Attack on Pearl Harbor

Attack on Pearl Harbor

Part of the Pacific Theater of World War II

Photograph from a Japanese aircraft of Pearl Harbor including Battleship Row at the beginning of the attack. The explosion in the center is a torpedo strike on the USS West Virginia


December 7, 1941


Primarily Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, USA


Clear Japanese tactical victory; strategic and grand strategic failure; United States declares war on the Empire of Japan; Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy declare war on the United States.


 United States

Flag of Japan Empire of Japan


Flag of the United States Husband Kimmel
Flag of the United States Walter Short

Flag of Japan Chuichi Nagumo
Naval air force:
Flag of Japan Mitsuo Fuchida (first wave)
Flag of Japan Shigekazu Shimazaki (second wave)


8 battleships,
8 cruisers,
30 destroyers,
4 submarines,
49 other ships,
~390 aircraft

Mobile Unit:
6 aircraft carriers,
2 battleships,
2 heavy cruisers,
1 light cruiser,
9 destroyers,
8 tankers,
23 fleet submarines,
5 midget submarines,
414 aircraft

Casualties and losses

5 battleships sunk,
2 destroyers sunk, 1 damaged
1 other ship sunk, 3 damaged
3 battleships damaged,
3 cruisers damaged
188 aircraft destroyed, 155 aircraft damaged,
2,345 military and 57 civilians killed,
1,247 military and 35 civilians wounded

4 midget submarines sunk,
1 midget submarine run aground,
29 aircraft destroyed,
55 airmen, 9 submariners killed and 1 captured

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The attack on Pearl Harbor (or Hawaii Operation, as it was called by the Imperial General Headquarters) was a surprise military strike conducted by the Japanese navy against the United States’ naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, later resulting in the United States becoming militarily involved in World War II. It was intended as a preventive action to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from influencing the war Japan was planning to wage in Southeast Asia against Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States. The attack consisted of two aerial attack waves totaling 353 aircraft, launched from six Japanese aircraft carriers.

The attack sank four U.S. Navy battleships (two of which were raised and returned to service late in the war) and damaged four more. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, and one minelayer, destroyed 188 aircraft, and caused personnel losses of 2,402 killed and 1,282 wounded. The power station, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section) were not hit. Japanese losses were minimal, at 29 aircraft and five midget submarines, with 65 servicemen killed or wounded.

The strike was intended to neutralize the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and hence protect Japan’s advance into Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, where Japan sought access to natural resources such as oil and rubber. Both the U.S. and Japan held long-standing contingency plans for war in the Pacific which were continuously updated as tensions between the two countries steadily increased during the 1930s, with the Japanese expansion into Manchuria and French Indochina greeted by steadily increased levels of embargoes and sanctions from the United States and other nations.

In 1940, under the authority granted by the Export Control Act, the U.S. halted shipments of airplanes, parts, machine tools, and aviation gasoline, which was perceived by Japan as an unfriendly act. The U.S. did not stop oil exports to Japan at that time in part because prevailing sentiment in Washington was that such an action would be an extreme step, given Japanese dependence on U.S. oil, and likely to be considered a provocation by Japan.

Following Japanese expansion into French Indochina after the fall of France, the U.S. ceased oil exports to Japan in the Summer of 1941, in part because of new American restrictions on domestic oil consumption. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had earlier moved the Pacific Fleet to Hawaii and ordered a military buildup in the Philippines in the hope of discouraging Japanese aggression in the Far East. As the Japanese high command was (mistakenly) certain any attack on the United Kingdom’s Southeast Asian colonies would bring the U.S. into the war, a preventive strike appeared to be the only way for Japan to avoid U.S. naval interference. An invasion of the Philippines was also considered to be necessary by Japanese war plans, while for the U.S., reconquest of the islands had been a given of War Plan Orange in the interwar years.

While the attack accomplished its intended objective, it was completely unnecessary. Unbeknownst to Isoroku Yamamoto, who conceived the original plan, the U.S. Navy had decided as far back as 1935 to abandon ‘charging’ across the Pacific towards the Philippines in response to an outbreak of war (in keeping with the evolution of Plan Orange). The U.S. instead adopted "Plan Dog" in 1940, which emphasized keeping the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) out of the eastern Pacific and away from the shipping lanes to Australia while the U.S. concentrated on defeating Nazi Germany.

The attack was an important engagement of World War II. Unintentionally occurring before a formal declaration of war (which had been scheduled to be delivered shortly prior to the attack beginning), it pushed U.S. public opinion from isolationism to the acceptance of participation in the war being unavoidable. The lack of warning led Roosevelt to call it "a date which will live in infamy."

Background to conflict

War between Japan and the United States had been a possibility each nation had been aware of (and developed contingency plans for) since the 1920s, though tensions did not begin to grow seriously until Japan’s 1931 invasion of Manchuria. Over the next decade, Japan continued to expand into China, leading to all out war in 1937. In 1940, Japan invaded French Indochina in both an effort to control supplies reaching China, and as a first step to improve her access to resources in Southeast Asia. This move prompted an American embargo on oil exports to Japan, which in turn caused the Japanese to initiate its planned takeover of oil production in the Dutch East Indies. Furthermore, the transfer of the U.S. Pacific Fleet from its previous base in San Diego to its new base in Pearl Harbor was seen by the Japanese military as the U.S. readying itself for a potential conflict between the two countries.

