Imagine waking to this image.
While America slept, the Imperial Japanese Navy steamed toward the islands of Hawaii with the most powerful carrier battle force ever seen. Its goal: to eliminate the U.S. Navy as a threat to Japanese expansion.
The attack was a complete surprise. Although diplomatic relations had deteriorated and most experts anticipated eventual hostilities with Japan, very few believed that they would strike our forces at Pearl Harbor. In fact, eighteen months before, President Roosevelt had moved the fleet to Hawaii to position naval forces closer to the Philippines and other strategic sites in the western Pacific – areas where most experts expected the attacks to occur. These beliefs were bolstered by secretly captured and deciphered Japanese message traffic in late 1941.
They were wrong.
The perfectly executed attack began at 0755, when 180 aircraft, “…including torpedo planes, high-level bombers, dive bombers and fighters,” appeared over the peaceful waters of Pearl Harbor. It was a Sunday, and many Sailors were enjoying a late wake up and holiday routine.
The attack lasted less than two hours, but the results were devastating. “All together the Japanese sank or severely damaged 18 ships, including the 8 battleships, three light cruisers, and three destroyers. On the airfields the Japanese destroyed 161 American planes (Army 74, Navy 87) and seriously damaged 102 (Army 71, Navy 31).
“The Navy and Marine Corps suffered a total of 2,896 casualties of which 2,117 were deaths (Navy 2,008, Marines 109) and 779 wounded (Navy 710, Marines 69). The Army (as of midnight, 10 December) lost 228 killed or died of wounds, 113 seriously wounded and 346 slightly wounded. In addition, at least 57 civilians were killed and nearly as many seriously injured.” (WorldWar2History.info)
The next day, after President Roosevelt’s famous “Day of Infamy” speech, a joint resolution by both the Senate and House of Representatives approved his request for a declaration of war.
On December 11th, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States because of existing treaties with Japan. The same day, the United States reciprocated. (WorldatWar.net)
The United States had entered World War II.
This year, less than a hundred survivors are expected to attend memorial services in Pearl Harbor. Their numbers are dwindling, but their experiences will forever be remembered as a pivotal moment in American History. The Pearl Harbor survivors are our heroes of the week.