The US defeat at Pearl Harbor December 7th, 1941“A date which will live in infamy.” A politically motivated, self-inflicted defeat, or just US military incompetence? KA
Background. • The year is 1941. Japan has been waging a war of aggression in Asia since the 30s. She has conquered all before her. Her navy, army and airforce are undefeated. • She possesses modern technology and her soldiers use the latest thinking in strategy. • She has signed a pact with Nazi Germany (and Italy) because Germany looks like becoming the preeminent power in the West (Sept.1940). The Tripartite Pact. • Only the United States of America is managing to curb Japan’s ambition by restricting her oil supplies.
Japan realizes that to succeed in her ambitions she must remove American influence from the Pacific. Because America is bigger and more powerful than Japan a surprise assault is the only realistic way to defeat her. 7.12.1941 Imperial Japan’s First Air Fleet launches a surprise attack against the United States Navy (USN) based at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The President of the USA, Franklin Roosevelt, called it ‘a date which will live in infamy’ because the attack came before war had been declared. The result was that the United States joined World War Two as an ally of Britain against Germany and Japan.
The Pacific ocean showing the proximity of USA, Japan and Hawaii. Pearl Harbor
The islands of Hawaii Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, today. Ford island is in the middle, and battleship row is the dent on the SE side.
Kido Butai. The Japanese Carrier Striking Task Force. • 6 aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, 3 cruisers, 9 destroyers,8 tankers, 23 submarines, 5 midget submarines, 441 aircraft. • This was the largest carrier task force the world had ever seen. The Japanese aircraft carrier Soryu
The Japanese Aircraft carrier Hiryu. There were 5 aircraft carriers in all.
Ko-hyoteki- Japanese midget attack submarines • They were about the size of a bus. They held two crew and two torpedoes. • At least one of these machines would get past US defenses and into the harbor before the attack.
A Japanese carrier torpedo bomber.The Japanese attacked with over 400 planes like this. When was the last time you saw more than 2 aeroplanes in the sky at once? Just imagine what 400 would be like…
Map of Hawaii showing the Japanese bombing routes to Pearl Harbour, Oahu island, Hawaii. The plan was simple: destroy the US air force on the ground and then destroy all the defenceless US ships in the harbour. To ensure surprise- attack on a Sunday. Pearl Harbour
Isoroku Yamamoto- the Japanese commander. Fleet Admiral and Commander in Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Lost two fingers at Tsushima (1905) fighting the Russian navy. He was well aware of what war meant and was a political ‘dove’ as a result . He believed that fighting was to be avoided and only used as a last resort. But once engaged in, war had to prosecuted with the utmost strength. A formidable strategist and high calibre military leader he led the move to attack Pearl Harbour. He had visited Italy after the British Navy air strike at Taranto had crippled the Italian navy. He realised the potential of air power.
Commander in chief, US Pacific Fleet.He had the responsibility for the ships, planes and personnel of the US navy.In his view steel nets to stop torpedoes were not needed in harbour and merely got in everyones’ way.He relied upon the army air force to provide defence for him. He only had enough ‘spotter’ (reconnaissance) planes to cover 30% of the sea around Hawaii. Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel - the US commander.
Lieutenant Commander Walter Short- commander of the US Army Air force Responsible for the defence of military installations at Pearl Harbour. He had control of the majority of the aeroplanes on the base; fighters, bombers and reconnaissance. He had the idea of parking all aeroplanes close together in the open so that they could be guarded easily against saboteurs. Sabotage was feared because of the number of Japanese people who lived in Hawaii. He had insufficient reconnaissance planes and was not allowed more despite requests. He set up new chains of command and didn’t tell his superiors. This led to confusion.
Battleships. The battleship USS Arizona. Part of the US power in the Pacific. She could fire shells that weighed a tonne over 25 miles. The USA had at least 8 of these powerful ships in the Pacific. The US Navy placed more faith in these ships as a deterrent to Japanese aggression than their aircraft carriers.
The USS Enterprise 1941. The United States had 2 large aircraft carriers in the Pacific in 1941. More aware than the Americans, of the strategic advantage of carriers, the Japanese knew that they had to destroy them if they were to gain control over the Pacific. The Enterprise was scheduled to dock in Pearl Harbour 7.12.1941 Aircraft carriers
US army air force. The US military had not made its mind up about who should control aeroplanes. As a result the navy had some and the army had some. Control was confused and co-ordination hampered. At Pearl Harbour the majority of planes were under army control. The US navy frequently took a superior attitude to the US army and this did not help efficiency. The Curtis Kittyhawk fighter. Heavy and lumbering. No match for the nimble Japanese Zeke “Zero”. The B 17 Flying Fortress bomber. Useful for reconnaissance. Pearl Harbour did not have enough. More arrived on Dec 7 1941 during the attack- and were destroyed.
Japanese carrier planes waiting to take off. Observing radio silence and taking advantage of squally weather, the Japanese fleet arrives to the NW of Hawaii undetected. Planes were heavily laden with fuel and bombs
Dec7 1941. Japanese bomber over Hickam field (US army air force) (Hawaii). Notice large plumes of smoke.
US airfield under attack- notice all the planes lined up in neat rows. Easy targets for the Japanese fighters.
Ford Island in the middle of the harbour- One building is burning, and wrecked aircraft are scattered about. Notice the planes parked in the open.
Battleship Row as seen from a Japanese bomber 7.12.1941. Notice torpedo trails, and oil on the water. Notice the absence of torpedo nets.
US ships sinking at anchor. With the air force destroyed, the naval ships were now easy targets. Many sailors found ammunition stores locked as a peacetime security measure.
Water is already up to deck level, and fire is raging.With engines off there was no power to work fire hoses. Guns also had no power to operate, and ammunition hoists would not work.
The USS Shaw explodes spectacularly. The navy would repair her though, and she would fight again.
USS Nevada. A single valiant crewman managed to get this ship moving from a stone-cold start (quite some achievement). Bomb damaged and sinking she was to be beached by her captain. He didn’t want to take the risk of blocking the harbour entrance by sinking in it.
USS California. Notice the ship listing severely and her crew abandoning ship to the left. Notice the oil in the water- some of which is already on fire.
Battleship Row. The front and rear ships have already sunk to the harbour floor.
Fire and smoke become major problems to rescue efforts, let alone fighting back.
Airfield wreckage. The policy of parking all planes close together was disasterous. Notice the sailor just standing still- in the middle of a ‘battle’! It shows the utter helplessness of the defenders.
The USS Arizona.A bomb blows up her ammunition and she is totally destroyed. She is the only ship deemed irrecoverable. In her lie the majority of casualties from the attack. Her wreckage forms the base of the Pearl Harbour memorial which you can see today.
The US lost 2,403 people dead, 1,178 wounded. 5 battleships, 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers and 188 planes were destroyed. Japan lost 64 men dead and 1 captured. 29 planes and 4 midget submarines destroyed. It was shocking to America because it was the first time since 1812 that the United States had been attacked on its own soil. (The next occasion would be 9/11- it too led to US involvement in a foreign war)
Aftermath The United States joined WWII on the side of Britain and against the Tripartite ‘Axis’ of Japan, Germany and Italy. Recruiting posters used Pearl Harbour to get men to enlist. Ultimately Japan would be defeated.
Courts-martial of the US navy and army air force commanders Both Kimmel and Short were dismissed the service on the grounds that they had neglected the defence of the fleet and were therefore in dereliction of duty