Why did Japan Attack Pearl Harbor?

December 7th, 1941 marked the day Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japanese bombers. Pearl Harbor would forever be remembered as the day that brought huge hardships to many people in the United States, this attack would also lead the United States into WWII. So why don’t we go back in time before the attack, and look at the reasons why the Japanese decided to attack the United States.

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Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States had been constantly telling the Japanese that they should stop trying to conquer China and Manchuria. The reason for Japan wanting to conquer China in the year 1937 being, Japan had imperial ambitions to expand to China to solve some demographic and economic problems and to take over the Chinese import market. (Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?). So when Japan decided to declare war on China, America was against this aggression and responded with, trade embargoes and economic sanctions. (Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?). The United States had kept pressuring the Japanese government into stopping their troop’s advances, but alas the Japanese never complied.

At not receiving any acknowledgment from the Japanese government the United States slowly started to decrease the number of machinery that was exported to Japan. This not only angered the people in Japan but this also leads them to want vengeance on the people of the United States. Hence wise Japan started planning the attack on Pearl Harbor. Then when that approach didn’t stop Japan from trying to conquer China the United States decided to also cut the exportation of the American oil to Japan, which was 88% of the imported oil that Japan had. The oil lost meant that the Japanese were having a lack of resources which wasn’t going to end well for them. This led to Koichi Kido the Lord Keeper of Japan to say, This means war. (Nilsson, Jeff. Before Pearl Harbor), to the leader of Japan who was Hideki Tojo. A week later Japan started to secretly plan an attack on the United States. But even then the Japanese military had already started a plan to attack the United States, even before the war was even fully declared. After some time the Japanese started to realize how they were lacking a lot of materials to make their aircraft. The United States wasn’t going to give them any of the alloy Steel that they needed in order to make the planes. Plus the fact the United States cut the oil supply didn’t make the situation any better. This just made the events even more serious, now the Japanese had more of a motive to try to get back at the United States. Roosevelt, who was the United States president at the time, knew that the Japanese wanted war along with all of the United States government, but since there had not been a declaration of war from the Japanese government, they never formed a plan to protect themselves against them. The United States was waiting until Japan made a move or intention to attack the U.S, or until Japan officially declared war. Like previously mentioned the United States knew that the Japanese wanted War but they never thought that they would take the surprise brew and plan a surprise attack.

Meanwhile, all this planning that the Japanese had made, the United States Navy wasn’t really prepared for an attack. Of course, there were people observing the deck to see if there were any incoming enemy ships, but most of the commanders and Chiefs and even recruits of the U.S. Navy we’re mostly enjoying the Hawaiian culture. Roosevelt didn’t have any reason to believe that the Japanese were going to attack them without announcing anything. This lead the commanders and chiefs to not really worrying much about the Japanese making a surprise attack, and even less the possibility of war. They were left completely vulnerable to the surprise attack the Japanese were planning. During the attack: On Sunday, December 7th, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. This attack took place in Hawaii, a military base which was home to the Navy’s Pacific Fleet. The military base was located, 6 miles (10 km) west of Honolulu. The harbor is virtually surrounded (west to east) by the cities of Ewa, Waipahu, Pearl City, Aiea, and Honolulu ( Encyclopaedia Britannica, Honolulu ). The military base also had, 10 square miles (26 square km) of navigable water and hundreds of anchorages and covers a land area of more than 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares). Its four lochs are formed by the Waipio and Pearl City peninsulas and Ford Island. Pearl Harbor Entrance (channel) connects its virtually landlocked bay with the Pacific Ocean. ( Encyclopaedia Britannica, Pearl Harbor ). But, why Sunday? The Japanese were well organized on this attack. Some might wonder why did they attack on December 7th? Why Sunday? Well, the Japanese chose Sunday, During the 1940s, Sundays still held religious significance for many. ( Encyclopaedia Britannica, Attack on Sunday ). Therefore the Japanese aircrafts would have the element of surprise for the attack Pearl Harbor since the navy personnel would either be sleeping in or, attending religious ceremonies. With this element of surprise, the Japanese would not have to worry about an immediate defense attack from the Marines at Pearl Harbor.

