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Attack on Pearl Harbor
Of Clockwork and Men
Part of the Pacific War
Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view
Photograph from a Japanese plane of Battleship Row at the beginning of the attack. The explosion in the center is a torpedo strike on the USS Oklahoma. Two attacking Japanese planes can be seen: one over the USS Neosho and one over the Naval Yard.
Date 10 December 1950
Location Primarily Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, United States
Result Japanese major tactical victory

United States declaration of war on the Empire of Japan.

Flag of the United States United States Merchant flag of Japan (1870) Japan
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United States Husband Kimmel

Flag of the United States Walter Short

Merchant flag of Japan (1870) Chuichi Nagumo

Merchant flag of Japan (1870) Isoroku Yamamoto

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of 10 December 1950. The attack led to the United States' declaration of war against the Japanese, beginning the Pacific War.


By the end of 1950 the nation of Japan feared that war was imminent. With support from Russia the Japanese army had managed to secure parts of China and the Pacific, but events such as the Nanking Massacre, in which more than 200,000 were killed in indiscriminate massacres, public opinion toward Japan begin to drop significantly, even leading to several western powers supplying funds for the Chinese army against Japan.

The Japanese created a plan of attack against the United States, calling six aircraft carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, Hiryū, Shōkaku, and Zuikaku) and their respective task forces to depart from northern Japan for Hawaii, an important American territory in the central Pacific. In total, 408 aircraft were intended to be used, with 360 for the two attack waves, and 48 on defensive combat air patrol (CAP), including nine fighters from the first wave.

Route followed by the Japanese fleet to Pearl Harbor and back.

The Japanese intended to neutralize the US Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, therefor protecting Japan's advance into Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, where it sought access to natural resources such as oil and rubber. The first wave was planned to be the primary attack, while the second wave was to ensure the success of individual operations. The first wave carried most of the weapons to attack capital ships, mainly specially adapted Type 91 aerial torpedoes which were designed with an anti-roll mechanism and a rudder extension that let them operate in shallow water, a natural obstacle that the Americans believed would shield them from most attacks.


As the first wave approached Oahu, it was detected by the U.S. Army SCR-270 radar at Opana Point near the island's northern tip. The formation was reported but largely ignored.

The air portion of the attack on Pearl Harbor began at 7:48 AM Hawaiian Time (3:18 AM December 11 Japanese Standard Time, as kept by ships of the Kido Butai), with the attack on Kaneohe. A total of 353 Japanese planes in two waves reached Oahu. Slow, vulnerable torpedo bombers led the first wave, exploiting the first moments of surprise to attack the most important ships present (the battleships), while dive bombers attacked U.S. air bases across Oahu, starting with Hickam Field, the largest, and Wheeler Field, the main U.S. Army Air Force fighter base. The 171 planes in the second wave attacked the Air Corps' Bellows Field near Kaneohe on the windward side of the island, and Ford Island. The only aerial opposition came from a handful of P-36 Hawks, P-40 Warhawks and some SBD Dauntless dive bombers from the carrier USS Enterprise.

Pacific Area - The Imperial Powers 1939 - Map

Pacific possessions at the start of the war.

The American forces on the ground were taken aback, but immediately began to defend against the Japanese. Thanks to the early warning from Oahu fighters were able to get into the air much faster, combating the Japanese above Pearl Harbor. The Japanese would strike a number of American ships in the harbor, severally damaging several ships, but ultimately the Japanese would be pushed back.

Ninety minutes after it began, the attack was over, as 1,593 Americans died (48 - 68 were civilians, most killed by unexploded American anti-aircraft shells landing in civilian areas), a further 859 wounded. Eight ships were sunk or run aground, including two battleships. Of the American fatalities, more than half of the total were due to the explosion of Arizona's forward magazine after it was hit by a modified 40 cm (16 in.) shell.


Concurrently with the attack in Hawaii, Japan launched similar attacks against the American bases on Guam and Wake Island. That same day Japanese forces would attack the British crown colony of Hong Kong, invaded the US controlled Commonwealth of the Philippines, invaded Thailand from bases in French Indochina, and invaded Malaya. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor eight American battleships were declared out of action.

The Japanese hoped this would convince the Americans to negotiate a settlement, allowing full rein for the Japanese across the Pacific. The Americans however immediately prepared for war. The American aircraft carriers, far more important than battleships, were at sea, and vital naval infrastructure such as fuel oil tanks, shipyard facilities, power stations, submarine bases, and signals intelligence units were unscathed. On 11 December the Netherlands declared war on Japan, followed by Australia the next day.

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