Pearl Harbor on October 30, 1941.

Preliminary planning for an attack on Pearl Harbor to protect the move into the "Southern Resource Area" (the Japanese term for the East Indies and Southeast Asia generally) had begun in very early 1941, under the auspices of Admiral Yamamoto, then commanding Japan’s Combined Fleet.[16] He won assent to formal planning and training for an attack from the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff only after much contention with Naval Headquarters, including a threat to resign his command. Full-scale planning was underway by early spring 1941, primarily by Captain Minoru Genda. Over the next several months, pilots trained, equipment was adapted, and intelligence collected. Despite these preparations, actual approval of the attack plan was not issued by Emperor Shōwa until November 5, after the third of four Imperial Conferences to consider the matter. Final authorization was not given by the emperor until December 1, after a majority of Japanese leaders advised him the "Hull Note" would "destroy the fruits of the China incident, endanger Manchukuo and undermine Japanese control of Korea." By late 1941 U.S. Pacific bases and facilities had been placed on alert on multiple occasions, with hostilities between the U.S. and Japan expected by many observers. U.S. officials doubted Pearl Harbor would be the first target in any war with Japan, instead expecting the Philippines to be attacked first due to the threat it posed to sea lanes to the south and the erroneous belief that Japan was not capable of mounting more than one major naval operation at a time.

There has been ongoing controversy due to allegations made by conspiracy theorists that some members of the Roosevelt administration had advance knowledge of the attack, and that this was purposefully ignored in order to gain public and Congressional support for the U.S. entering WWII on the side of the British Empire.


The attack had several major aims. First, it was supposed to destroy American fleet units, thereby preventing the Pacific Fleet from interfering with Japanese conquest of the Dutch East Indies. Second, it was a means to buy time for Japan to consolidate her position and increase her naval strength, before the shipbuilding of the Vinson-Walsh Act erased any chance of victory. Finally, It was intended as a blow against American morale, which might discourage further fighting and enable Japan to conquer Southeast Asia without interference.

Making battleships the main target was a means of striking at morale, since they were the prestige ships of any navy at the time. Because both Japanese and American strategic thinking and doctrine was derived from the work of Captain Alfred Mahan,[26] which held battleships were decisive in naval warfare, it was also a means of striking at the fighting power of the Pacific Fleet; if it succeeded, it meant the ultimate Pacific battle ("decisive battle", in Japanese Navy thinking), which would inevitably be fought by battleships, would be postponed, if not prevented entirely.

Japanese confidence in their ability to achieve a short, victorious war also meant other targets in the harbor, especially the Navy Yard, oil tank farms, and Submarine Base, could safely be ignored, since the war would be over before the influence of these facilities would be felt.

Approach and attack

Route followed by the Japanese fleet to Pearl Harbor and back

On November 26, 1941, a Japanese task force (the Kido Butai, or Striking Force) of six aircraft carriers departed northern Japan en route
to a position to northwest of Hawaii, intending to launch its aircraft
to attack Pearl Harbor. In all, 405 aircraft were intended to be used:
360 for the two attack waves, 48 on defensive combat air patrol (CAP), including nine fighters from the first wave.

The first wave was to be the primary attack, while the second wave was to finish whatever tasks remained. The first wave contained the bulk of the weapons to attack capital ships, mainly torpedoes. The aircrews were ordered to select the highest value targets (battleships and aircraft carriers) or, if either were not present, any other high value ships (cruisers and destroyers). Dive bombers were to attack ground targets. Fighters were ordered to strafe and destroy as many parked aircraft as possible to ensure they did not get into the air to counterattack the bombers, especially in the first wave. When the fighters’ fuel got low they were to refuel at the aircraft carriers and return to combat. Fighters were to serve CAP duties where needed, especially over US airfields.

Before the attack commenced, two reconnaissance aircraft launched from cruisers were sent to scout over Oahu and report on enemy fleet composition and location. Another four scout planes patrolled the area between the Kido Butai and Niihau, in order to prevent the task force from being caught by a surprise counterattack.


Fleet submarines I-16, I-18, I-20, I-22, and I-24 each embarked a Type A midget submarine for transport to the waters off Oahu. The five I-boats left Kure Naval District on 25 November 1941, coming to 10 nm (19 km) off the mouth of Pearl Harbor and launched their charges, at about 01:00 7 December. At 03:42 Hawaiian Time, the minesweeper USS Condor spotted a midget submarine periscope southwest of the Pearl Harbor entrance buoy and alerted destroyer USS Ward. That midget probably entered Pearl Harbor, but Ward sank another at 06:37. A midget on the north side of Ford Island missed Curtiss with her first torpedo and missed the attacking Monaghan with her other one before being sunk by Monaghan at 08:43.

