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The story about the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II

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The Attack on Pearl Harbor: How America Entered World War II

by Ryan Phelan 

The Attack on Pearl Harbor: How America Entered World War II

by: Ryan Phelan

This book is dedicated to Mrs. Jones and Ms. Mancuso for helping me learn how to use this program and helping me write my story

On American soil, this has rarely happened. Feeling safe is something Americans have felt for many years.  In an instant, all of that changed. America was attacked.  This attack ruined the lives of many people.  Therefore, family, friends, sons, daughters and even parents were killed.  Even though this led to the US winning World War II, this was one of the worst attacks ever on American soil.  

     Japan had been America’s foe for a while.  America had declined war because of its weak army.  After waiting and waiting, Japan finally took action. This is the story of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Early in 1940, the United States had not yet entered WWII.  On the other hand, China had been fighting with Japan. Furthermore, the Japanese government believed the only way to secure its economic growth was to expand into its neighboring territory, China.   US officials became furious when Japan seized part of China because the US and China were very close.

Angry Chinese protesters, are furiuos with Japan


In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, beginning World War II. Adolf Hitler, dictator of Nazi Germany, planned and executed vicious attacks on many countries. However, Japan was not one of the countries attacked. In other words, Japan and Germany became allies.  Fighting against Germany and Japan, were the Allied Powers which included France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. Alone, these forces were not enough to beat the big league Japanese army.  Who knows how the war would have ended if Germany and Japan had picked up more allies?

      Adolf Hitler and the Germans were one of the most insane armies ever.  For example, they went all over the world seizing land and killing people.  Specifically, Germany occupied a lot of Europe and North Africa.  No one could beat their armies.     




The powerful Nazi German army lining up for battle

In retaliation, the US along with other countries imposed sanctions on Japan. As a matter of fact, the US, Great Britain, and the Netherlands froze Japanese assets. This prevented Japan from buying oil, which meant over time the Japanese army would weaken because the Japanese would not be able to produce new weapons.Moreover, placing an embargo on Japan by prohibiting exports of scrap iron, steel, and aviation fuel was another step the US took against Japan. In addition, Japan and the US were inching towards war for years. Diplomatic efforts had kept the battle between the countries from escalating.  


Japan’s aggressive demeanor towards China was why the US was upset.  This was because the US and China had become allies.  America knew that if they sent aid to China, it would bring them closer to war with Japan. Furthermore, others believed that ignoring China would only make Japan a bigger foe. America had a tough decision, do nothing or intervene in the conflict.  What was the right decision?  In all honesty, Congress did not know what to do. In 1941, the US became allies with Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union and China.  Without help from the U.S., these forces were not enough to beat the big league Japanese and German armies.

Japan knew that in order to be successful, the attack had to be a complete surprise, like a surprise birthday party.  Nevertheless, this was an extremely risky move trying to sneak the Japanese attack force across the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese attack force consisted of six aircraft carriers, nine destroyers, two battleships, three cruisers, and three submarines.   

     The Japanese force had to move in a zig zag formation to avoid being detected.  Also, Japanese planes and ships also had to avoid the major shipping lanes.  After traveling for one and a half weeks over 4,000 miles, the attack formation was in place approximately 230 miles north of Oahu, a Hawaiian island.

American government officials had cracked the Japanese diplomatic code.  However, only Washington, D.C. knew an attack was coming.  Despite trying to hide, Japanese planes were spotted by radar in Washington, D.C.  Government officials tried to send an early warning, but no one received the message. Terror was about to fill the air.


Japanese attack planes off to Hawaii

The American Government officials at the time of the attack 

“Tora! Tora! Tora!” Vice Admiral of the Japanese Mitsuo Fuchida called out while the rest of the world heard “Boom!”   On December 7, 1941, a torpedo had closed in on Pearl Harbor, a Naval Base in Oahu, Hawaii. Under the order of Japanese Military Commander , Chuichi Nagumo, six aircrafts were sent to attack.  Flying left and right torpedoes and bombs were destroying ships and aircrafts.  Looking up at the sky, people saw a sea of smoke.  In addition, the Japanese sent two waves of attacks. One at 7:53 a.m. and one at 8:55 a.m. Discouraging the US from ever joining WWII was what the Japanese were trying to accomplish.

     So on this early Sunday morning as many people were still asleep in their bunks, eating breakfast in the mess halls or getting ready to go to Sunday services, Japanese planes were dropping bombs and firing shots.  At first, many thought this was a training exercise until the towers of smoke and massive explosions shocked them into reality.  America was under attack.

Tired of negotiating with the US, the Japanese decided to raid Pearl Harbor.  Thus, Japan wanted to expand its territory into Asia but because of the extremely restricted embargo the US placed on Japan they did not have the correct materials.  Rather to give in on US commands, Japan planned the surprise attack.  Before the official war announcements were made, Japan wanted to breakdown the US Navy.

