December 7, 1941 at 7:55 am Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appeared out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.
With diplomatic negotiations with Japan breaking down, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew that an eminent Japanese attack was probable, but nothing had been done to increase security at the important naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was Sunday morning, and many military personnel had been given passes to attend religious services off base. At 7:02 a.m., two radar operators spotted large groups of aircraft in flight toward the island from the north, but, with a flight of B-17s expected from the United States at the time, they were told to sound no alarm. Thus, the Japanese air assault came as a devastating surprise to the naval base.
Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded, many while valiantly attempting to repulse the attack. Japan’s losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men. Fortunately for the United States, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea on training maneuvers. These giant aircraft carriers would have their revenge against Japan six months later at the Battle of Midway, reversing the tide against the previously invincible Japanese navy in a spectacular victory.
The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort spanned four long years and cost more than 400,000 American lives.
The aftermath of World War II left a lasting impression on the world. At Pearl Harbor, the damage from December 7, 1941 has been repaired but there are memorials to the brave men and women who fought the Japanese sneak attach. The design of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, with the depression in the center rising upward toward the ends of the structure, depicts the nation’s low morale at the onset of hostilities but gradually climbing higher and higher as America moved toward victory against her enemies. Japan would be defeated and representatives of Japan would sign the Instrument of Surrender on board the U.S.S. Missouri. The symbolism of the war’s beginning with the attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor and the sinking of the Battleship Arizona, and the war’s end where Japan signed the instruments of surrender on board the Battleship Missouri, is very poignant.
The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors killed on the U.S.S Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The memorial, dedicated in 1962, is visited by more than one million people annually. Accessible only by boat, it straddles the sunken hull of the battleship without touching it. Today the U.S.S. Arizona leaks 2-9 quarts of oil each day. The vessel held approximately 1.5 million gallons of “Bunker-C” oil. The ship burned for 2 1/2 days leaving an unspecified amount of oil onboard.
From the over 180 ships and vessels in Pearl Harbor when the attack began, twelve of these ships were sunk or severely damaged and many other needed extensive repairs. All but three returned to services, U.S.S. Arizona and the U.S.S. Utah both lay where they fell on the north side of Ford Island. The U.S.S. Oklahoma, which capsized 20 minutes after nine torpedo hits rested in the main channel of the harbor. The ship was rolled into an upright position the remains of the over 400 sailors and Marines were removed and the ship was entered into dry dock on December 28, 1943.