On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise air attack on the
U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
After just two hours of bombing more than 2,400 Americans were dead, 21 ships* had either been sunk or damaged,
and more than 188 U.S. aircraft destroyed.
The attack at Pearl Harbor so outraged Americans that the U.S. abandoned its policy of isolationism
and declared war on Japan the following day --
officially bringing the United States into World War II.
The Japanese were tired of negotiations with the United States. They wanted to continue their expansion within Asia
but the United States had placed an extremely restrictive embargo on Japan in the hopes of curbing Japan's aggression.
Negotiations to solve their differences had not been going well.
Rather than giving in to U.S. demands, the Japanese decided to launch a surprise attack
against the United States in an attempt
to destroy the United States' naval power even before an official announcement of war was given.
THE JAPANESE PREPARE FOR ATTACK
The Japanese practiced and prepared carefully for their attack on Pearl Harbor. They knew their plan was extremely risky.
The probability of success depended heavily on complete surprise.
On November 26, 1941, the Japanese attack force, led by Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, left Etorofu Island in the Kurils
(located northeast of Japan) and began its 3,000-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean.
Sneaking six aircraft carriers, nine destroyers, two battleships, two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser,
and three submarines across the Pacific Ocean was not an easy task.
Worried that they might be spotted by another ship, the Japanese attack force continually zig-zagged
and avoided major shipping lines.
After a week and a half at sea, the attack force made it safely to its destination,
about 230 miles north of the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began. At 6:00 a.m., the Japanese aircraft
carriers began launching their planes amid rough sea. In total, 183 Japanese aircraft took to the air as part of
the first wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
At 7:15 a.m., the Japanese aircraft carriers, plagued by even rougher seas, launched 167 additional planes to participate
in the second wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The first wave of Japanese planes reached the U.S. Naval Station at Pearl Harbor (located on the south side of the Hawaiian island of
Oahu) at 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941.
Just before the first bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, leader of the air attack, called out,
"Tora! Tora! Tora!" ("Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!"), a coded message which told the entire Japanese navy that they
had caught the Americans totally by surprise.