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An Attack That Changed the World

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Attack On Pearl Harbor

Attack On Pearl Harbor

By: Peyton Schales


By: Peyton Schales


Copyright 2016 - Peyton Schales

     At the same time in Asia, Japan had been killing countless Chinese and other Asians, angering the U.S. and other countries. Tension rose between the U.S and Japan throughout the 1930s and the Japanese people said they would die for their Emperor Hirohito  The United States decided to provide military assistance to China because they feared the expansion of Japan.  


     The United States had not wanted to be involved in the war because they believed that the Allies would defeat the Axis Powers and there was no point in going to war.  Also, combined with the American casualties of World War I, and the impact of the Great Depression, made the American people switch to isolationism.  In contrast, American president Franklin D. Roosevelt believed the U.S. should fight in the war


     Even though Europe had already been badly destroyed during World War I, Germany and Italy were fighting against many of the other countries.  But it seemed as if only Great Britain even stood a chance against  Germany.  


     The Allies were good countries and fought to stop the Axis Powers.

     During 1939, the most immense war of all time was going on throughout most of the world, World War II.  The war was between the Axis Powers and the Allies.  Adolf Hitler of Germany, one of the Axis Powers, wanted every single jewish person dead. 

     In the early 1940s, Japan wanted to invade Malaya and The Dutch East Indies for natural resources because the United States had cut off their exports to Japan because they were destroying so many Asian countries.  The U.S. Pacific Fleet was very strong and was located in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  In order to protect the move into Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, Japan had to plan an attack.   Japan decided  that they would neutralize and cripple the U.S fleet.

     Americans had always been suspicious an attack might come but they thought it would be in the Philippines.  Therefore, they weren’t worried about Pearl Harbor.

                                       Map of the Philippines

The United States has always had a strong military power.  Currently, it has the strongest military force in the world.  

     Japan believed this attack would be necessary to protect the move to the "Southern Resource Area" which were countries like the Dutch East Indies.

     When Japan planned their attack, they made sure it was early morning at 7:55 A.M. on Sunday because they expected the Americans to be less alert.  When the attack came, nobody was aware that they were in danger because the message couldn't arrive before the Japanese Fleet.

     Japan sent a message to Washington D.C. and requested their ambassadors stop peace discussions.  Six large aircraft carriers named Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku, and Zuikaku were to attack Pearl Harbor, the naval base for the U.S Pacific Fleet.  In total, there were 408 planes to attack.  But only 360 planes would go and bomb.  Forty-eight would stay for defense.  


The Attack is Coming

     When the first bomb came, everyone thought it was just a military test.  But Lieutenant Commander Logan Ramsey ran out and saw it was not a drill.  He saw the Japanese symbol on a plane.  The Japanese!  He went on a radio and clamored “Air raid. Pearl Harbor.  This is NOT a drill!”

     The naval station at Kaneohe bay was one of the first places to be attacked.  John Finn the chief ordnance officer of Kaneohe bay was in bed and like everyone else, was completely unaware.  A women came to his door and told him he was needed at the hangar.  He grabbed a machine gun and fired at the Japanese planes.  Finn was hit over 20 times by the Japanese and still didn’t back down!  A year later, he was awarded with the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery and shooting down at least one Japanese plane.


     At another part of the base, the leader of the attack group Zeros, Japanese pilot lieutenant Shiga, was flabbergasted by what he saw.  A U.S marine stood shooting at Shiga’s plane as it flew past even when Shiga was shooting at him.  The man didn’t dive for cover but tried to shoot down a Japanese plane.  Shiga later said he was by far the bravest American he had ever seen.  

The Japanese Are Here

     The first wave of the Japanese attack contained three groups. The first one was to attack Battle ships and Aircraft Carriers. The second group would attack Ford Island and Wheeler Field. The third group would target Ford Island, Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, Barber’s Point and Kaneohe.  

     The second wave of the Japanese airplanes would also come in three groups.  The first one didn’t have big targets and was general bombing.  The second group attacks Aircraft Carriers and Battle Ships, like the first wave’s first group.  The last group attacks the same as group 3 of the first wave, Ford Island, Wheeler Field, Hickam Field, Barber’s Point and Kaneohe.

What was it like to be under attack?  What did the people think as the planes with the Japanese emblem started to appear?

      Even if battleships were the most important and strongest ship at the base, Japan did not ignore smaller targets.  The destroyers, minelayers, light cruisers and repair vessels were attacked too!  


     Luckily for the Americans, the aircraft carriers weren’t at the base during the attack or the U.S fleet would have been destroyed even more severely.

     Major Alan Shapley of the Arizona was blown off the battleship from the big explosions.  He saw another sailor named Earl Nightingale who was struggling in the water and working to stay afloat and not drown.  But Nightingale couldn’t do it.  Right when he thought he would drown, Major Alan Shapley told him to hold onto him while Shapley swam to shore.  After that, the Silver Star Medal was awarded to Major Shapley for his bravery and heroism

     All the batttleships and most of the other war ships were bombed.  The battleship USS Arizona screamed as a modified shell and four armor piercing torpedos hit it causing half the fatalaties of the attack.  The USS Nevada raced as fast as it could tried to get out of the harbor  but was unable to and intentionally beached in an effort not to block the exit.  The USS California yelped as it was hit by two bombs and two torpedos and sank.  The Oklahoma was hit by four torpedos, the last one tearing away the rudder. The Tennessee was hurt by bombs.  The West Verginia was hit by two bombs and seven torpedos, then it sank.  The Pennsylvania was hit by a couple of bombs but managed to stay afloat.  All the battleships were hit badly except for the Maryland which suffered minor damage from two converted shells.  

