It was 74 years ago today, December 7, that the Empire of Japan attacked the United States Naval base at Pearl Harbor. For almost 2 hours 353 aircraft and a couple of mini-subs laid siege on the base. By the time the assault was over 8 battle ships were either crippled or sunk; 2,403 were killed; 1,178 were wounded; and an untold number of airplanes at the nearby Army Air Corps’ base Hickman Field were destroyed.
While the attack was devastating to the Pacific fleet it was not the major blow to the United States the Japan was hoping to inflict. The primary targets were the two aircraft carriers, the USS Lexington and the USS Enterprise, that had been deploy to take aircraft to both Midway and Wake Island. Of the eight battleships that were hit six of them, the USS California, USS Tennessee, USS Nevada, USS West Virginia, USS Maryland, and USS Pennsylvania were able to be repaired and placed back into service.
Even though we focus on Pearl Harbor it was not the only United States base attacked on December 7, 1941. A few hours after the Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces also attacked United States’ bases at Midway Island, Guam, and the Philippine Islands. Even though the commanders at those bases had advanced warning about possible attacks they were still caught off guard by the invading forces.
The attacks on Pearl Harbor and other sites were the culmination of tensions that had been building between Japan and the United States since shortly after the end of World War I. Those tensions grew when the United States backed China, in their war with Japan, with military support. Then, when the United States imposed a fuel embargo those tensions were at a breaking point.