The U.S. Navy Role in World War II
Professor: Dr. Ramesh R. Boodhoo
AMH 2030 20th American History
World War II was the mightiest struggle humankind has ever seen. It killed more people, cost more money, damaged more property, affected more people, and caused more far-reaching changes in nearly every country than any other war in history. The number of people killed, wounded, or missing between September 1939 and September 1945 can never be calculated, but it is estimated that more than 55 million people perished. More than 50 countries took part in the war, and the whole world felt its effects. Men fought in almost every part of the world, on every continent except Antarctica. Chief battlegrounds included Asia, Europe, North Africa, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea. The United States hoped to stay out. Drawing on its experience from World War I, Congress passed a series of neutral acts between 1935 and 1939, which were intended to prevent Americans becoming entangled with belligerents
While America was wallowing in neutrality and isolationism, events were occurring in Europe and Asia that were causing increasing tension across the regions. Japan and the United States had been edging toward war for decades. The United States was particularly unhappy with Japan’s increasingly belligerent attitude toward China. The Japanese government believed that the only way to solve its economic and demographic problems was to expand into its neighbor’s territory and take over its import market; to this end, Japan had declared war on China in 1937(Tsukiyama, 2006) . American officials responded to this aggression with a battery of economic sanctions and trade embargoes. They reasoned that without access to money and goods, and especially essential supplies like oil, Japan would have to rein in its expansionism. Instead, the sanctions made the Japanese more determined to stand their ground. During months of negotiations between Tokyo and Washington DC, neither side would budge. It seemed that war was inevitable. No one believed that the Japanese would start that war with an attack on American territory. For one thing, it would be terribly inconvenient for the Japanese. Hawaii and Japan were about 4,000 miles apart. For another, American intelligence officials were confident that any Japanese attack would take place in one of the relatively nearby European colonies in the South Pacific: the Dutch East Indies, for instance, or Singapore or Indochina(Tsukiyama, 2006) . Because American military leaders were not expecting an attack so close to home, the naval facilities at Pearl Harbor were relatively undefended. Almost the entire Pacific Fleet was moored around Ford Island in the harbor, and hundreds of airplanes were squeezed onto adjacent airfields. To the Japanese, Pearl Harbor was an irresistible target. The Japanese plan was simple, Destroy the Pacific Fleet. That way, the Americans would not be able to fight back as Japan’s armed forces spread across the South Pacific. On December 7, after months of planning and practice, the Japanese launched their attack. At about 8 a.m., Japanese planes filled the sky over Pearl Harbor. Bombs and bullets rained onto the vessels moored below. At 8:10, a 1,800-pound bomb smashed through the deck of the battleship USS Arizona and landed in her forward ammunition magazine. The ship exploded and sank with more than 1,000 men trapped inside. Next, torpedoes pierced the shell of the battleship USS Oklahoma(Tsukiyama, 2006) . With 400 sailors aboard, the Oklahoma lost her balance, rolled onto her side and slipped underwater. By the time the attack was over, every battleship in Pearl Harbor–USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS California, USS West Virginia, USS Utah, USS Maryland, USS Pennsylvania, USS Tennessee and USS Nevada had sustained significant damage. In all, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor crippled or...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document