Japanese launched a total of 353 aircraft in the attack.
eight battleships damaged during the attack, six returned
Five Japanese midget
submarines joined in the attack. None were effective. One
was found beached after the attack making its two-man crew
the first Japanese prisoners of war.
The surprise was complete. The attacking planes came in two waves;
the first hit its target at 7:53 AM, the second at 8:55. By 9:55
it was all over. By 1:00 PM the carriers that launched the planes
from 274 miles off the coast of Oahu were heading back to Japan.
Behind them they left chaos, 2,403 dead, 188 destroyed planes
and a crippled Pacific Fleet that included 8 damaged or destroyed
battleships. In one stroke
the Japanese action silenced the debate that had divided Americans
ever since the German defeat of France left England alone in the
fight against the Nazi terror.
Word of the attack reached President Roosevelt as he lunched in
his oval study on Sunday afternoon. Later, Winston Churchill
called to tell him that the Japanese had also attacked British
colonies in southeast Asia and that Britain would declare war the
next day. Roosevelt responded that he would go before Congress the
following day to ask for a declaration of war against Japan.
Churchill wrote: "To have the United States at our side was
to me the greatest joy. Now at this very moment I knew the United
States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we
had won after all!...Hitler's fate was sealed. Mussolini's fate
was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to
On Monday, FDR signed the declaration of war granted by
Congress. One day later both Germany and Italy, as partners of
Japan in the Tripartite Pact, declared war on the US.
Aboard the USS Arizona
The battleships moored along
"Battleship Row" are the primary target of the attack's
first wave. Ten minutes after the beginning of the attack a bomb
crashes through the Arizona's two armored decks igniting
its magazine. The explosion rips the ship's sides open like a tin
can starting a fire that engulfs the entire ship. Within minutes
she sinks to the bottom taking 1,300 lives with her. The sunken
ship remains as a memorial to those who sacrificed their lives
during the attack. Marine Corporal E.C. Nightingale was aboard the
Arizona that fateful Sunday morning:
approximately eight o'clock on the morning of December 7, 1941, I
was leaving the breakfast table when the ship's siren for air
defense sounded. Having no anti-aircraft battle station, I paid
little attention to it. Suddenly I heard an explosion. I ran to
the port door leading to the quarterdeck and saw a bomb strike a
barge of some sort alongside the NEVADA, or in that vicinity. The
marine color guard came in at this point saying we were being
attacked. I could distinctly hear machine gun fire. I believe at
this point our anti-aircraft battery opened up.
around awaiting orders of some kind. General Quarters sounded and
I started for my battle station in secondary aft. As I passed
through casement nine I noted the gun was manned and being trained
out. The men seemed extremely calm and collected. I reached the
boat deck and our anti-aircraft guns were in full action, firing
very rapidly. I was about three quarters of the way to the first
platform on the mast when it seemed as though a bomb struck our
quarterdeck. I could hear shrapnel or fragments whistling past me.
As soon as I reached the first platform, I saw Second Lieutenant
Simonson lying on his back with blood on his shirt front. I bent
over him and taking him by the shoulders asked if there was
anything I could do. He was dead, or so nearly so that speech was
impossible. Seeing there was nothing I could do for the
Lieutenant, I continued to my battle station.
"When I arrived in secondary aft I reported to Major
Shapley that Mr. Simonson had been hit and there was nothing to be
done for him. There was a lot of talking going on and I shouted
for silence which came immediately. I had only been there a short
time when a terrible explosion caused the ship to shake violently.
I looked at the boat deck and everything seemed aflame
forward of the mainmast. I reported to the Major that the ship was
aflame,which was rather needless, and after looking about, the
Major ordered us to leave.
"I was the last man to leave secondary aft because I
looked around and there was no one left. I followed the Major down
the port side of the tripod mast. The railings, as we ascended,
were very hot and as we reached the boat deck I noted that it was
torn up and burned. The bodies of the dead were thick, and badly
burned men were heading for the quarterdeck, only to fall
apparently dead or badly wounded. The Major and I went between No.
3 and No. 4 turret to the starboard side and found Lieutenant
Commander Fuqua ordering the men over the side and assisting the
wounded. He seemed exceptionally calm and the Major stopped and
they talked for a moment. Charred bodies were everywhere.
"I made my
way to the quay and started to remove my shoes when I suddenly
found myself in the water. I think the concussion of a bomb threw
me in. I started swimming for the pipe line which was about one
hundred and fifty feet away. I was about half way when my strength
gave out entirely. My clothes and shocked condition
sapped my strength, and I was about to go under when Major Shapley
started to swim by, and seeing my distress, grasped my shirt and
told me to hang to his shoulders while he swam in.
"We were perhaps twenty-five feet from the pipe line when
the Major's strength gave out and I saw he was floundering, so I
loosened my grip on him and told him to make it alone. He stopped
and grabbed me by the shirt and refused to let go. I would have
drowned but for the Major. We finally reached the beach where a
marine directed us to a bomb shelter, where I was given dry
clothes and a place to rest."
Lord, Walter, Day of Infamy (1957), Prange,
Gordon, At Dawn We Slept (1981), Wallin, VAdm. Homer N. Pearl
Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal (1968).
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