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The Attack on Pearl Harbor

This day marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The Battle of Pearl Harbor, led to the United States’ entry into World War II.

The Pearl Harbor attack plan had two immediate goals; the destruction of American aircraft carriers known to frequent the area, and the sinking of as many other capital ships as possible, especially battleships. With these two tasks complete, Japanese high command hoped to neutralize the American fleet’s ability to project air and sea power in the Pacific Basin for at least six months. In pursuit of these attack goals, Japanese naval officers created a detailed plan which took advantage of known factors such as the American Navy’s habit of returning to its main anchorage at Pearl Harbor every weekend.

The following day, December 8, the United States declared war on Japan, and several days later, on December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. The U.S. responded with a declaration of war against Germany and Italy. 

There were numerous historical precedents for unannounced military action by Japan, but the lack of any formal warning, particularly while negotiations were still apparently ongoing, led US President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaim December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy”. Because the attack happened without a declaration of war and without explicit warning, the attack on Pearl Harbor was later judged in the Tokyo Trials to be a war crime.

 

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