A third midget submarine grounded twice, once outside the harbor entrance and again on the east side of Oahu, where it was captured on 8 December. Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki swam ashore from her and became the first Japanese prisoner of war. A fourth had been damaged by a depth charge attack and abandoned by its crew before it could fire its torpedoes. A United States Naval Institute analysis of photographs from the attack conducted in 1999 indicated a midget may have successfully fired a torpedo into USS West Virginia. Japanese forces received a radio communications from a midget submarine at 00:41 8 December claiming damage to one or more large war vessels inside Pearl Harbor. That submarine’s final disposition is unknown.

Japanese declaration of war

While the attack ultimately took place before a formal declaration of war by Japan, Admiral Yamamoto originally stipulated the attack should not commence until thirty minutes after Japan had informed the United States she considered the peace negotiations at an end. In this way, the Japanese tried both to uphold the conventions of war as well as achieving surprise. Despite these intentions, the attack had already begun when the 5,000-word notification was delivered. Tokyo transmitted the message to the Japanese embassy, which ultimately took too long transcribing the message to deliver it in time, while U.S. codebreakers had already deciphered and translated it some nine hours before the Japanese embassy was scheduled to deliver it. While sometimes described as a declaration of war, "this dispatch neither declared war nor severed diplomatic relations". The declaration of war was printed in the front page of Japanese newspapers in the evening edition on December 8th.

First wave

The Japanese attacked in two waves. The first wave was detected by U.S.
Army radar at 136  nautical miles (252 km), but was
misidentified as USAAF bombers arriving from mainland U.S.A.
A. Ford Island NAS B. Hickam Field C. Bellows Field D. Wheeler Field
E. Kaneohe NAS F. Ewa MCAS R-1. Opana Radar Station R-2. Kawailoa RS R-3. Kaaawa RS
G. Haleiwa H. Kahuku I. Wahiawa J. Kaneohe K. Honolulu
0. B-17s from mainland 1. First strike group 1-1. Level bombers 1-2.
Torpedo bombers 1-3. Dive bombers 2. Second strike group 2-1. Level
bombers 2-1F. Fighters 2-2. Dive bombers
A. Wake Island B. Midway Islands C. Johnston Island D. Hawaii
D-1. Oʻahu 1. USS Lexington 2. USS Enterprise 3. First Air Fleet

Attacked targets:

  1. USS California
  2. USS Maryland
  3. USS Oklahoma
  4. USS Tennessee
  5. USS West Virginia
  6. USS Arizona
  7. USS Nevada
  8. USS Pennsylvania
  9. Ford Island NAS
  10. Hickam field

Ignored infrastructure targets:

  1. Oil storage tanks
  2. CINCPAC headquarters building
  3. Submarine base
  4. Navy Yard

The first attack wave of 183 planes was launched north of O’ahu, commanded by Captain Mitsuo Fuchida. Six planes failed to launch due to technical difficulties. It included:

  • 1st Group (targets: battleships and aircraft carriers)
    • 50 Nakajima B5N bombers armed with 800 kg (1760 lb) armor piercing bombs, organised in four sections
    • 0 B5N bombers armed with Type 91 torpedoes, also in four sections
  • 2nd Group — (targets: Ford Island and Wheeler Field)
    • 54 Aichi D3A dive bombers armed with 550 lb (249 kg) general purpose bombs
  • 3rd Group — (targets: aircraft at Ford Island, Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, Barber’s Point, Kaneohe)
    • 45 Mitsubishi A6M fighters for air control and strafing

As the first wave approached O’ahu a U.S. Army SCR-270 radar at Opana Point near the island’s northern tip (a post not yet operational, having been
in training mode for months) detected them and called in a warning.
Although the operators reported a target echo larger than anything they
had ever seen, an untrained officer at the new and only partially
activated Intercept Center, Lieutenant Kermit A. Tyler,
presumed the scheduled arrival of six B-17 bombers was the source. The
direction from which the aircraft were coming was close (only a few
degrees separated the two inbound courses), while the operators had never seen a formation as large as the U.S. bombers on radar. It is also possible the operators had only seen the lead element of the incoming attack.

Several U.S. aircraft were shot down as the first wave approached
land, and one at least radioed a somewhat incoherent warning. Other
warnings from ships off the harbor entrance were still being processed
or awaiting confirmation when the attacking planes began bombing and
strafing. Nevertheless it is not clear any warnings would have had much
effect even if they had been interpreted correctly and much more
promptly. The results the Japanese achieved in the Philippines were essentially the same as at Pearl Harbor, though MacArthur had almost nine hours warning that the Japanese had already attacked at
Pearl and specific orders to commence operations before they actually
struck his command.

The air portion of the attack on Pearl Harbor began at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time (3:18 a.m. December 8 Japanese Standard Time, as kept by ships of the Kido Butai), with the attack on Kaneohe. A total of 353 Japanese planes in two waves reached Oʻahu. Slow, vulnerable torpedo bombers led the first wave, exploiting the first moments of surprise to attack the most important ships present (the battleships), while dive bombers attacked U.S. air bases across O’ahu, starting with Hickam Field, the largest, and Wheeler Field, the main U.S. Army Air Force fighter base. The 171 planes in the second wave attacked the Air Corps’ Bellows Field near Kaneohe on the windward side of the island, and Ford Island. The only aerial opposition came from a handful of P-36 Hawks and P-40 Warhawks.

