Pearl Harbor: A Day of Infamy By Chris Smith World War II

Pearl Harbor: A Day of Infamy By Chris Smith World War II altered the face of American history forever. This being a war the United States was greatly against and never wanted to enter, They were thrust into the war by a brutal attack from the Japanese on a Navel base located in the pacific ocean on the island Oahu in what is called Pearl Harbor. This attack on the base was a direct attack against the United States and gave America no choice but to enter the war they were originally so opposed to, or were they? Did the American government know that the Japanese were planning an attack?
Did the United States allow the Japanese kill and wound several thousand Americans and sink and damage several naval ships all for a reason to enter a war our President longed to be a part of? Those questions along with several more have been raised by authors and thinkers throughout history. These questions along with several more will be examined in depth throughout this writing. The thesis of this paper is as follows, “On December 7, 1941 The United States of America changed forever with Japan’s surprise attacks on the U. S.
Navel base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. These attacks thrust the United States into the middle of the Second World War and raised many questions and conspiracies pertaining to prior knowledge of the attacks and the plans that the Japanese executed. ” First, the anticipation of war will be discussed and the events leading to attack. Secondly, the process that the Japanese went through will be discussed, from the year of planning to the secretive launch of their “striking force” also their already obvious aggression displayed by the invasion of China.

Another crucial piece to this puzzle is the Tripartite pact signed by Japan to make them apart of the “Axis powers”. Also the Japanese fleet and how they were utilized and coordinated in this attack will play a vital part in this description of this devastating attack. Finally the question will be addressed of whether we were aware of the attacks in advance and discuss the conspiracy theories surrounding this hot button issue in World War II history. Tensions between Japan and the United States increased greatly at the start of the military oriented Showa era, as Japanese nationalists and military leaders used escalating influence over government policy, accepting the creation of a Greater East Asia alliance as part of Japan’s alleged “divine right” to unify all of Asia under Emperor Showa’s rule, threatening the already-established American, French, British, and Dutch colonies located in Asia. ”[i] Throughout the 1930s, Japan’s increasing expansion policies got them into conflicts with its neighbors, Russia and China[ii] .
In March of 1933, Japan removed itself from the League of Nations because of international displease for its desire to conquer Manchuria and for their plans to establish the Manchukuo puppet government. On January 15, 1936, Japan also removed representatives from the Second London Naval Disarmament Conference[iii] because the United States and Great Britain did not want to grant the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) parity with their navies. [iv] A second war between the Japanese and Chinese started with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in July 1937[v].
Japan’s attack on China was looked down upon by the United States and the majority of the members of the League of Nations including Britain, France, Australia, and the Netherlands. The crimes of the Japanese during the conflict such as the Rape of Nanking[vi], definitely made relations with the rest of the world very strained. These states had several interests, as well as formal colonies, in the East and Southeast Asia. Japan’s new power and its urge to use it raised great concerns, which threatened the control they had in Asia.
In July of 1939, the United States got rid of its 1911 commercial treaty with Japan, but this effort failed to stop Japan from continuing the war in China, or from signing the Tripartite Pact in 1940 with Hitler’s Germany and Italy, officially forming the Axis Powers. Japan took full advantage of Germany’s war in Europe to better its progress in the Far East. The Tripartite Pact promised each of the nations that had signed would have assistance if attacked by any country then considered neutral. This stipulation was directed at the United States, and gave Japan more power on the political stage.
The Tripartite Pact now posed a great threat to the United States on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Hitler and Mussolini threatening on the Atlantic Ocean, and the Japanese on the Pacific Ocean. The Roosevelt administration felt the American lifestyle would be threatened if Europe and the Far East were to come under control of a dictatorship. Roosevelt pledged to help the British and the Chinese; he loaned both money and materials to both countries and promised that America aid would be enough to promise their survival of war. Giving this aid would start to move the United States from a neutral country to a country preparing for war.
