and fellow Axis Power Nazi Germany, had by the end of 1941 conquered much of Asia, Europe and North Africa — often with frightening ease.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was only the spearhead of a much wider and ambitious Japanese offensive across the Pacific Ocean that began on Dec. 7.
Roosevelt ticked off the devastating news in his emergency address on Dec. 8.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt is pictured during the dramatic moments before the joint session of Congress, Dec. 8, 1941, as he asked Congress to declare war against Japan for its "unprovoked and dastardly attack." On the right is his son, James Roosevelt. In the background are Vice President Henry A. Wallace (left) and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. Both the Senate and the House complied with FDR's request almost immediately. (Photo by Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)
"Yesterday the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong: Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island."
"Within days," the National World War II Museum notes, "the Japanese were masters of the Pacific."
Japan had already occupied much of China for several years.
German chancellor Adolf Hitler, flush with two years of his own victories, rashly declared war on the United States on Dec. 11. His declaration gave the U.S. justification to enter the European war, too.
The attack on Pearl Harbor proved the greatest miscalculation in military history.
But both Japan and Germany appeared invincible. The United States appeared woefully ill-prepared to enter a global conflict across vast expanses of oceans.
The future of civilization appeared hopeless.
Yet within four years, thanks to America's "righteous might," both Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany lay in smoldering ruins, their ability to wage war destroyed, their conquered lands reclaimed and the hundreds of millions of people freed from domination.
The United States then led the effort to rebuild both nations into major world economies with stable democratic leaderships.
A Michigan newspaper dated Dec. 8, 1941, is shown in Hawaii on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. The paper headlines the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (Photographer: Jim Clash/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
The shape of the future world began to turn in the midst of the attack on Pearl Harbor. American sailors, soldiers and airmen overcame the shock of sudden attack and quickly began to fight back.
Fifteen sailors and one Marine earned the Medal of Honor for heroic actions that day alone.
Among them were Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd, who died commanding the defense from the bridge of the USS Arizona, the first U.S. flag officer killed in any war; Captain Mervyn Bennion, who remained in command of USS West Virginia, saving the ship despite mortal wounds; and Chief Boatswain Edwin Hill, whose remarkable heroics freed the USS Nevada while under attack.
"During the height of the strafing and bombing, Chief Boatswain Hill led his men of the line-handling details of the U.S.S. Nevada to the quays," reads his Medal of Honor citation.
The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial circa 1987 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)
The Nevada was now able to set sail. But Hill wasn't done.
He leaped into the water and swam back to his ship to continue the fight.
"Later, while on the forecastle, attempting to let go the anchors, he was blown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs," the MOH citations notes.
The Nevada was the only battleship to set sail that morning. She went on to distinguished service in the war.
The USS Nevada helped lead the D-Day invasion of Europe in 1944 and the final attacks on the Japanese home islands in the summer of 1945.
Japan had hoped to stun the American people into docility on Dec. 7, 1941.
The USS West Virginia also survived the Pearl Harbor attack, but at the loss of 106 sailors.
She triumphantly sailed into Tokyo Bay less than four years later, to witness the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II on Sept. 2, 1945.
Japan had hoped to stun the American people into docility on Dec. 7, 1941, as its army and navy swiftly conquered territory across Asia and the Pacific Ocean.
The attack on Pearl Harbor instead forged the resolve of American people and proved the greatest miscalculation in military history.
i was just thinking about this .
its about 10 am mt here , and i was thinking that 81 years ago at this time , the population of this country had a mere couple of hrs before their realities would change for ever, and that change would change the very world they existed in and affect their children and grand children and so on .
it actually made me think just how much things can change in a mere few hours of ones life .
Almost exactly a half a century ago I stood gazing at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawall, deeply saddened by the history of that place.
We must have crossed paths several times in our lifetimes without knowing it.
The oil is still seeping from the Arizona.
My father's cousin Ed was blown clear of the ships but was badly burned in the water.
He died many months later at what became Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, built on the old
Oak Knoll Golf Course.
As many as 60% of the Pearl Harbor injuries were from flash burns or fuel oil burning on the water.
The Surgeon General at the time, Rear Admiral Thomas Parran had been very concerned about the concentration of so many Naval and Army personnel in Hawaii, and had recently ordered the mobilization of the Mobile Base Hospital #2 to Honolulu and ordered the hospital ship Solace there as well.
Both had arrived in November, otherwise the casualties would have been much higher.
Also contrary to their later behavior, the Japanese pilots did not target or strafe the white hospital ship with the red cross.
While Parran was considered a hero and visionary for a long time, his innovations with sulpha drugs and penicillin saved many serviceman but at great expense; his reputation was basically erased by the revelations of the Tuskegee and Guatemala syphilis experiments which he started in 1936.....and 1948 respectively...
To understand the enormity and devastation of the attack on Pearl Harbor, one must visit the Arizona Memorial.
Standing on the memorial and reading the names of all those lost and seeing the oil still bubbling to the surface is sobering, to say the least.
Each time that I've been to the memorial is like the first time. You are stunned to silence, there are no words.
I was fortunate enough to meet and speak with four survivors of Pearl Harbor on a visit there in 2011.
Sterling R Cale PhM2/c US Army (Retired)
Alfred Benjamin Kame'eiamoku Rodrigues SKC, US Navy (Retired)
Robert G. Kinzler Captain, US Army (Retired)
Herb Weatherwax, Staff Sargent, US Army.
