Remembering the Day of Infamy

On Sunday, December 7, 1941, at 7:55 a.m., the Imperial Government of Japan attacked the U.S. military forces at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Approximately 360 Japanese planes attacked military installations on the island.

The assault lasted nearly two hours. When it was over sources estimated that more than 2,300 U.S. military personnel had been killed. Overwhelming death and destruction was everywhere. Enemy aircraft came out of the sky with their guns blazing. People living on the island were like sitting ducks in a pool: targets with no place to go. When the smoke cleared one could see that the harbor was an inferno with men attempting to jump to safety from burning and sinking ships.

Eight battleships had been destroyed or severely damaged, along with three light cruisers, three destroyers, and other vessels. The Arizona took with her a crew of 1,177 - and those brave men will remain forever entombed on the Arizona in the waters of Pearl Harbor. At least 170 planes were also destroyed in the attack.

The bombing was a complete surprise! Only a few weeks earlier, a Japanese envoy, Saburo Kurusu, visited the U.S. to negotiate with the Secretary of State. They discussed Japanese troops in Indochina, Japanese exploits into the British and Dutch East Indies and the Philippine Islands, and Japanese assets frozen by the United States.

While these discussions were going on, a Japanese fleet of 33 naval vessels and a carrier-borne air force of 360 planes was steaming toward the Hawaiian Islands. Why weren't the aircraft detected by radar?

Some accounts report that radar did pick up incoming aircraft, but this information was ignored because officers on duty thought they were American B-17s arriving from the mainland. It was a quiet Sunday morning and many military personnel were ashore for the weekend and others were still asleep on their ships. Most of the 780 anti-aircraft guns were not manned.

The tropical paradise island became a graveyard to thousands and the events of the prior day signaled the entrance of the United States into a war with Japan and her allies Germany and Italy. Those were dark days for this country and WWII was the most devastating war in history.

Over the radio, President Roosevelt informed the American people of the brutal attack on our sovereignty. He asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan and that all Americans come together to mobilize for war. Roosevelt called December 7, 1941, "A DATE THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY."

To learn more about the events of this day consult all reference sources available to you and find the answers to these questions:

1. Who was the U.S. Secretary of State at this time?
2. Who were the commanders of the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy at Oahu?
3. Who was the admiral of the Japanese fleet?
4. History has shown that the loss of so many battleships at Pearl Harbor was not so devastating to the American war effort. Why?
5. Six months later the American Navy inflicted serious damage to the Japanese fleet. Where did this occur?
6. Who was the only member of the U.S. Congress who refused to approve the declaration of war against Japan?

1. Cordell Hull
2. Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Walter Scott. Both were relieved of their duty after the attack.
3. Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku - he planned and directed the attack.
4. As the war progressed it was clear that battleships were no longer the major components of the modern naval fleet. They had seen their day. This would be a war of aircraft carriers, and no U.S. carriers were at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
5. Midway Island.
6. Rep. Jeannette Rankin (Montana).

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