On October 8, 1940, Admiral James O. Richardson, who was the commander of the Pacific Fleet, forced a confrontation with President Roosevelt, resending his messages from previous transmissions to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Harold R. Stark and to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, that Pearl Harbor was the be best place for his ships to be located. Roosevelt told Richardson that having that fleet in Pearl Harbor was a “restraining influence” on the Japanese. Richardson asked the president if the United States was going to war. [vii] In Richardson’s retelling of the account the president responded: At least as early as October 8, 1940, President Roosevelt believed that affairs had reached such a state that the United States would be come involved in a war with Japan. … ‘that if the Japanese attacked Thailand, or the Kra Peninsula, or the Dutch East Indies we would not enter the war, that if they even attacked the Philippines he doubted whether we would enter the war, but that they (the Japanese) could not always avoid making mistakes and that as the war continued and that area of operations expanded sooner of later they would make a mistake and we would enter the war. … “. [viii] In 1940, Japanese troops moved into northern Indochina. The invasion of Indochina, along with the Tripartite Pact, their war in China, increasing troops, and Japan’s leaving the League of Nations made the U. S. embargo metal that was being shipped to Japan and to tighten down its foreign policy actions towards the Japanese and shut down the Panama Canal to Japanese ships. In 1941, Japanese troops invaded southern Indochina.
On July 26 1941 the United States answered by freezing most Japanese assets in the United States and, then on August 1 1941, placed embargos on all of the oil and gas exports to Japan. Oil was the most important resource imported to Japan; at the time more than 80 percent of Japan’s oil imports came from the United States. To make sure they had oil, and several other vital resources, the Japanese had long been looking for other places for their supplies, specifically in the Dutch East Indies.
The Navy was sure any plan of action to seize the Dutch East Indies would bring the United States into the war and were very skeptical when it came time to agree with the other factions’ plans for the invasion. The complete United States oil embargo changed to the naval view to support the expansion toward support for the invasion of the Dutch East Indies and capture of all of the oil fields there. After the embargoes and the freezing of all assets, the Ambassador of Japan in Washington and the secretary of State Cordell Hull had multiple meetings to try and find a solution to the Japanese-American problems.
No solution could be found because of three major problems which were Japan’s alliance to Germany and Italy through the Tripartite Pact; Japan wanted total control and responsibility for Southeast Asia; and Japan refused to leave China. Feeling the strain from the U. S. embargoes, Japan developed a sense of urgency, they either had to agree to Washington’s demands and return to normal trade, or use force to gain access to resources that were available throughout the Pacific.
Deciding that agreeing to Washington’s demands was unacceptable The Japanese decided to prepare for war with the United States, and seeing the opportunity of the forward basing of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese began to plan in early 1941 for an attack on Pearl Harbor. For the next several months, planning a simultaneous attack on Pearl Harbor and invasion of British and Dutch colonies in the South Pacific occupied most of the Japanese’ time and attention.
The Pearl Harbor attack planning came from the Japanese predicting that the United States would be drawn into the war after the Japanese attacked Malaya and Singapore. The intent of a strike on Pearl Harbor was to negate the American navy in the Pacific, in turn removing it from dictating operations against American, British, and Dutch colonies in the South Pacific. Planning in the beginning had seen a battle between the two powers would take place in Japanese waters after the United States Navel Fleet traveled across the Pacific Ocean, which would come under attack by submarines and other forces all the way across.
The United States Fleet would be beaten in a climactic battle. A surprise attack presented a difficult problem for two major reasons. First, the United States Pacific Fleet was a major force, and they would not be a pushover to defeat or sneak up on. Second, for an air attack, Pearl Harbor’s shallow waters made the use of standard air-dropped torpedoes useless. On the bright side, the isolation of the island of Hawaii meant that a surprise attack could not be stopped or countered quickly by forces stationed in the continental United States.