Men aboard U.S. ships awoke to the sounds of alarms, bombs exploding, and gunfire prompting bleary eyed men into dressing as they ran to General Quarters stations. (The famous message, "Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not drill.", was sent from the headquarters of Patrol Wing Two, the first senior Hawaiian command to respond.) The defenders were very unprepared. Ammunition lockers were locked, aircraft parked wingtip to wingtip in the open to deter sabotage, guns unmanned (none of the Navy’s 5"/38s and only a quarter of its machine guns, and only four of 31 Army batteries got in action). Despite this and low alert status, many American military personnel responded effectively during the battle. Ensign Joe Taussig got his ship, USS Nevada, underway from dead cold during the attack. One of the destroyers, USS Aylwin, got underway with only four officers aboard, all Ensigns, none with more than a year’s sea duty; she operated at sea for four days before her commanding officer managed to get aboard. Captain Mervyn Bennion, commanding USS West Virginia (Kimmel’s flagship), led his men until he was cut down by fragments from a bomb hit to USS Tennessee, moored alongside.

Gallantry was widespread. In all, 14 officers and sailors were awarded the Medal of Honor. A special military award, the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal, was later authorized for all military veterans of the attack.

Second wave composition

The second wave consisted of 171 planes: 54 B5Ns, 81 D3As, and 36 A6Ms, commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Shigekazu Shimazaki. Four planes failed to launch because of technical difficulties. This wave and its targets comprised:

  • 1st Group — 54 B5Ns armed with 550 lb (249 kg) and 120 lb (54 kg) general purpose bombs
    • 27 B5Ns — aircraft and hangars on Kaneohe, Ford Island, and Barbers Point
    • 27 B5N — hangars and aircraft on Hickam Field
  • 2nd Group (targets: aircraft carriers and cruisers)
    • 81 D3As armed with 550 lb (249 kg) general purpose bombs, in four sections
  • 3rd Group — (targets: aircraft at Ford Island, Hickham Field, Wheeler Field, Barber’s Point, Kaneohe)
    • 36 A6Ms for defense and strafing

The second wave was divided into three groups. One was tasked to attack Kāne’ohe,
the rest Pearl Harbor proper. The separate sections arrived at the
attack point almost simultaneously, from several directions.

Ninety minutes after it began, the attack was over. 2,386 Americans
died (55 were civilians, most killed by unexploded American
anti-aircraft shells landing in civilian areas), a further 1,139
wounded. Eighteen ships were sunk, including five battleships.

Of the American fatalities, nearly half of the total were due to the explosion of USS Arizona‘s forward magazine after it was hit by a modified 40 cm (16in) shell.

Already damaged by a torpedo and on fire forward, Nevada
attempted to exit the harbor. She was targeted by many Japanese bombers
as she got under way, sustaining more hits from 250 lb (113 kg) bombs
as she was deliberately beached to avoid blocking the harbor entrance.

USS California was hit by two bombs and two torpedoes. The crew might have kept her afloat, but were ordered to abandon ship just as they were raising power for the pumps. Burning oil from Arizona and West Virginia drifted down on her, and probably made the situation look worse than it was. The disarmed target ship USS Utah was holed twice by torpedoes. USS West Virginia was hit by seven torpedoes, the seventh tearing away her rudder. USS Oklahoma was hit by four torpedoes, the last two above her belt armor, which caused her to capsize. USS Maryland was hit by two of the converted 40 cm shells, but neither caused serious damage.

Although the Japanese concentrated on battleships (the largest vessels present), they did not ignore other targets. The light cruiser USS Helena was torpedoed, and the concussion from the blast capsized the neighboring minelayer USS Oglala. Two destroyers in dry dock were destroyed when bombs penetrated their fuel bunkers. The leaking fuel caught fire; flooding the dry dock in an effort to fight fire made the burning oil rise, and so the ships were burned out. The light cruiser USS Raleigh was holed by a torpedo. The light cruiser USS Honolulu was damaged but remained in service. The destroyer USS Cassin capsized, and destroyer USS Downes was heavily damaged. The repair vessel USS Vestal, moored alongside Arizona, was heavily damaged and beached. The seaplane tender USS Curtiss was also damaged. USS Shaw was badly damaged when two bombs penetrated her forward magazine.

Of the 402 American aircraft in Hawaii, 188 were destroyed and 159 damaged, 155 of them on the ground. Almost none were actually ready to take off to defend the base. Of 33 PBYs in Hawaii, 24 were destroyed, and six others damaged beyond repair. (The three on patrol returned undamaged.) Friendly fire brought down several U.S. planes on top of that, including some from an inbound flight from USS Enterprise. Japanese attacks on barracks killed additional personnel.

Fifty-five Japanese airmen and nine submariners were killed in the action. Of Japan’s 414 available planes, 29 were lost during the battle (nine in the first attack wave, 20 in the second), with another 74 damaged by antiaircraft fire from the ground.

