Friday, December 7, 2012

Pearl Harbor Day

On the morning of December 7, 1941, a Sunday, a swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes attacjked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States into World War II.

That morning, many military personnel had been given passes to attend religious services off-base. At about 7 o'clock, two radio operators spotted large groups of aircraft in flight toward the island from the north, but, with a flight of B-17s expected from the U. S., they were told to sound no alarm. Thus, the Japanese assault came as a devastating surprise.

Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded. It could have been worse: Three fleet carriers were out at sea on training maneuvers.

Japan's losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men.

The next day, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and said, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941--a date which will live in infamy..." and asked Congress to approve a resolution declaring war between the U. S. and Japan. The Senate voted in favor 82 to 0, and the House 388 to 1. The sole dissenter was Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a devout pacifist who had also cast a dissenting vote against the U.S. entrance into World War I.

Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the U. S., and the U.S. government responded in kind.

The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort spanned four years and cost more than 400,000 American lives.