A lot of Japan’s naval officers were very impressed with the British Operation: Judgement, where twenty one old and outdated Fairey Swordfish crippled half of the Regia Marina. Admiral Yamamoto went as far as sending a delegation to Italy, which decided that a version of Cunningham’s strike on a much larger scale could force the United States Pacific Fleet to have to return to bases in California, which would give the Japanese time to put a “barrier” defense in place to defend the Japanese control of the Dutch East Indies.
The delegation returned from Italy with information on how the Cunningham engineers devised shallow-running torpedoes. Japan’s navel planners were without a doubt influenced by Admiral Togo’s surprise attack that was executed on the Pacific Fleet of Russia at Port Arthur in 1905, and also they were influenced by U. S. Admiral Harry Yarnell’s work in the 1932 joint Army-Navy exercises, which was used to simulate an invasion of the island of Hawaii. Yarnell, as the leader of the force that was attacking the island, placed his aircraft carriers northwest f Oahu and simulated an air attack. The umpires of the exercises noted that Yarnell’s aircraft were able to impose serious “damage” on the defending team, who for 24 hours after the attack were not able to find his team. In a letter that was written on January 7, 1941 Yamamoto finally delivered a somewhat rough draft of his plan to Koshiro Oikawa, then Navy Minister, who he also asked that he be made Commander in Chief of the air fleet to carry out the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
A couple of weeks later in another letter, this time sent to Takijiro Onishi, chief of staff of the Eleventh Air Fleet, Yamamoto asked Onishi to study the actual ability successfully carrying out an attack against the American base. After speaking with Kosei Maeda originally, an expert on aerial torpedo warfare, and being told that harbor’s shallow waters made an attack of this nature very close to impossible; Onsihi then sought the advice of Commander and planner Minoru Genda.
Once Genda studied the original plan issued by Yamamoto, Genda said: “the plan is difficult but not impossible”. During the next couple weeks, Genda made some changes to Yamamoto’s rough draft of the attack, stressing the importance of the attack being executed early in the morning and in complete secrecy, using an aircraft carrier fleet and many different types of bombing. [ix]
Although bombing the United States Pacific Fleet while they were anchored in Pearl Harbor would be a surprise, it also had two large flaws: The ships that would be targeted would be sunk or damaged in the shallow water waters of the harbor, which would mean that they could possibly be salvaged and possibly returned to duty (as six of the eight battleships eventually were); and most of the crews would be able to live through the attack, since the majority would be on leave which means they would be on shore or that most could be easily rescued from the harbor after the attack took place.
Despite these concerns, Yamamoto and Genda pressed ahead. By April of 1941, the plan to attack Pearl Harbor began to be referred to as Operation Z, named after the famous Z signal given by Admiral Togo at Tsushima. Throughout the summer of 1941 leading up to the attack, pilots were training in secret near Kagoshima City on the Japanese island of Kyushu. Genda chose this location because the geography and infrastructure of Kagoshima City presented almost all of the same problems bombers would have to overcome during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In training, each flight crew navigated over the 5000-foot mountain behind Kagoshima City and dropped into the city, maneuvering around buildings before descending to an altitude of 25 feet at the oceans edge. Bombardiers dropped torpedoes at some 300 yards away. The skimming of the water did not fix the problem of torpedoes hitting the ocean floor in the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor. Japanese engineers developed modifications allowing successful shallow water drops. The engineers work turned out to be a heavily modified version of theType 91 torpedo, which turned out to inflict most of the damage to ships during the attack.