Possible third wave

Several Japanese junior officers, including Mitsuo Fuchida and Minoru Genda, the chief architect of the attack, urged Nagumo to carry out a third strike in order to destroy as much of Pearl Harbor’s fuel and torpedo storage, maintenance, and dry dock facilities as possible. Military historians have suggested the destruction of these would have hampered the U.S. Pacific Fleet far more seriously than loss of its battleships. If they had been wiped out, "serious [American] operations in the Pacific would have been postponed for more than a year." Nagumo, however, decided to withdraw for several reasons:

  • American anti-aircraft performance had improved considerably during the second strike, and two thirds of Japan’s losses were incurred during the second wave. Nagumo felt if he launched a third strike, he would be risking three quarters of the Combined Fleet’s strength to wipe out the remaining targets (which included the facilities) while suffering higher aircraft losses.
  • The location of the American carriers remained unknown. In addition, the Admiral was concerned his force was now within range of American land-based bombers. Nagumo was uncertain whether the U.S. had enough surviving planes remaining on Hawaii to launch an attack against his carriers.
  • A third wave would have required substantial preparation and turnaround time, and would have meant returning planes would have had to land at night. At the time, no navy had developed night carrier techniques, so this was a substantial risk.
  • The task force’s fuel situation did not permit him to remain in waters north of Pearl Harbor much longer, since he was at the very limits of logistical support. To do so risked running unacceptably low on fuel, perhaps even having to abandon destroyers en route home.
  • He believed the second strike had essentially satisfied the main objective of his mission — the neutralization of the Pacific Fleet — and did not wish to risk further losses. Moreover, it was Japanese Navy practice to prefer the conservation of strength over the total destruction of the enemy.

At a conference aboard Yamato the following morning, Yamamoto initially supported Nagumo. In retrospect, sparing the vital dockyards, maintenance shops, and oil depots meant the U.S. could respond relatively quickly to Japanese activities in the Pacific. Yamamoto later regretted Nagumo’s decision to withdraw and categorically stated it had been a great mistake not to order a third strike.


A Japanese Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero" fighter airplane takes off from the aircraft carrier Akagi on the morning of December 7, 1941.

Zeroes preparing to take off from Shokaku for Pearl Harbor

A Japanese Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" torpedo bomber takes off from Shokaku.

A Japanese Aichi D3A1 "Val" dive bombers preparing to take off. Aircraft carrier Soryu in the background.

Battleship USS California sinking

Battleship USS Arizona explodes.

Destroyer USS Shaw exploding after her forward magazine was detonated

Battleship USS Nevada attempting to escape from the harbor.

Battleship USS West Virginia took two aerial bombs (one dud) and seven torpedo hits; of the seven at least five were from aircraft and one from a midget submarine

B-17 after the attack on Hickam Field.

Hangar in Ford Island burns

From left are: USS West Virginia, USS Tennessee, both damaged; and USS Arizona, sunk.

Aftermath: USS West Virginia (severely damaged), USS Tennessee (damaged), and the USS Arizona (sunk).



USS Pennsylvania, behind the wreckage of the USS Downes and USS Cassin.

Though the attack inflicted large-scale destruction, the damage was
not significant in terms of American fuel storage, maintenance, and
intelligence capabilities. Had Japan destroyed the American carriers,
the Pacific Fleet’s ability to conduct offensive operations would have
been crippled for a year or so (given no diversions from the Atlantic
Fleet). As it was, the elimination of the battleships left the U.S.
Navy with no choice but rely on its aircraft carriers and submarines —
the very weapons with which the U.S. Navy halted and eventually
reversed the Japanese advance. A major flaw of Japanese strategic
thinking was a belief the ultimate Pacific battle would be fought by
battleships, in keeping with the doctrine of Captain Alfred Mahan. As a result, Yamamoto (and his successors) hoarded battleships for a “decisive battle” that never happened.

Ultimately, targets not on Genda’s list, such as the submarine base
and the old headquarters building, proved more important than any
battleship. It was submarines that immobilized the Imperial Japanese
Navy’s heavy ships and brought Japan’s economy to a standstill by
crippling the transportation of oil and raw materials. Also, the
basement of the Old Administration Building was the home of the cryptanalytic unit which contributed significantly to the Midway ambush and the Submarine Force’s success.

Admiral Hara Tadaichi summed up the Japanese result by saying, “We won a great tactical victory at Pearl Harbor and thereby lost the war.”


Captain Homer N. Wallin (center) supervises salvage operations aboard USS California, early 1942

After a systematic search for survivors, formal salvage operations began. Captain Homer N. Wallin, Material Officer for Commander, Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, was immediately retained to lead salvage operations.

Around Pearl Harbor, divers from the Navy (shore and tenders), the
Naval Shipyard, and civilian contractors (Pacific Bridge and others)
began work on the ships which could be refloated. They patched holes,
cleared debris, and pumped water out of ships. Navy divers worked
inside the damaged ships. Within six months, five battleships and two
cruisers were patched or refloated so they could be sent to shipyards
in Pearl and on the mainland for extensive repair.

Intensive salvage operations continued for another year, a total of some 20,000 hours under water. Oklahoma, while successfully raised, was never repaired. Arizona and the target ship Utah
were too heavily damaged for salvage, though much of their armament and
equipment was removed and put to use aboard other vessels. Today, the
two hulks remain where they were sunk.

