Today is the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii as well as other military bases and installations on the island of Oahu.
A force of 353 fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes were launched from 6 Japanese aircraft carriers which moved undetected to a spot about 275 miles north of Oahu. At 7:48am local time, the first elements of the Japanese initial strike force commenced their attack on the Kaneohe Naval Air Station. About 7 minutes later, the main element of the first wave struck Hickam Air Base, Ford Island Naval Air Station, and the ships at anchor in the harbor.
With none of the aircraft carriers assigned to the US Pacific Fleet in port for this attack, the primary targets for the Japanese attack were the 8 battleships that comprised the main surface strength of the US Pacific Fleet. 7 of these battleships were anchored off Ford Island, the last, the flagship, USS Pennsylvania, was in drydock.
Japanese torpedo and level bombers devasted the battleships as they sat at anchor. USS Oaklahoma, after taking numerous torpedo hits, capsized losing over 400 of her crew. USS West Virginia, also hit by numerous torpedoes, was able to avoid capsizing by quick damage control work, but sunk to the harbor floor with over 100 dead. The USS California, hit by 2 bombs and 2 torpedoes also sunk in place. The USS Nevada, at the rear of Battleship Row, was the only battleship to get underway during the attack, beached herself to avoid sinking and blocking the harbor entrance. USS Maryland, USS Tennessee, and USS Pennsylvania took bomb hits and severe damage. However, the biggest single loss of life was in the destruction of the USS Arizona, which suffered a catastrophic magazine explosion. One thousand one hundred seventy seven crewmen died as the USS Arizona exploded and sank.
The loss of life on the USS Arizona accounted for almost half of all lives lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
While the Japanese were undertaking their surprise attack on the US Pacific Fleet - intended to disrupt and disable the fleet as an effective force for the start of hostilities, other Japanese forces commenced hostilities against US forces in the Phillipines, and against British forces in SE Asia, Malaysia, and Burma.
President Franklin Roosevelt on December 8, 1941 speaking to a Joint Session of Congress -
Yesterday, December 7th, 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.The United States was at war in the Pacific. On December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States - which returned the favor on the 12th. The World was now at war. It would continue until September 2, 1945.
The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.
Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
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.
Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.
As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.
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.
I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.
I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.