Japanese weapon engineers also developed special armor-piercing bombs with fitted fins and release shackles to 14 and 16 inch naval shells. These were able to pierce the more lightly armored decks of the older battleships still in service. On November 26, 1941, a Japanese Striking Force of six aircraft carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku, and Zuikaku) left Japan heading to a predetermined position that was northwest of Hawaii, with the intention to launch its planes to execute the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
A total of 408 aircraft were supposed to be used in the attack: 360 for the two attack waves, 48 on defensive combat air patrol (CAP), including nine fighters that would serve double duty on CAP and the first attack wave. The first wave was going to be the major attack, with the second wave serving as a way to finish whatever objectives remained to be completed. The first wave featured the majority of the weapons to attack capital ships; mainly the specially adapted Type 91 aerial torpedoes that we discussed earlier. x] The attack crews were told to pick the highest value targets such as battleships and aircraft carriers or, if they were not available, any other high profile ships like cruisers and destroyers. The dive bombers were ordered to attack ground targets. Fighter pilots were told to strafe and destroy as many grounded aircraft as possible to make sure they did not get into the air to attack the bombers, specifically during the first wave. When the planes fuel got low they were ordered to return to the aircraft carriers to refuel, then immediately return to the attack.
Fighters were ordered to serve CAP duties when needed, especially over the US airfields where the United States planes were grounded. Before the attack began, two aircrafts were launched from cruisers were sent to scout and gain information over Oahu and report on the composition of the fleet and their exact location. Another four planes scouted the area between the Japanese carrier force in order to prevent the task force from being caught by a surprise counterattack. [xi] The attack on Pearl Harbor actually took place before any formal declaration of war was made by Japan, but it was not the Admiral’s intention to do this.
He originally stated that the attack should not take place until at least thirty minutes after Japan had formally notified the United States that negotiations for peace had come to a close. [xii] The Japanese tried to play by the rules of war while still making the attack a surprise, but the attack began before the notice could be delivered and translated. Japan sent the 5,000-word declairation of war (commonly called the “14-Part Message”) in two sections to the Japanese Embassy in Washington, but translating the message took too long for it to be delivered in time. In fact, U. S. code breakers had already deciphered and translated most of the message hours before he was scheduled to deliver it. ). The final part of the “14 Part Message” is what some call the actual declaration of war. While it did not declare war nor did it end diplomatic relations, it was viewed by a large number of senior U. S government officials as a very strong indication that negotiations were likely done and that war was going to erupt at any moment.
A declaration of war from Japan was printed on the front page of Japan’s newspapers in the evening edition of December 8, but it was not delivered to the United States government until the day after the attack had already taken place. “The first attack wave consisted of 183 planes that were launched north of Oahu, led by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida. It included: ? 1st Group (targets: battleships and aircraft carriers) ? 50 Nakajima B5N Kate bombers armed with 800 kg (1760 lb) armor piercing bombs, organized in four sections ? 40 B5N bombers armed with Type 91 torpedoes, also in four sections ? nd Group – (targets: Ford Island and Wheeler Field) ? 54 Aichi D3A Val dive bombers armed with 550 lb (249 kg) general purpose bombs ? 3rd Group – (targets: aircraft at Ford Island, Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, Barber’s Point, Kaneohe) ? 45 Mitsubishi A6M Zeke fighters for air control and strafing ? Six planes failed to launch due to technical difficulties. ”[xiii] “The second wave was 171 planes: 54 B5Ns, 81 D3As, and 36 A6Ms, led by Lieutenant Shigekazu Shimazaki. Four of the planes failed to launch because of technical difficulties.
This wave and its targets comprised: ? 1st Group – 54 B5Ns armed with 550 lb (249 kg) and 132 lb (60 kg) general purpose bombs ? 27 B5Ns – aircraft and hangars on Kaneohe, Ford Island, and Barbers Point ? 27 B5Ns – hangars and aircraft on Hickam Field ? 2nd Group (targets: aircraft carriers and cruisers) ? 81 D3As armed with 550 lb (249 kg) general purpose bombs, in four sections ? 3rd Group – (targets: aircraft at Ford Island, Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, Barber’s Point, Kaneohe) ? 36 A6Ms for defense and strafing”[xiv] The United States suffered great losses; all eight U. S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four being sunk. Of the eight damaged six were raised, repaired and returned to service later in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. 188 U. S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 wounded. The power station, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section) were not attacked. [xv] “Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 65 servicemen killed or wounded. One Japanese sailor was captured. ”[xvi] “After the attack, 15 Medals of Honor, 51 Navy Crosses, 53 Silver Stars, four Navy and Marine Corps Medals, one Distinguished Flying Cross, four Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, and three Bronze Star Medals were awarded to the American military men who served in combat at Pearl Harbor. [xvii] Also, a special award, the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal, was later made and given to all military veterans of the attack. The day following the attack, Roosevelt gave his now famous Infamy Speech to a Joint Session of Congress, calling for a declaration of war on the Empire of Japan. Congress granted this request in less than an hour. On December 11 1941 Germany and Italy, honoring the Tripartite Pact, declared war on the United States. The United States Congress issued a declaration of war later the same day against Germany and Italy.