Films and books


  • The Final Countdown is a movie set around Pearl Harbor, in which the nuclear aircraft carrier, USS NimitzTemplate:WP Ships USS instances, from 1980 is time-warped back to December 6, 1941, one day before the attack on the base.
  • From Here to Eternity by James Jones. The attack on Pearl Harbor plays a crucial role for Robert E. Lee Prewitt.
  • In an episode of Freakazoid!, the hero goes back to 1941 and prevents the attack from happening.
  • The first season of seaQuest DSV featured Pearl Harbor as the headquarters of the United Earth Oceans Organization (U.E.O.). In the episode “Games”, a murderous criminal seizes control of the seaQuest’s weapons system and directs four missiles from the ship towards Pearl Harbor. Fortunately, Captain Nathan Bridger had anticipated that the criminal would attempt to gain control of the
    weapons and ordered all the warheads to be disarmed. Later, in the
    episode “The Sincerest Form of Flattery”, an experimental submarine
    piloted by a computerized profile of Captain Bridger launched a missile
    attack at Pearl Harbor, believing it to be part of a war games exercise.

Historical fiction

  • Tora! Tora! Tora!
    is a movie about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Many consider
    this to be the most faithful movie re-telling of the attack as it deals
    with many aspects of the battle with attention to historical fact.
  • Pearl Harbor
    is the title of a 2001 film about the 1941 attack. The film is a love
    story rather than an accurate portrayal of the event, although some of
    the events portrayed actually took place. Also, the portrayal of action
    and history is considered inaccurate. A number of the shipboard scenes
    were actually filmed on the USS LexingtonTemplate:WP Ships USS instances in Corpus Christi, TX. The film is directed by Michael Bay and stars Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Kate Beckinsale.


  • At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor by Gordon W. Prange is an extremely comprehensive account of the events leading up to the
    Pearl Harbor attack. It is a balanced account that gives both the
    perspective of the Japanese and United States. Prange spent 37 years
    researching the book by studying documents about Pearl Harbor and
    interviewing surviving participants to attempt the most exhaustive
    truth about what happened to bring the Japanese to attack the United
    States at Pearl Harbor, why the United States intelligence failed to
    predict the attack, and why a peace agreement was not attained. The
    Village said about At Dawn We Slept, “By far the most exhaustive and complete account we are likely to have of exactly what happened and how and why.”
  • The Attack on Pearl Harbor: An Illustrated History by Larry Kimmett and Margaret Regis is a careful recreation of the “Day of Infamy
    using maps, photos, unique illustrations, and an animated CD. From the
    early stages of Japanese planning, through the attack on Battleship Row, to the salvage of the U.S. Pacific fleet, this book provides a detailed overview of the attack.
  • Pearl Harbor Countdown: Admiral James O. Richardson by
    Skipper Steely is an insightful and detailed account of the events
    leading up to the Pearl Harbor disaster. Through his comprehensive
    treatment of the life and times of Admiral James O. Richardson,
    Steely explores four decades of American foreign policy, traditional
    military practice, U.S. intelligence, and the administrative side of
    the military, exposing the largely untold story of the events leading
    up to the Japanese attack.

Alternate history

  • Days of Infamy is a novel by Harry Turtledove in which the Japanese attack on Hawaii is not limited to a strike on
    Pearl Harbor, but is instead a full-scale invasion and eventual
    occupation after U.S. forces are driven off the islands (something that
    one of the key planners of the attack, Commander Minoru Genda wanted but the higher-ups rejected). The many viewpoint characters (a
    Turtledove trademark) are drawn from Hawaiian civilians (both white and
    Japanese) as well as soldiers and sailors from both Japan and the USA.
    Turtledove has to date written one sequel, The End of the Beginning.
  • In the computer game Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, Pearl Harbor is the location of a Soviet invasion during World War III.
    In the first game of the Red Alert series, Adolph Hitler was removed
    from history by Einstein’s ‘Chronosphere’ system, preventing the
    Holocaust and presumably the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. A general in
    the game jokes ,”as if someone could mount a successful attack there.”
    Interestingly enough, the Arizona memorial was still included in the
    game, even though the ship would never have been destroyed during the
    games alternate timeline.



