How and why did the Pearl Harbour attack occur?
The Pearl Harbour attack was one of the most major events in American history, which eventually led to the US joining World War II. It is still, to this day debated whether Japan attacking Pearl Harbour was justified or just an act of evil. In 1939, President Roosevelt, moved the US Pacific Fleet from California to Pearl Harbour. This move came across as a threat to the Japanese as they wanted to expand the Pacific, hence why they then carried out the attack. On the morning of Sunday 7th December 1941, at 7.55am two waves of Japanese aircraft began their attack on Pearl Harbour on the Pacific Island of Oahu. The attack was so severe that within two hours, there was major damage caused with five battleships sunk, 16 damaged and 188 aircraft destroyed. The attack killed less than 100 Japanese, but over 2,400 Americans and left 1,178 people injured. (1)
3722146190612Pearl Harbour before it was attacked
0Pearl Harbour before it was attacked
3743661287655Pearl Harbour whilst it was getting attacked
00Pearl Harbour whilst it was getting attacked
Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbour? (17)
One of the main reasons Japan attacked Pearl Harbour was because Roosevelt had banned the exports of iron, steel and oil to Japan meaning Japan had lost more than 90% of its oil supply. This resulted in Japan having a huge economic dip.
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America had one of the biggest- if not the biggest Naval fleets in the world, Japan saw this as a threat and decided to attack Americas pacific fleet in the hope to destroy it and wipe out any competitions. (4)
World War II had already begun when Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, America were on the brink of joining the war, but were already suffering from World War I, at the time the Japanese were almost as strong as the Americans in their navy and decided to anticipated a full-blown attack on America. (5)
Japan was also very confident in their attack of Pearl Harbour, they didn’t want US to join the war because they had one of the biggest Pacific fleets, so they believed that if they attacked Pearl Harbour then this would dishearten the USA and not make them want to join the war because they would feel demoralized. (6)
3314700144780President Roosevelt- USA
Emperor Hirohito- Japan
00President Roosevelt- USA
Emperor Hirohito- Japan
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Admiral Husband E Kimmel- The scapegoat
Admiral Kimmel was born in in Kentucky in 1882 and was commander-in-chief of the US Pacific Fleet during the Pearl Harbour attack. Many Americans blamed Kimmel for the attack on the Pearl Harbour and many people still do to this day. Americans believed that Kimmel knew about the Pearl Harbour attack as in early 1941 he predicted that a surprise attack was possible and promised that he was taking all the possible steps necessary to minimize the damage and make sure it would cost Japan economically, however this promise was not kept hence why people began suspecting that he had information on the attack.
Kimmel also went to later write in his biography that if he had any information then he wouldn’t have been taken by surprise on the Sunday morning of the attack and made a shocking statement and blamed the US president Roosevelt of knowing about the Pearl Harbour attack, whether this was to take the blame of himself or whether he genuinely believed that the president knew, we will never now. (8) Not everyone blamed Kimmel though, some people believed that the decoded Japanese cables were purposely not decoded correctly because President Roosevelt were willing to invite the attack in order to facilitate America’s entry into the war. However, some people believed that it was a good thing that they didn’t know about the Pearl Harbour attack, such as Admiral Chester Nimitz, he said that if Kimmel would have known about the attack then he would have taken the fleet to sea in order to stop the Japanese resulting in sinking of the fleet and possibly 10,000 more deaths which would have been even bigger disaster.
Perhaps Kimmel is the man responsible for the worse disasters in the American military or perhaps he was the man with the unluckiest promotion. (7)
Why did Japan attack America if they knew they could not take them on?
The Japanese made a huge mistake underestimating America’s reaction. Japan assumed that if they attacked the USA fleet then they would rapidly expand across the Pacific. This would mean that Japan would have the upper hand and would negotiate peace with the USA, the deleration of war was expected to be given to Sec of State Hull a full half hour before Japan was meant to attack, however unfortunate for them the transalater took longer than anticipated meaning when he finally did translate it the attack was already over. The Japanese also thought that if they attacked the American fleet then they would weaken American forces causing them to not declare war, however this assumption was a huge mistake on the Japanese part as the Americans were never going to back down without putting up a fight.
Could the attack have been prevented?
Like any attack, there could be many things which could have prevented the attack or at least make it less of a shock like the Pearl Harbour attack was. The first thing which could have prevented the attack was not moving the fleet to Hawaii and keeping it in San Diego. This was more defensible and easier to supply lines to. General Mitchell published a report on carrier-based aircraft. This was a report which Mitchell said that anyone could sink a battleship from the air, but it hadn’t happened because no one had tried it yet. Mitchell then sank a captured German battleship, in 1921 to prove his point but the Navy said that this proved nothing and ignored his report. No one in the USN was convinced that an attack on Pearl Harbour was possible when the Philippines would be a far more obvious target. Finally, the attack could have been prevented if they had set up proper defence, this was slowed down by the fact that they wanted to set up anti-aircraft around the island but needed permission to build on private land. This also meant that the public would assume that the island was in danger which cause unnecessary chaos and panic. (9) (10)
The relationship between Japan and USA in the present day
The relationship between Japan and the USA first hit the rocks when Japan attacked the USA in 1941, which then led to a 4-year war which ended in 1945. In August, 1945 Japan surrender which led to the USA taking control over Japan and worked on reconstructing Japan, by the end of 1945 around 350,000 US servicemen were working in Japan on a variety of projects. Japan had a huge transformation and had educational and economic reform. USA control over Japan finally ended in 1952 when the Treaty of San Francisco was signed, this led to a close relationship between both the countries which lasts till today. (11)
What effect did WW2 have on the USA?