Britain declared war on the Japanese some nine hours before the United States did, mostly because of the Japanese attacks on Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong, and also due to the promise that Winston Churchill made to declare war “within the hour” if the Japanese executed an attack against the United States. The attack was a huge shock to the Allies in the Pacific Theater. More losses made the setback even more alarming. Japan attacked the Philippines just a few short hours later but because of the time difference, it was December 8 in the Philippines.
Just a few days after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the Prince of Wales and Repulse, which were two British ships, were sunk off the coast of Malaya, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill later said: “In all the war I never received a more direct shock. As I turned and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in upon me. There were no British or American capital ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl Harbor who were hastening back to California.
Over this vast expanse of waters Japan was supreme and we everywhere were weak and naked”. [xviii] During the rest of the war, Pearl Harbor was very often used with American propaganda to promote the war. Another huge reaction by America because of the attacks on Pearl Harbor was that most of the Japanese American residents and citizens were relocated to Japanese-American internment camps. Just a few short hours after the attack, hundreds of Japanese American leaders were arrested and brought to high-security camps that like Sand Island and Kilauea Military Camp located in Hawaii.
Later, over 110,000 Japanese Americans, this includes United States citizens, were yanked from their homes and transferred to these high security internment camps in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas. [xix] As was discussed previously discussed, was America aware of the plans of the attack? Several theorists don’t accept the view that Pearl Harbor was a complete surprise and these theorists always make clear that Roosevelt wanted, though did not say so officially, the U. S. to play a part in the war against Germany.
A basic grip of the political situation of 1941 displays reasonable evidence Roosevelt invited, allowed, or even knew of the Pearl Harbor attack. Military historian and novelist Thomas Fleming poses the argument that President Roosevelt himself, had wished that Germany or Japan would make the first blow, but did not expect the United States to be hit as hard as it was in the attack on Pearl Harbor. [xx] In closing I feel that the United States was aware of this devastating attack and that my thesis of “On December 7, 1941 The United States of America changed forever with Japan’s surprise attacks on the U.
S. Navel base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. These attacks thrust the United States into the middle of the Second World War and raised many questions and conspiracies pertaining to prior knowledge of the attacks and the plans that the Japanese executed. ” was well covered through out duration of this research. ———————– [i] The effort to establish the Imperial Way (kodo) had begun with the Second Sino-Japanese War (called sei???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????? sen, or “holy war”, by Japan). Bix, Herbert, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, 2001, p. 326-327. [ii] Japan had fought the First Sino-Japanese War with China in 1894-95 and the Russo-Japanese War with Russia in 1904-05; Japan’s imperialist ambitions had a hand in precipitating both conflicts. [iii] The Second London Naval Disarmament Conference opened in London, United Kingdom on 9 December 1935. It resulted in the Second London Naval Treaty which was signed on 25 March 1936. [iv] Lester H. Brune and Richard Dean Burns, Chronological History of U.