  1. Ships present at Pearl Harbor 0800 December 7, 1941 US Navy Historical Center
  2. CinCP report of damage to ships in Pearl Harbor from Unless otherwise stated, all vessels listed were salvageable.
  3. Conn 2000,
    p. 194 (Navy and Marines: 2,117 killed in action or died of
    wounds, 779 wounded; Army 215 killed in action or died of wounds, 360
  4. GPO 1946, pp. 64-65.
  5. Martin Gilbert, The Second World War(1989) pg. 272
  6. Fukudome, Shigeru, “Hawaii Operation”. United States Naval Institute, Proceedings, 81 (December 1955), pp.1315-1331
  7. Parillo 2006, p. 288
  8. GPO 1943,
    p. 96 After it was announced in September iron and steel scrap
    export would also be prohibited, Japanese Ambassador Horinouchi
    protested to Secretary Hull on October 8, 1940 warning this might be
    considered an “unfriendly act”.
  9. GPO 1943, p. 94.
  10. Toland, Japan’s War.
  11. GPO 1943, p. 125.
  12. Peattie 1997.
  13. Hakim, Joy (1995). A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509514-6. 
  14. Calvocoressi, Wint, Pritchard, The Penguin History of the Second World War, p. 952-953
  15. This was mainly a Japanese Navy preference; the Japanese Army would have chosen to attack the Soviet Union. Peattie 1997; Coox, Kobun.
  16. Gailey 1995, p. 68.
  17. Gailey 1995, p. 70.
  18. Peter Wetzler, Hirohito and War, 1998, p.39
  19. Bix, Herbert. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, 2000, p.417, citing the Sugiyama memo)
  20. Noted by Arthur MacArthur in the 1890s. Manchester, William. American Caesar.
  21. Peattie & Evans, Kaigun.
  22. Stinnett, Robert. Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor (Free Press, 1999); Toland, John. Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath (Berkley, 1986).
  23. Willmott, H. P. Barrier and the Javelin (Annapolis, MD: United States Naval Institute Press, 1983), p.14.
  24. Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin, p.14.
  25. Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin, p.14.
  26. Miller, Edward S. War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945 (Annapolis, MD: United States Naval Institute Press,1991).
  27. Mahan, Alfred T. The Influence of Seapower on History, 1660-1783 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1918, reprinted 1949), passim.
  28. Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin
  29. Order of Battle – Pearl Harbor – December 7, 1941
  30. Stewart, A.J., Lieutenant Commander, USN. “Those Mysterious Midgets”, United States Naval Institute Proceedings, December 1974, p.56
  31. Stewart, p.56
  32. Goldstein & Dillon 2000, p. 274
  33. Stewart, “Those Mysterious Midgets”, p.57
  34. Smith 1999, p. 36.
  35. Stewart, “Those Mysterious Midgets”, p.58
  36. She was located by a University of Hawaii research submersible on 28 August 2002 in 400 meters of water, five miles outside the harbor. “Japanese Midget Submarine”. Retrieved on 2008-09-07.
  37. Stewart, pp.59-61
  38. Sakamaki’s unexpected survival was despised by many Japanese, who referred to his dead companions as “The Nine Young Gods.”
  39. Stewart, “Those Mysterious Midgets”, p.61-2
  40. Ofstie, R.A., Rear Admiral, USN. The Campaigns of the Pacific War (United States Government Printing Office, 1946), p.19
  41. Rodgaard 1999.
  42. Calvocoressi et al., The Penguin History of the Second World War, p.952
  43. Toland, Infamy.
  44. Prange, Goldstein & Dillon 1988, p. 58
  45. Declaration of War handout
    The Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, Planning and Execution. First
    wave: 189 planes, 50 Kates w/bombs, 40 Kates with torpedoes, 54 Vals,
    45 Zekes Second wave: 171 planes, 54 Kates w/bombs, 81 Vals, 36 Zekes.
    The Combat Air Patrol over the carriers alternated 18 plane shifts
    every two hours with 18 more ready for takeoff on the flight decks and
    an additional 18 ready on hangar decks.
  47. NavSource 2003.
  48. Prange 1999, p. 98.
  49. Prange 1999, p. 97.
  50. Prange 1999, p. 174.
  51. In
    the twenty-five sorties flown, USAF Historical Study No.85 credits six
    pilots with ten planes destroyed: 1st Lt Lewis M. Sanders (P-36) and
    2nd Lts Philip M Rasmussen (P-36), Gordon H. Sterling Jr. (P-36, killed in action), Harry W. Brown (P-36), Kenneth M. Taylor (P-40, 2), and George S. Welch (P-40, 4). Three of the P-36 kills were not verified by the Japanese and may have been shot down by naval anti-aircraft fire.
  52. Odd
    though it may sound, “not” is correct, in keeping with standard Navy
    telegraphic practice. This was confirmed by Beloite and Beloite after
    years of research and debate.
  53. Parillo 2006, p. 293
  54. The
    gunners that did get in action scored most of the victories against
    Japanese aircraft that morning, including the first of the attack, by Tautog, and Dorie Miller’s Navy Cross-worthy effort. Miller was an African-American cook aboard West Virginia who took over an unattended anti-aircraft gun on which he had no training. He was the first African-American sailor to be awarded the Navy Cross.
  55. The wreck has become a memorial to those lost that day, most of whom remain within the ship. She
    continues to leak small amounts of fuel oil, over 60 years after the
  56. USS Shaw (DD-373).
  57. Ofstie 1946, p. 18.
  58. USAAF pilots of the 46th and 47th Pursuit Squadrons, 15th Pursuit Group, claim to have destroyed 10.
  59. In the event, loss of these might have been a net benefit to the U.S. Blair, passim.
  60. Gailey 1997, p. 68.
  61. Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin; Blair, Silent Victory.
  62. Gailey 1997, pp. 97-98.
  63. Hoyt 2000, p. 190.
  64. Hoyt 2000, p. 191.
  65. Prange 1999.
  66. Gailey 1997, p. 97.
  67. Willmott, p.16.
  68. Gailey 1997, p. 98.
  69. Haufler, Herve. Codebreaker’s Victory: How the Allied Cryptographers Won World War II (New York: NAL, 2003), quoted p.127.
  70. Commander Edward Ellsberg was ordered to [Massawa]] as his replacement, to assist the British in clearing scuttled Italian and German ships. This arguably delayed by several months British hopes for a useful port on the Red Sea. Commander Edward Ellsberg, O.B.E. Under the Red Sea Sun (Dodd, Mead, and Co., 1946).
  71. Raymer, E.C: “Descent Into Darkness”, Presidio Press, 1996.
  72. Post-attack ship salvage 1942-1944



