Today in Military History: Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941 the Japanese attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, taking America by surprise.

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island. View looks about east, with the supply depot, submarine base.


Twenty-one ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were sunk or damaged: the battleships USS Arizona (BB-39), USS California (BB-44), USS Maryland (BB-46), USS Nevada (BB-36), USS Oklahoma (BB-37), USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), USS Tennessee (BB-43) and USS West Virginia (BB-48) …

cruisers USS Helena (CL-50), USS Honolulu (CL-48) and USS Raleigh (CL-7); the destroyers USS Cassin (DD-372), USS Downes (DD-375), USS Helm (DD-388) and USS Shaw (DD-373); seaplane tender USS Curtiss (AV-4); target ship (ex-battleship) USS Utah (AG-16); repair ship USS Vestal (AR-4); minelayer USS Oglala (CM-4); tug USS Sotoyomo (YT-9); and Floating Drydock Number 2. Aircraft losses were 188 destroyed and 159 damaged, the majority hit before the had a chance to take off.

The Americas who died in the ambush are numbered at 2,403. That figure included 68 civilians, most of them killed by improperly fused anti-aircraft shells landing in Honolulu. There were 1,178 military and civilian wounded. No carriers were lost during the attack because on December 5, 1941, the USS Lexington (CV-2) sailed with Task Force 12 to ferry Marine aircraft to Midway.

The United States declared war on Japan the following day. President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech to Congress which included the famous quote, “December 7, 1941 a date which will live in infamy.”

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