Another reason why the Japanese arranged the attack on Pearl Harbor to happen on December 7th was because, they needed a day with a clear view from the sky so it would be easy to see their target from afar, the weather that day satisfied Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese officer who was planning the attack on Pearl Harbor. So December 7th came to be the perfect day to have a flawless surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. By selecting Sunday the Japanese heads of the military were certain their plan would be successful, along with giving hem the edge of surprise which was extremely vital for their plan to succeed. On November 26, the Japanese military sent their, Six aircraft carriers left Japan for Hawaii on Nov. 26, carrying a total of 408 fighter craft, joining five midget submarines that had departed a day earlier. At 7:55 am the first Japanese dive-bomber appeared over Pearl Harbor, It was part of the first wave of nearly 200 aircraft, including torpedo planes, bombers, and fighters. (Rosenberg, Jennifer. Facts About the Japanese) Before the attack, the Japanese radioed Tora Tora Tora which signaled the start of preparation for the aircrafts. The word Tora had no significant meaning, the Japanese heads of the attack chose the easiest recognition of the morse code to and ra. The command of Tora was delivered three times to make sure the signal was received and elaborated. Although Tora had a similarity of the word tiger in Japanese it was a complete coincidence. At 7:53 a soldier, Fuchida ordered Mizuki to channel To Ra! To Ra! To Ra! which coded attack surprise. As well as Tora Tora Tora the Japanese had many other code/ operation names such as Tenkai which meant take attack position.

Another one was a dark blue flare that represented black dragon which alerted the Japanese to attack. ( Erick, Painter. “Tora! Tora! Tora!”). During the attack, 20 ships were stricken and damaged but 9 ships USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS California, USS West Virginia, USS Utah, USS Maryland, USS Pennsylvania, USS Tennessee, and USS Nevada”had sustained significant damage. (All but USS Arizona and USS Utah were eventually salvaged and repaired.) (Pearl Harbor. History.com). Later on at approximately 8:10 am, a bomb 1,800- pounds dropped into the USS Arizona which exploded extensively leading 1,000 men trapped endangering their lives. That same time range torpedoes were plunged into the shell of the USS Oklahoma which incepted the battleship to submerged with 400 sailors aboard. This took less than 2hrs for the Japanese to achieve their agenda of destroying the American’s ship. (Pearl Harbor. History.com). The attack also left airplanes demolished as well as injuring soldiers and victims nearly 20 American ships and more than 300 airplanes. Drydocks and airfields were likewise destroyed.

Most important, 2,403 sailors, soldiers and civilians were killed and about 1,000 people were wounded. (Pearl Harbor History) Japan also targeted nearby Army airfields at Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, Bellows Field, Ewa Field, Schoefield Barracks, and Kaneohe Naval Air Station. Many of the U.S. airplanes were lined up outside, along with the airstrips, wingtip to wingtip, in order to avoid sabotage. (Rosenberg, Jennifer. Facts About the Japanese). Unfortunately, this only made them easy targets for the Japanese attackers. After the attack: Hours after the overwhelming Japanese aerial assault, Pearl Harbor was left as the representation of disaster with, Plumes of smoke from fires blazing across the oil-slicked waters were visible from many parts of Honolulu. (After the Attack). Japan and the United States had lost a lot during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese lost, some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men. (“Pearl Harbor Bombed”). The United States lost, Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. (“Pearl Harbor Bombed”), only 13 ships were able to be restored and be put back on service after the attack.

Although the United States had undergone severe losses, not everything was lost for the United States, for at the time both the United States Navy and the Japanese Imperial Navy still saw the Battleships as the heart of the fleet and the essence of naval power. Days before the attack, three carriers of the U.S marine had been, “assigned to the Pacific Fleet, had been dispatched on missions that took them away from Pearl Harbor that fateful Sunday. (“The Missing Carriers”). Therefore when the attack was about to begin and reports came in stating that, the main fleet carriers, the USS Saratoga, USS Lexington, and USS Enterprise were not present in Pearl Harbor the Japanese were not overly concerned. It would only be a few hours after the aerial assault on Pearl Harbor that the Japanese Empire would properly proclaim war on the United States. On December 8th, 1941 after the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt officially proclaimed war on Japan. This declaration would lead to the misery of many Japanese people in the United States, and it would also drive the United States directly into World War II, going out of neutrality.

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