After the USA were thrust into the war, life in America was dramatically different. Everything from, food, gas and clothing was rationed. During spring 1942, a rationing program was established which set a limit on the amount of food, gas and clothing the public could purchase. People were given ‘stamps’ which they could buy a moderate amount of meat, sugar, butter, veg & fruit. The whole purpose of this was so that there could be more provided to the troops who were fighting for the country. Meanwhile, many people began to collect cans, metal and scraps which could be used to produce armaments. (12)
However, not everything about the USA joining the war terrible, there were some benefits to them joining such as the fact that women began to become more knowledge. While the men were at war fighting, the country was left to the women to run. Women began to secure jobs such as electricians, welders and riveters. By the 1940’s the percentage of women who were in the workforce increased from 25% to 36%. Another benefit of America joining the war was the huge discoveries made in the medicine fields, the discovery of penicillin and the polio vaccination meant that people had longer and healthier lives, it could be said that if the war hadn’t begun then maybe there may never have been the advancements made in medicine like there where. (13)
300566776200Penicillin was discovered during WW2, saving the life of many solders
00Penicillin was discovered during WW2, saving the life of many solders
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What effect did WW2 have on Japan?
After losing the war, Japan was left in a devastating state, many cities such as Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed because of atomic bombs, as well as industries were damaged and a shortage of food went on for many years after the war ended.(14) On August 14th the Japanese emperor surrender, some military extremists attempted to stop the radio broadcast of the emperor surrendering, but where unsuccessful this led to a staggering 500 solders committing suicide after the war ended, and left the nation feeling betrayed.(15)
Japan was left completely destroyed after the war that they were forced to receive help from their enemies; USA. The USA brought over 800,000 tons of food over to Japan. The USA were forced to pay a huge amount for the damage they caused, Paul Langer stated that ‘from the damage done the United States had to pay about one million dollars per day which included bill for food, fertilizer and other major essentials’.
During WW2 120,000 innocent Japanese-Americans were forced into camps which were controlled by the American government. Solders began rounding up the Japanese 2 days after the attack, the Americans believed that Japanese-Americans were a threat and could be undercover spies working for the Japanese. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in February signed ‘Executive Order 9066’ which gave permission to remove any Japanese-Americans who lived in California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona. Immigrants as well as Japanese-Americans who were born in America were told to pack their belongings and leave everything behind and stay in ‘relocation centres’. (16)
3084539196779Japanese-Americans were treated with little respect after the Pearl Harbour attack
00Japanese-Americans were treated with little respect after the Pearl Harbour attack
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After the attack on Pearl Harbour the President gave a speech, which to this day is one of the most famous speeches. He stated that December 4th would be a day which would ‘live in infamy’ and the USA were at peace with Japan, until they were deliberately attacked. The president says that the USA were in contact with Japan just a few hours before and no signs of aggression were shown, which suggests that the President thought that the attack was nothing but an act of unnecessary hatred towards the Americans. (22)
Retired U.S. Navy Commander: Dale Gano and his wife witnessed the bombing from only half a mile away from their house as the Japanese planes hit the Hawaiian fleet. Sunday morning at 8:00, the couple heard loud explosions and rushed outside to find their neighbour looking at the aircraft through a pair of binoculars. Gano explains how the loud explosion rattled their windows and how he later in the day saw long rows of dead and injured sailors lying on the floor. Gano recalls the feeling of shock and horror as he saw Pearl Harbour getting attacked and responded as they had been trained with repairing airplanes, manned a machine gun and helped families find each other.
Looking at the references I have used, some of them were reliable where as some weren’t as reliable. Looking at references 1,7,8,9,11,12,17,19 and 22 all these references are the ones which were fully reliable because they were either first-hand accounts (such as autobiographies) or they were from a government official history website which meant that the information would be accurate. Some of the information which I used was from websites such as Wikipedia (references 2 and 20) these were less reliable because the information could have been altered on Wikipedia. References such as 4 and 14 are newspaper articles so could be slightly biased information. The hardest part of looking for information was finding out about Japan and their point of view, they were not many websites which gave information and the ones that did were in Japanese. So, to find out information about Japan I had to use various different sites and piece the information together as well as ask my history teacher. After finishing my essay, I have successfully answered the question I originally asked and have found out other interesting information along the way, which I never knew before starting this. References