S. Foreign Relations: 1932-1988, 2003, p. 504. [v] The Marco Polo Bridge Incident was a battle between the Republic of China’s National Revolutionary Army and the Imperial Japanese Army, often used as the marker for the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) [vi] The Rape of Nanking was a mass murder, and war rape that occurred during the six-week period following the Japanese capture of the city of Nanking, the former capital of the Republic of China, on December 13, 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War. vii] Joint Congressional Hearings on the Pearl Harbor Attack, Part 40, Page 506, “Conclusions Restated With Supporting Evidence” [viii] Richardson, “On the Treadmill”, pp. 425, 434. And as recounted in Baker, “Human Smoke”, p. 239 [ix] Prange, Gordon, At Dawn We Slept, Penguin Books, p. 25-27 [x] Peattie, Mark R. (2001), Sunburst: The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power, 1909–1941, Naval Institute Press [xi] Tony DiGiulian. “Order of Battle – Pearl Harbor – December 7, 1941”. Navweaps. com. Retrieved 2012-02-17. [xii] Calvocoressi et al. , The Penguin History of the Second World War, p. 52 [xiii] Prange. p. 102 [xiv] Prange. p. 102 [xv] “Full Pearl Harbor casualty list”. Usswestvirginia. org. Retrieved 2012-02-17. [xvi] “Full Pearl Harbor casualty list”. Usswestvirginia. org. Retrieved 2012-02-17. [xvii] Prange. p. 454 [xviii]  Churchill, Winston; Martin Gilbert (2001), “December 1941”, The Churchill War Papers: The Ever-Widening War, Volume 3: 1941, London, New York: W. W. Norton, p 1593–1594, [xix] Prange. p. 632 [xx]  Fleming, Thomas (2001-06-10). “Pearl Harbor Hype”. History News Network. Retrieved 2012-02-21. Bibliography: Primary:
Burtness, Paul, and Warren Ober. “President Roosevelt, Admiral Stark, and the Unsent Warning to Pearl Harbor: A Research Note.. ” Australian Journal of Politics & History;. 57. no. 4 (2011): 580-88. http://web. ebscohost. com. proxy. ohiolink. edu:9099/ehost/detail? vid=4&hid=113&[email protected]&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ==, Retrieved 2012-02-21 “Attack At Pearl Harbor, 1941, – the Japanese View” EyeWitness to History, www. eyewitnesstohistory. com (2001). Retrieved 2012-03-01 Harriet Moore, (U. S. Army Nurse Corps 2nd Lt. , interview by Erica Warren, “Army nurse recalls attack on Pearl Harbor,” North County Times, December 7, 2003, January 31, 2012, http://www. nctimes. com/news/local/article_85b4ea10-e9c2-5af7-8e74-deddc726aa5b. html. Conn, Stetson; Fairchild, Byron; Engelman, Rose C. (2000), “7 – The Attack on Pearl Harbor”, Guarding the United States and Its Outposts, Washington D. C. : Center of Military History United States Army “Damage to United States Naval Forces and Installations as a Result of the Attack”, Report of the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, Washington D.
C. : United States Government Printing Office, 1946, retrieved 2012-02-08 US Navy Report of Japanese Raid on Pearl Harbor, United States National Archives, Modern Military Branch, 1942 Churchill, Winston; Martin Gilbert (2001), “December 1941”, The Churchill War Papers: The Ever-Widening War, Volume 3: 1941, London, New York: W. W. Norton, p 1593–1594, Joint Congressional Hearings on the Pearl Harbor Attack, Part 40, Page 506, “Conclusions Restated With Supporting Evidence” Secondary Bix, Herbert, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, 2001, p. 326-327. Prange, Gordon.
At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981. Fleming, Thomas (2001-06-10). “Pearl Harbor Hype”. History News Network. Retrieved 2012-02-21. Richardson, “On the Treadmill”, pp. 425, 434. And as recounted in Baker, “Human Smoke” Peattie, Mark R. (2001), Sunburst: The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power, 1909–1941, Naval Institute Press Calvocoressi et al. , The Penguin History of the Second World War, p. 952 Tony DiGiulian. “Order of Battle – Pearl Harbor – December 7, 1941”. Navweaps. com. Retrieved 2012-02-17.

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