  • Gailey, Harry A. (1997), War in the Pacific: From Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay, Presidio, ISBN 0891416161
  • Hakim, Joy (1995). A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509514-6. 
  • Smith, Carl (1999), Pearl Harbor 1941: The Day of Infamy, Osprey, ISBN 1855327988 
  • Theobold, Robert Alfred (1954), The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor, New York: Devin-Adair 

U.S. Government Documents

Magazine articles

Online sources

Further reading

  • McCollum memo A 1940 memo from a Naval headquarters staff officer to his superiors
    outlining possible provocations to Japan, which might lead to war
    (declassified in 1994).
  • Gordon W. Prange, At Dawn We Slept (McGraw-Hill, 1981), Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History (McGraw-Hill, 1986), and December 7, 1941: The Day the Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor
    (McGraw-Hill, 1988). This monumental trilogy, written with
    collaborators Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, is
    considered the authoritative work on the subject.
  • Larry Kimmett and Margaret Regis, The Attack on Pearl Harbor: An Illustrated History
    (NavPublishing, 2004). Using maps, photos, unique illustrations, and an
    animated CD, this book provides a detailed overview of the surprise
    attack that brought the United States into World War II.
  • Walter Lord, Day of Infamy (Henry Holt, 1957) is a very readable, and entirely anecdotal, re-telling of the day’s events.
  • W. J. Holmes, Double-Edged Secrets: U.S. Naval Intelligence Operations in the Pacific During World War II
    (Naval Institute, 1979) contains some important material, such as
    Holmes’ argument that, had the U.S. Navy been warned of the attack and
    put to sea, it would have likely resulted in an even greater disaster.
  • Michael V. Gannon, Pearl Harbor Betrayed (Henry Holt, 2001) is a recent examination of the issues surrounding the surprise of the attack.
  • Frederick D. Parker, Pearl Harbor Revisited: United States Navy Communications Intelligence 1924-1941
    (Center for Cryptologic History, 1994) contains a detailed description
    of what the Navy knew from intercepted and decrypted Japan’s
    communications prior to Pearl.
  • Henry C. Clausen and Bruce Lee, Pearl Harbor: Final Judgment, (HarperCollins, 2001), an account of the secret “Clausen Inquiry” undertaken late in the war by order of Congress to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson.
  • Robert A. Theobald, Final Secret of Pearl Harbor (Devin-Adair Pub, 1954) ISBN 0-8159-5503-0 ISBN 0-317-65928-6 Foreword by Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr.
  • Albert C. Wedemeyer, Wedemeyer Reports! (Henry Holt Co, 1958) ISBN 0-89275-011-1 ISBN 0-8159-7216-4
  • Hamilton Fish, Tragic Deception: FDR and America’s Involvement in World War II (Devin-Adair Pub, 1983) ISBN 0-8159-6917-1
  • John Toland, Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath (Berkley Reissue edition, 1986 ISBN 0-425-09040-X)
    is an excellent account by a Pulitzer Prize winning author, though
    thought by some not to back up his claims as thoroughly as expected by
    academic conventions.
  • Robert Stinnett, Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor
    (Free Press, 1999) A study of the Freedom of Information Act documents
    that led Congress to direct clearance of Kimmel and Short. ISBN 0-7432-0129-9
  • Edward L. Beach, Scapegoats: A Defense of Kimmel and Short at Pearl HarborISBN 1-55750-059-2
  • Andrew Krepinevich, PDF (186 KiB) (Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments) contains a passage regarding the Yarnell attack, as well as reference citations.
  • Roberta Wohlstetter, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision,
    (Stanford University Press: 1962). Regarded by many as the most
    important work in the attempt to understand the intelligence failure at
    Pearl Harbor. Her introduction and analysis of the concept of “noise”
    persists in understanding intelligence failures.
  • John Hughes-Wilson, Military Intelligence Blunders and Cover-Ups.
    Robinson, 1999 (revised 2004). Contains a brief but insightful chapter
    on the particular intelligence failures, and broader overview of what
    causes them.
  • Horn, Steve (2005). The Second Attack on Pearl Harbor: Operation K And Other Japanese Attempts to Bomb America in World War II, Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-388-8.
  • Seki, Eiji. (2006). Mrs.
    Ferguson’s Tea-Set, Japan and the Second World War: The Global
    Consequences Following Germany’s Sinking of the SS Automedon in 1940.
    London: Global Oriental. 10-ISBN 1-905-24628-5; 13- ISBN 978-1-905-24628-1 (cloth) Reprinted by University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 2007. Previously announced as Sinking of the SS Automedon and the Role of the Japanese Navy: A New Interpretation.
  • Daniel Madsen, Resurrection-Salvaging the Battle Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
    U.S. Naval Institute Press. 2003. Highly readable and thoroughly
    researched account of the aftermath of the attack and the salvage
    efforts from December 8, 1941 through early 1944.

External links



Historic documents