The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military air strike carried out by the Japanese navy against the United States’ naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in the American declaration of war on Japan. The air strike was intended as a preemptive attack to get the American Pacific Fleet out of action, preventing it from influencing the war which Japan was planning to wage in Southeast Asia.
The Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s increased tension between the United States and Japan. In 1940, the U.S. halted shipments of airplanes, parts, machine tools, and aviation gasoline. This was perceived by Japan as an unfriendly act. Following Japanese expansion into French Indochina after the fall of France, the United States put an oil embargo on Japan in August 1941, in an attempt to force them to stop their aggression against their neighbors. As the Japanese high command thought that any attack on the United Kingdom’s Southeast Asian colonies would bring the United States into the war, a devastating preemptive strike seemed to be the only way for Japan to avoid American naval interference.
The attack on Pearl Harbor began at 07:55 hours, on the December 7, 1941. Led by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, the first wave of planes consisted of 183 fighters, bombers and torpedo bombers. The second wave was composed of 170 planes and attacked Pearl Harbor at 08:54 hours. They took off from the aircraft carriers Akaga, Kaga, Hiryu, Soryu, Zuikaku and Shokaku.
The most serious casualty was the USS Arizona, which was hit by one torpedo and eight bombs, 1,760 lbs. of explosives, as she lay moored up at Ford Island Naval Station. 1,177 men were killed on the Arizona alone. The USS West Virginia, USS California, USS Utah, and USS Oglala were also sunk by the Japanese. The USS Raleigh, USS Nevada, USS Vestal, USS Pennsylvania, USS Downes, USS Shaw, and USS Helena were seriously damaged.