What Caused The Attack On Pearl Harbor – When Japanese bombers appeared in the skies over Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, the U.S. military was completely unprepared for the devastating surprise attack that dramatically changed the course of World War II, especially in the Pacific theater. But there were several key reasons for the bombing that, in retrospect, made it seem almost inevitable.
Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, tensions between Japan and the United States had been rising for the better part of a decade.
What Caused The Attack On Pearl Harbor
The island nation of Japan, isolated from the rest of the world for most of its life, began a period of aggressive expansion near the turn of the 20th century. Two successful wars, against China in 1894-95 and the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05, fueled these ambitions, as did Japan’s successful participation in World War I (1914-18) alongside the Allies.
The Attack On Pearl Harbor: The Second Wave
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Japan attempted to solve its economic and demographic problems by making inroads into China, beginning in 1931 with an invasion of Manchuria. When a commission appointed by the League of Nations condemned the invasion, Japan withdrew from the international organization; it would occupy Manchuria until 1945.
In July 1937, a clash on the Marco Polo Bridge in Beijing started a new Sino-Japanese war. In December, after Japanese forces captured Nanking (Nanjing), the capital of the Chinese Nationalist Party, or Guomindang (Guomindang), they proceeded to carry out six weeks of mass murder and rape, now infamously known as the Nanjing Massacre.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese military launched a surprise attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. The attack killed 2,403 servicemen and wounded another 1,178 and sank or destroyed six American ships. They also destroyed 169 US Navy and Army Air Corps aircraft.
Japanese torpedo bombers flew only 50 feet above the water as they fired on the US ships in the harbor while other planes strafed the decks with bullets and dropped bombs.
Pearl Harbor: A Short History Before Dec. 7, 1941
A sailor stands among wrecked planes at Ford Island Air Force Base as he watches the USS Shaw explode.
A sailor runs for cover past burning wreckage struck by dive bombers that had already blown up Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field at Naval Station Kaneohe Bay.
Blasted into a pile of junk by the Japanese in a secret raid on December 7, the battleship USS Arizona lies in the mud at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Three of the Dread Naught’s guns, left, protrude from an almost completely submerged turret. The control tower tilts at a dangerous angle.
A cork life jacket with a white canvas cover from the battleship USS Arizona after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Timeline, Facts And Stats Of The Attack On Pearl Harbor
Japanese forces trained for about a year to prepare for the attack. The Japanese attack force, which included six aircraft carriers and 420 aircraft, sailed from Hitokapu Bay in the Kuril Islands on a 3,500-mile journey to a staging area 230 miles off the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
This Dec. 7 file photo shows an aerial view of US Pacific Fleet battleships engulfed in flames at Pearl Harbor after 360 Japanese warplanes launched a massive surprise attack.
A damaged B-17C Flying Fortress bomber sits on the tarmac near Hangar Number 5 at Hickam Field after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
In a flooded dry dock, the destroyer Cassin lies partially submerged and abutting another destroyer, the Downes. The battleship Pennsylvania, shown in the rear, remains relatively undamaged.
Fact Check: Military Limitations Stopped Japanese Invasion, Not Guns
Two servicemen sit on the remains of a bomber, surrounded by dirt and sandbags, at Hickam Field after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii.
The wreckage of a Japanese torpedo plane shot down during the December 7 surprise attack is salvaged from the bottom of Pearl Harbor, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, January 7, 1942.
Military personnel pay their respects at the mass grave of 15 officers and others killed in the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A US flag hangs over the caskets.
May 1942: Servicemen at Kaneohe Naval Air Station, Hawaii, place lei on the graves of their comrades killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Graves were dug along the Pacific coast. Ulupa’U Crater at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe can be seen in the background.
Why Did Japan Decide To Attack Pearl Harbor?
In light of such atrocities, the United States began imposing economic sanctions on Japan, including a trade embargo on the export of aircraft, oil, and scrap metal, among other key commodities, and provided economic support to the Guomindang forces. In September 1940, Japan signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy, the two fascist regimes then at war with the Allies.
Tokyo and Washington negotiated for months leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack, without success. While the United States hoped that the embargo on oil and other key commodities would make Japan stop its expansionism, the sanctions and other punishments actually convinced Japan to stand its ground and angered its people against continued Western interference in Asian affairs.
For Japan, war with the United States seemed inevitable to protect its status as a major world power. With the odds stacked against them, their only chance was the element of surprise.
Japanese Army copyright links are proud to submit this bombing photo of the Akiyama Squadron of Japanese aircraft as they bomb a target in China. The scene changed and then Japanese bombers flew over the US Pacific Islands and bombs like these left the planes targeting the Pearl Harbor Naval Base and other strategic US defense points in the Pacific.
Pearl Harbor As Metaphor
In May 1940, the United States made Pearl Harbor the main base for its Pacific Fleet. Since the Americans did not expect the Japanese to attack first in Hawaii, some 4,000 miles from the Japanese mainland, the base at Pearl Harbor was left relatively undefended, making it an easy target.
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto spent months planning an attack intended to destroy the Pacific Fleet and destroy the morale of the American fleet so that it could not strike back when Japanese forces began to advance on targets in the South Pacific.
Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor would lead the United States out of isolation and into World War II, a conflict that would end with Japan’s surrender after the devastating atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
At first, however, the attack on Pearl Harbor looked like a success for Japan. His bombers hit all eight American battleships, sank four and damaged four others, destroyed or damaged more than 300 aircraft, and killed about 2,400 Americans at Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor Timeline: Events That Led Up To 1941 Attack On Us
Japanese forces went on to capture a series of current and former Western colonial possessions until early 1942—including Burma (now Myanmar), British Malaya (Malaysia and Singapore), the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), and the Philippines—which gave them access to the islands’ abundant natural resources, including oil and rubber.
But the Pearl Harbor attack failed in its goal of completely destroying the Pacific Fleet. The Japanese bombers missed oil tanks, ammunition depots, and repair facilities, and not a single American aircraft carrier was present during the attack. In June 1942, this failure began to haunt the Japanese as American forces scored a major victory at the Battle of Midway, decisively turning the tide of the war in the Pacific.
Journey through ‘the day that will live in infamy’, exploring the details that still surprise us 75 years later, including accounts from experts, military minds and even those who lived through it. History » World War II » Pearl Harbor » Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor? Comprehensive analysis
After more than 75 years, the question remains for students of World War II history: Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?
Intelligence, Japanese Attack On Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor ranks as the most successful surprise military attack in the early years of combined naval/air combat. On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 directly caused America’s entry into World War II, leading to the eventual dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an outcome that spelled disaster for the Japanese. The Japanese managed to damage almost 20 American naval vessels, including 8 large battleships, 200 aircraft, and killed over 2,000 Americans, but why did the Japanese attack America in the first place? And what exactly were they trying to achieve by attacking Pearl Harbor?
The US and Japan have been at odds for decades, and it was inevitable that things would eventually culminate in war. Japan had imperial ambitions to expand into China to solve some demographic and economic problems and take over the Chinese import market. When in 1937 Japan decided to declare war on China, America was strongly opposed to this aggression and responded with a trade embargo and economic sanctions. In particular, the oil embargo that America organized with the British and the Dutch was a thorn in the side of Japan, which imported 90% of its oil. Without oil, the Japanese military could not function and any military effort could