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On the morning of 7th December 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack against the US naval base on Hawaii, determined to prevent America from challenging their military operations in the Pacific. Described by President Roosevelt as ‘A date which will live in infamy’, the Japanese strike resulted in America entering the Second World War and bringing all her might to bear against the Axis forces.
As the Japanese task force steamed towards Hawaii, they were still fearful of detection by the significant US forces stationed on the island – whilst still 274 miles off the coast of Oahu, they launched the first of two devastating aerial attacks. Arriving over the Island just before 8am, the initial strikes came without warning and were virtually unopposed by American forces – Japanese strike aircraft headed for Battleship Row and the US Pacific Fleet.
The next two hours would change the course of history and see America suffer terrible losses, whilst ultimately securing their eventual victory. Two key factors would influence the historical outcome of this attack – firstly, the aircraft carriers of the US Pacific Fleet were at sea during the attack and secondly, the Japanese decided not to launch a third attack wave, which would have been aimed at finding these carriers and also destroying the critical US naval infrastructure facilities at Pearl Harbor.
As a shocked American public came to terms with the enormity of this attack, their desire for retribution and eventual victory proved to be overwhelming. Japanese Admiral Hara Tadaichi later commented, ‘We won a great tactical victory at Pearl Harbor and thereby lost the war’ – he was to be proven right.