     Pearl Harbor survivor Clark Simmons says: "When I first went down to what they call a battle station, we all were frightened. We didn’t know what was going on. But we knew the ship was taking water in and there was no way to close the water tight was just a matter of time before the ship was going to sink. And actually it took 8 minutes…" 

    Another person who survived the attack named Horace D. Warden described what he experienced "The first thing I remember was the sound of firing and then they called general quarters. We were not a large ship so we were not immediately threatened. After the Japanese delivered their bombs on the large ships they had to come up over us."

     Also, Carl Carson said "Well, I was out on deck doing the morning chores, which you did every morning… all of a sudden, this plane come along, and [I] didn’t pay much attention to it; because planes were landing at Ford Island all the time. And all of a sudden, the chips started flying all around me and the plane – it was strafing me…"

    Pearl Harbor nurse Madelyn Blonskey said "As I stepped out of the nurses’ quarters, I had an awful feeling. Usually, the smell of gardenias and hibiscus from the garden was delightful. But I smelled the odor of sulfur and burning oil. I heard some buzzing above me. There were about twenty very small planes, flying low, almost touching the treetops." 

  • American anti-aircraft had improved a lot during the second wave.  He feared that he was risking three quarters of his fleet to destroy as much of Pearl harbor as possible

  • He couldn't find the aircraft carriers and were afraid that they could now be in range of being destroyed.

  • A third wave would take so much time that they would have to land the planes at night which would be a substantial risk.

  • He was beginning to run out of fuel and might not make it back home.

  • Nagumo believed that the second wave had completed his task: to neutralize the U.S Pacific Fleet.  He did not want to risk the lives of any more Japanese soldiers.

     The reason why there was no third wave is because the attack leader Nagumo thought it would be bad to launch a third wave, even if all captains on the ships were willing to carry out a third strike and high ranked soldiers Fuchida and Genda urged Nagumo to attack again because they thought it would be necessary to destroy as much of Pearl Harbor as possible.  But Nagumo did not think it would be good because:


     Many people feared a third wave would be coming, but none came. The devastating attack finished in 90 minutes.


What about the Japanese pilot thoughts?  What was each pilot thinking about?  Did he want to fire and slaughter every American in sight and turn the rivers and ocean red with blood or did he want to stick the the battleships and weaponry to not destroy too many lot of lives?



     With 2403 americans dead and 1178 others wounded, the United States would not be an isolationist country anymore.  Soon, The United States declared war on Japan, this made Japan's biggest allies, Germany and Italy, declare war on the United State too.

     Pearl harbor was destroyed so badly that it seemed hopeless.   But Nagumo had not completed his task.  He didn’t neutralize the fleet.  He only made the Americans angry, like Yamamoto said.


     Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto thought it was a mistake to attack the U.S and announced “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve."  And he was right.  America was extremely powerful, and they hadn’t previously been involved in the war.  The attack was a massive, substantial mistake.


     The attack had severely crippled the U.S. Fleet but the aircraft carriers were away during the attack.  So America’s most important ships were still safe and could be used later.


After the Attack

The day after the attack, President Roosevelt proclaimed “Yesterday, December seventh 1941 --A date which will live in infamy-- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”



     The Empire of Japan was losing to the United States but the problem was that Emperor Hirohito of Japan wouldn't surrender. Therefore, people wouldn't want to surrender because the Emperor was viewed as a god to most of them

   The United States began to attack the Empire of Japan. Although the forces of Japan were strong, they couldn't defeat the "Awakened Giant".  

   The United States of America united with the Allies to help  defeat the Axis Powers.  Great Britain was glad and relieved that they finally had the United States fighting together.

     The United States needed to get Japan to surrender or they would never win.  They attacked and attacked.  But didn't get Japan to surrender.  The United States had begun to design the atomic bomb, the most destructive weapon ever imagined.

     Battle Ship exploding


 At last, Emperor Hirohito surrendered.  The War in the Pacific was over.

   The Atomic bombs, Little Boy and Fatman, were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The bombs were so devastating, it wiped out nearly everything for miles.

The Atomic Bomb Fatman

     Even after the atomic bomb, several military officers tried to steal the surrender message so that they could keep fighting.  Fortunately, it was already taken out before the officers could get it.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed the United States from an isolationist country to one actively involved in the world.  This continues to be true until now.  Pearl Harbor was therefore a defining moment for both the United States and the world.



World War I Ends



World War II Begins

Timeline of Events 

Pearl Harbor is attacked by Japan



Atomic Bombs are dropped on cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki

World War II ends


Present Day


Axis Powers- A group of countries who opposed the Allies in World War II.  They were made up of: Germany, Italy, Japan, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania.


Allies- A group of countries that opposed the Axis Powers in World War II.  They were made up of: United States, Great Britain, China, Netherlands, France and the Soviet Union.


Tension- The state of being stretched tight.


Neutralize- render (something) ineffective or harmless by applying an opposite force or effect.


Strafing- Attack repeatedly with bombs or machine guns from a low flying aircraft



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