The Attack on Pearl Harbor
A Comprehensive Essay
Maritime Strategies and Affairs
15 April 2013
The Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the worst attacks took the United States by surprise. 7 December 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt claimed it to be “a date which will live in infamy.” On that day, hundreds of Japanese fighters and dive bombers swarmed over the island, destroying ships, air planes, and other assets. After that day, over 2,300 Americans had been killed, 12 ships were sunk, and 160 aircraft were destroyed. The attack took the entire country by surprise, especially Pearl Harbor base; which expected nothing to happen on that lazy Sunday morning (“The Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor”). In this paper, I will talk about what events led up to Japan’s attack on the U.S., what occurred and how the attack happened, and what were the effects on the U.S. Navy after the attack occurred.
To understand the attack on Pearl Harbor, first we must look at the events leading up to the attack. In the early 1930s, Japan started its conquest to take China. In 1931, Japan conquered Manchuria, challenging America’s “Open Door” policy. (LaVopa) In 1937, Japan continued its campaign to take the rest of China. In 1940, the Japanese ally Nazi Germany and join the axis powers. A year later, they take over Indochina. In the process of expansion in China, a U.S. Gunboat, the USS Panay, was attacked by Japanese aircraft while on patrol in the Chinese sea. President Roosevelt wanted to pin this as a reason to go to war, but the Japanese sent an apology, payed for all of the damages, and then promised to protect American Nationals; leaving Roosevelt with no way to declare war on Japan. (Events) Tensions rise with Japan and the U.S., when President Roosevelt asks congress to for $500 million to increase America’s defense. Roosevelt did this because he believed that Germany was a threat to the U.S., but the Japanese saw this as a threat because they saw this build-up of defense forces as a direct threat to their Empire, because the U.S. is the only country in the pacific that could threaten their interests of expansion. (Events) Because of this threat, Japan starts developing war plans on how to deal with the U.S., much like the U.S.’ war plan orange. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto takes command of the Japanese fleet, he was chosen as admiral because he had lived in America for a few years, and knew how Americans behave, and what type of people we were. Yamamoto knew that Japan’s current war plan of conducting one huge naval battle against the U.S. would not work. “He needed a new plan which would remove the threat of the U.S. intervention from his flank.” (Events) Yamamoto later devises a plan to destroy the U.S. Navy in Hawaii, and then hopefully crush the morals of the American people, thereby effectively scaring the U.S. out of the war.
As Japan continues its expansion over East Asia, the U.S. was alarmed as the Japanese threatened political and economic interests. President Roosevelt wants to stop the Japanese expansion, and knowing that Japan does not have the resources it needs to continue its campaign, he enacts a trade embargo of oil; a commodity that Japan desperately needs to continue its expansion. Japan took these trade embargoes as a threat to their nation’s survival. Japanese leaders then decided they would have to seize the oil rich territories of Southeast Asia, despite that this move would surely lead to war with the U.S. This is what forced Japan to enact the plan Yamamoto devised, they had to defeat the U.S. pacific navy so they would be able to obtain the resource rich territories in Southeast Asia. “The Japanese believed that they were being pushed into a corner by Roosevelt and felt that they must act to protect the Empire.” (Events) This demonstrates the use of the Navy as an instrument of foreign policy. Japan wanted to acquire...
Cited: Department of Defense. 50th Anniversary of World War II Commemorative Committee. Pearl Harbor: 50th Anniversary Commemorative Chronicle, "A Grateful Nation Remembers" 1941-1991. Washington: The Committee, 1991.
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