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Countdown to a Day of Infamy:
Transcript of Countdown to a Day of Infamy:
Events that led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Empire launched a surprise attack on the United States Pacific Naval Fleet at it's home port of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The attack caught the U.S. completely off guard. But...
the outbreak of war between Japan and the U.S. had been building for decades
The U.S. was very concerned by Japan's increasingly belligerent attitude toward China.
After modernizing the country in the late 1800s, the leadership of Japan was looking for ways to grow it's economy to compete with the U.S. and European powers of the world.
The japanese government believed the only way to solve its economic and demographic problems was to expand into its neighbors' territory and take over their import markets; this is why Japan declared war on China in 1937.
How did the U.S. Respond?
With a series of economic sanctions and trade embargoes that made it extremely difficult for Japan to buy or sell goods to other countries.
Why did the U.S. react this way instead of with military force?
They thought that without access to money and goods, especially essential supplies like oil, Japan would have to rein in its expansionism
Instead of backing out of the countries they had invaded, Japan remained even more determined to stand their ground.
This led to months of negotiations between Tokyo and Washington D.C. Neither side was willing to budge. Because of this, war seemed to be inevitable.
But no one believed that the Japanese would start a war with an attack on American territory.
They had a few reasons to think this...
First of all, it would be very inconvenient to attack U.S. territories. Hawaii, the largest significant U.S. territory, is over 4,000 miles from Japan.
Secondly, U.S. Intelligence officials thought Japanese forces would invade the much closer European colonies in the South Pacific Ocean
These assumptions by U.S. officials meant that Pearl Harbor had almost no extra defenses.
Pearl Harbor was also the home port to most of the U.S. Pacific Fleet which made it an irresistible target for Japan.
After months of planning and practice, the Japanese sent a large force of aircraft carriers and support ships with hundreds of aircraft to assault the island base.
Even as the Japanese military planned and practiced for the attack, Japanese diplomats continued to have talks with the U.S. This helped disguise the true intent of Japan by making the U.S. think that Japan wanted to find a peaceful end to the tension between the two countries over the invasion of China.
The Japanese fleet began the assault early on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941 by launching hundreds of bombers, torpedo planes, and fighter planes to sink every possible ship.
They succeeded in damaging or destroying 18 ships and 300 planes, and killing over 2,500 Americans.
But Japan was not as successful as they had hoped to be...
While the Japanese did destroy most of the U.S. battleships, they failed to destroy the more important aircraft carriers which were at sea that morning.
Japanese forces also did not attack the shipyards or oil refineries around the island which allowed the U.S. to rebuild their fleet relatively quickly.
Following the attack, the Japanese leader of the attack, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is believed to have said,
"I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with terrible resolve"
Over the next three and a half years, the U.S. military would fight with the "terrible resolve" Admiral Yamamoto feared until they achieved a complete victory in August of 1945