Japan’s plan was straightforward: destroy the Pacific Fleet. By doing this, it would stop the US from fighting back. However, this plan backfired. The US armed forces quickly rebounded.  Particularly, the Pacific Fleet’s aircraft carriers were untouched because they were not present where the attack occurred.  Pearl Harbor’s vital facilities, like the fuel oil storage depot, were not damaged which helped in overcoming the fury of the Japanese.  Within minutes of the attack, several gunners grabbed their aircraft guns and tried to shoot the Japanese airplanes down.

     In addition, Japanese fighter planes were directed to strike the airfields as well,attempting to cripple the air force.  On these fields, the American planes were lined up wing to wing which made for easy targets. The Japanese bombed the planes and hangers destroying all in its path.  Several fighter pilots jumped into their planes trying to shoot the Japanese out of the sky but they were extremely outnumbered in the air.  That being the case, these pilots still managed to shoot several planes down.

“A date which will live in infamy”, Theodore Roosevelt later addressed to the world.  Theodore Roosevelt was the current US President.  Ships and aircrafts felt the complete storm of the Japanese army.   Receiving the most damage was the USS Arizona (a battleship).  It was absolutely destroyed. Twenty-three sets of brothers, and the whole entire band was lost. Once the bomb hit, the USS Arizona exploded and sank with many on board.  The USS Arizona alone became the grave sight of the lives of 1,300 people.  More importantly, almost 2,500 people were killed and over 1,000 were wounded on that horrific morning.  Although 18 fleet ships and 300 airplanes were destroyed, it did not cripple the Pacific Fleet.   

President Roosevelt's speech on December 8, 1941 

The USS Arizona crashing as bombs hit the deck

America was so surprised that Japan would attack on American soil.  First of all, it was very inconvenient.  Not to mention, Japan and Hawaii are about 4,000 miles away.  Also, American officials thought an attack would happen somewhere in nearby Europe or in one of the in the colonies in the South Pacific.  Some of the experts thought Japan would strike near these colonies: Dutch Indies, Singapore and Indochina. But, Japan’s decision to hit the US came as a shock to all.

     Why did Japan choose Pearl Harbor to attack?  This territory was great for Japan.  American militaries were not expecting an attack so close to home, the Naval facilities were undefended.  Not to mention, most of the Pacific Fleet was secured around Ford Island and hundreds of airplanes were on large fields. Almost all of their military transport equipment was not in sight.  To the Japanese, Pearl Harbor was an irresistible target.

By 9:45 a.m., almost two hours later, the last Japanese airplane left American air space.  The attack on Pearl Harbor was complete.  The Japanese attack force began its journey home, feeling as if they had won Giants and had just won the Super Bowl.

     After the attack, the US armed forces believed that Japanese airplanes had to land somewhere in Hawaii, so troops took position around all main Hawaiian islands. For this reason, barriers were placed on beaches. All Hawaiian airports were taken over by the army and private planes were grounded. Universities and schools were mobilized.   These were some of the steps the US took to ensure that there would be no other attacks from Japan, internally or externally.

Martial law was declared for Hawaii which included curfews, blackouts and censorship of newspapers and mail.  In addition, Japanese business were shut down in Hawaii and anyone of Japanese descent was rounded up and brought to detention centers.  The military wanted to make sure that all of the Japanese were locked up so they could not attack anywhere else. Because of this large attack, many tactics were put in play to stop anything else from happening.

“1500 dead in Hawaii, Congress votes war on Japan”, this was the headline of the New York Telegram on December 8, 1941.  On this day, President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.   Was President Roosevelt making the right decision for America?  Congress held a meeting to vote on if they should go to war with the Japanese.  All voted yes, except one, Jeanette Rankin, a representative of Montana. She was the first woman ever to be a part of Congress.  “As a woman I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.”  This was her famous quote when she was the only Congressmen to vote no.  Even though she opposed the war, it was not enough to stop it.  On December 8, 1941, the US declared war on Japan.  

The headline of newspaper on December 8, 1941

Jeanette Rankin, first woman in Congress

The next day, Germany and Italy then declared war on the US.  Congress was then asked to reciprocate.  These countries were trying to kick the US when they were down but the US were acting as strong as bulls and would not back down.  Congress again voted and declared war on Italy and Germany.  Based on the assault on Pearl Harbor, the US was forced to join the Allied Forces with China in order to defeat Japan, Germany and Italy.  

     The US did not want to go to war, having just coming back from World War I.  This deadly and horrific attack forced them to enter the war.  After two years, the United States finally entered World War II.

Map of Pearl Harbor Attacks

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Speech On December 8, 1941

In memory of the people who have died in the Pearl Harbor attack, every year on December 7, the US army puts a token of apperciation on every memorial.

An Attack Unlike Any Other



Oahu, Hawaii watched this attack happen horrified.  This attack ruined many lives of people who were fighting for our country.  Many heroes and innocent people died.  Even though on December 7, 1941 many people died this led us to winning World War II.  





About the Author


I hoped you liked my book.  I am a sixth grader in Westchester County.  I enjoy playing basketball, baseball, soccer and football.  My favorite foods are burgers, pizza, and wings.  Thank you!