On a few different occasions, I met and had dinner with Senator Daniel Inouye, 442nd Regimental Combat Team (Go For Broke) and Medal of Honor recipient.
In my business career, I was able to travel the South Pacific and Micronesia and visit many of the sites of major battles and follow my father's journey with the 2nd Marines from Tarawa to Okinawa.
As fate would have it, all off our Aircraft Carriers were at sea.
It seems like as the decades go by Pearl Harbor is fading in the national memory. A sailor who was 18 at Pearl Harbor is or would be 99 today.
Most Americans couldnt find Pearl Harbor on a map in 1941. If you were in or connected to the military it was well known, but not for everyone else.
Millions of Americans first learned of the attack when they turned on their radios to hear the CBS broadcast of the New York Philharmonic concert at 3 P.M., and one of them was Rear Admiral Chester Nimitz. He was waiting for his set to warm up; at the announcer’s first phrase (“Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor today”), Nimitz was up and away—to replace, it subsequently developed, Pearl’s unfortunate Admi- ral Kimmel. Simultaneously a telephone rang at Fort Sam Houston, arousing Brigadier General Eisenhower. His wife heard him say, “Yes? When? I’ll be right down,” and then he was running for the door, dressing as he went and calling over his shoulder to her that he was on his way to headquarters and didn’t know when he would be back. Inevitably, some reactions were odd. Len Sterling, who had interrupted WHN’s account of the football game at the Polo Grounds, was being hounded by calls from infuriated fans who wanted to know what was happening on the field.-
The same was true in Phoenix, where people were phoning the Arizona Republic to say irritably, “Have you got any score on the game between the Chicago Bears and the Cardinals? Aren’t you getting anything besides that war stuff?” In Denver a KFEL religious program was canceled; a caller wanted to know whether the station con- sidered war news more important than the gospel. A girl in Palm Springs said, “Everybody knew it was going to happen, so why spoil a perfectly good Sunday afternoon worrying about it?” In New Jersey an elderly man cackled, “Ha! You got me on that Martian stunt; I had a hunch you’d try it again.” A reporter asked Sen- ator Nye his reaction. The senator, who perhaps could hear the bell of political oblivion tolling in the distance, growled, “Sounds terribly fishy to me.” But Senator Wheeler caught the national mood: “The only thing to do now is to lick hell out of them.” So divided had the country been before this Sunday that President Roosevelt, at a White House lunch the week before, said he doubted he could get a declaration of war out of Congress if the Japs invaded the Philippines. Now the country was united as it had never been. The sneak attack, the presence of two Japanese ambassadors in Washington pretending to negotiate peace, and an old distrust of what some still called the Yellow Peril combined to transform the war into a crusade against treacherous Orientals.-Across Pennsylvania Avenue, in Lafayette Park, anonymous Washingtonians stood in a dense mass that evening. Some were singing “God Bless America,” but most of them stared up at the White House in silence. There wasn’t much to see.-The Executive Mansion was dark; the great light over the north portico was unlit for the first time in memory. Already Henrietta Nesbitt, the mansion’s housekeeper, was taking measurements for blackout curtains. West Executive Avenue had been closed to traffic; it passed too near the President’s office. In the White House base- ment engineers were chalking off the entry for a tunnel which would pass beneath East Executive Avenue and enter the old vaults under the Treasury Building—the safest shelter in Washington if the capital should be bombed. Secretary Morgenthau had ordered the White House guard doubled. On the roof of the old State, War and Navy Building, over the room where Hull had confronted the wretched Japanese envoys, soldiers worked in the dark siting antiaircraft guns, and the fifth floor of the old structure was being transformed into a barracks for the troops who would man the guns. At the time none of these precautions seemed ex- travagant.-from The Glory And The Dream by William Manchester
In the immediate aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, blame for the lack of preparedness was unfairly placed squarely on the shoulders of Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and his Army counterpart General Walter Short. They were made scapegoats. The real fault for the attack came from higher up the chain of command. Kimmel and Short were immediately unceremoniously relieved of command, reduced in rank, and both retired months later. In the ensuing decades the surviving families of both men have petitioned to have the men exonerated and their have their ranks restored. President Bill Clinton refused to do so and so did President George Bush. Have not been able to find why not.
While many investigations at the time exonerated both Kimmel & Short, Kimmel accepted his demotion and got on with his life.
His actions establishing a Marine Base on Wake Island was the reason none of the carriers were at Pearl Harbor. He saved our bacon.
Most investigators focused on one thing. The surprise weapon of the aerial torpedoes perfected by the Japanese. Without that there would not have been an attack.
First Nixon, then Reagan, and finally Clinton failed to act on Congressional resolutions to restore their ranks from 2 stars to 4 stars. Studies in 1995 and 1999 blamed a wider range of flag officers without exonerating Kimmel or Short.
It is the essence of leadership to take responsibility for the whole team.
I doubt that Kimmel would have accepted a restoration of his 2 stars.
Nixon, and Bush especially were commissioned Naval officers with a sense of that tradition.
Reagan was in the Army.
There were a lot of WWII veterans who were still alive, still opinionated and still voting.
Just my opinion
"In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, smoke rises from the battleship USS Arizona as it sinks during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii."
(AP Photo, File)