|The surprise was complete. The attacking
planes came in two waves; the first hit its target at 7:53 AM, the second at
8:55. By 9:55 it was all over. By 1:00 PM the carriers that launched the planes
from 274 miles off the coast of Oahu were heading back to Japan.
Behind them they left chaos, 2,403 dead,
188 destroyed planes and a crippled Pacific Fleet that included 8 damaged or
destroyed battleships. In one stroke the Japanese action silenced the debate
that had divided Americans ever since the German defeat of France left England
alone in the fight against the Nazi terror.
Approximately three hours later, Japanese
planes began a day-long attack on American facilities in the Philippines. (Because
the islands are located across the International Dateline, the local Philippine
time was just after 5 AM on December 8.) Farther to the west, the Japanese struck
at Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand in a coordinated attempt to use surprise
in order inflict as much damage as quickly as possible to strategic targets.
Although stunned by the attack at Pearl
Harbor, the Pacific Fleet's aircraft carriers, submarines and, most importantly,
its fuel oil storage facilities emerged unscathed. These assets formed the foundation
for the American response that led to victory at the Battle of Midway the following
June and ultimately to the total destruction of the Japanese Empire four years
|Aboard the USS Arizona
The battleships moored along "Battleship
Row" are the primary target of the attack's first wave. Ten minutes after
the beginning of the attack a bomb crashes through the Arizona's two armored
decks igniting its magazine. The explosion rips the ship's sides open like a
tin can starting a fire that engulfs the entire ship. Within minutes she sinks
to the bottom taking 1,300 lives with her. The sunken ship remains as a memorial
to those who sacrificed their lives during the attack. Marine Corporal E.C.
Nightingale was aboard the Arizona that fateful Sunday morning.
While during the operation, task force
was ordered (Order Number 7) to attack the enemy fleet if encountered since
war was officially declared from the Japanese government.. A commercial freighter
had scouted the proposed route earlier in the year. Yamamoto and senior Navy
staff intended there be three waves of attack, but Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo
decided to break off after the second. There were also supporting submarines
and midget submarines assigned to engage U.S. ships should they succeed in leaving
the harbor. The location of the attack force remained unknown to the U.S. until
after the Japanese ships were already returning to the Eastern Pacific; they
were not located after the attack, in part because such searches as were organized
were conducted south of Oahu despite aircraft and radar reports of the attacking
force that morning. (This was partially due to direction finding mistakenly
placing searchers on a reciprocal bearing.) The total number of planes involved
in the attack was 350. 39 were engaged in protection of the Kido Butai during
The strike launched 200 nautical miles
(370 km) north of Oahu, with orders to attack "a powerful enemy surface
fleet" if one appeared.
|Even before Nagumo began launching, at
03.42 Hawaiian Time, the minesweeper USS Condor spotted a midget submarine
outside the harbor entrance and alerted destroyer USS Ward. Ward carried out
an unsuccessful search. The first shots fired, and the first casualties in the
attack, occurred when Ward eventually attacked and sank a midget submarine,
possibly the same one, at 06:37.
Five midget submarines had been assigned to torpedo U.S. ships after the bombing
started. None of these returned, and only four have since been found. Of the
ten sailors aboard, nine died; the only survivor, Kazuo Sakamaki, was captured,
becoming the first Japanese prisoner of war. Sakamaki's unexpected survival
was despised by many Japanese, who referred to his dead companions as "The
Nine Young Gods." United States Naval Institute analysis of photographs
from the attack, conducted in 1999, indicates one of these mini-subs entered
the harbor and successfully fired a torpedo into the USS West Virginia, what
may have been the first shot by the attacking Japanese. Her final disposition
On the morning of the attack, the Army's
Opana Point station (an SCR-270 radar, located near the northern tip of Oahu,
which had not entered official service, having been in training mode for months),
detected the first wave of Japanese planes and called in a warning. Although
the operators at Opana Point reported a target echo larger than anything they
had ever seen, an untrained new officer at the new and only partially activated
Intercept Center, Lieutenant Kermit A. Tyler, presumed the scheduled arrival
of six B-17 bombers was the cause because of the direction from which the aircraft
were coming (only a few degrees separated their inbound courses); because he
presumed the operators had never seen a formation as large as the U.S. bombers'
on radar; and possibly because the operators had only seen the lead element
of incoming attack.
|Several U.S. aircraft were shot down
as the first wave approached land; one at least radioed a somewhat incoherent
warning. Other warnings were still being processed, or awaiting confirmation,
when the shooting began. It is not clear any warnings would have had much effect
even had they been interpreted correctly and much more promptly. For instance,
the results the Japanese achieved in the Philippines were essentially the same
as at Pearl Harbor, though MacArthur had almost nine hours warning the Japanese
had attacked at Pearl (and specific orders to commence operations) before they
actually struck his command.
On December 5, Yoshikawa went on his
final “sightseeing” flight over Pearl Harbor in a small Piper Cub.
He cabled to Tokyo that there were 8 battleships, 3 light cruisers, and 16 destroyers
in the harbor. Also, two Aichi E12A Type 0 float scouts (Allied codename "Jake"),
one each from Tone and Chikuma (Mikuma's Cruiser Division 8) secretly scouted
the Lahaina Road anchorage and Pearl Harbor for the Pacific Fleet.
Here to see the list of detailed information & vivid statistics about all
Pearl Harbor attacks.