On this day in 1941, naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan attacked the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. December 7th, 1941 was, according to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a ‘date which will live in infamy’. The preemptive surprise attack at Pearl Harbor was undertaken by the Japanese forces with the hopes of neutralizing the American capacity to repel Japanese conquests in Southeast Asia. With 350 planes taking off from 6 aircraft carriers, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor sunk or damaged 4 battleships, 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers with approximately 2400 Americans killed and approximately 1300 injured. The attack on Pearl Harbor was simultaneous with Japanese attacks on the American held Philippines and British held Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaya.
Most people know the story behind the attack on Pearl Harbor (as popularized through the feature films Pearl Harbor and Tora, Tora, Tora!), so I will not elaborate any further. What many people do not know however is that the aerial attack on Pearl Harbor was not the first action on that day. Five Japanese submarines accompanied the Japanese task force being sent to attack Pearl Harbor. Upon coming within 20 kilometres of Pearl Harbor, the submarines launched midget submarines (smaller submarines meant to be piloted by a handful of sailors) to attack around 1:00 am. On 3:42 am, a Japanese midget submarine was sighted by the minesweeper Condor, and its location radioed in to the destroyer Ward. Shortly afterwards the Ward sank the Japanese midget submarine, marking the first shots fired by American forces in the Second World War. The sinking of this midget submarine occurred almost 4 hours before the first airplanes attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. While the aerial bombardment on Pearl Harbor is often cited as the start of American involvement and entry into the Second World War, it is interesting to note that the Americans had engaged in combat with the Japanese earlier on that day.
- Ceremony commemorates 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (theguardian.com)