On this historic day, December 7, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor kills 2,403 Americans and propels the United States into World War II.


Imperial Japan launched a devastating surprise attack Sunday morning against US Navy and other military assets at Pearl Harbor, awakening a ‘sleeping giant’ and pushing an enraged America into World War II on this historic day, Dec. 1941.

“For nearly two hours, Japanese firepower slammed into American ships and servicemen,” reports the National World War II Museum.

The savage raid by fighter jets on carriers sank or damaged 21 American warships – including the USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma – destroyed or damaged 347 aircraft and killed 2,403 Americans.

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“Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will remain in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan,” announced President Franklin D. Roosevelt with determined indignation. day, while asking Congress for a declaration of war.

“No matter how long it takes for us to defeat this premeditated invasion, the American people in their just power will win until absolute victory.”

In this Dec. 7, 1941, file photo, smoke rises from the battleship USS Arizona as it sank during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
(AP Photo, File)

This “just might” of the American people has manifested itself in the most remarkable military, industrial, logistical and spiritual mobilization in human history – leading to the liberation of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

“For nearly two hours, Japanese firepower slammed into American ships and servicemen.”

By the end of 1941, the Empire of Japan and Nazi Germany, the Axis power, had conquered much of Asia, Europe and North Africa, often with frightening ease. .

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The attack on Pearl Harbor was just the spearhead of a much larger and more ambitious Japanese offensive across the Pacific Ocean that began on December 7.

Roosevelt checked off the devastating news in his December 8 emergency speech.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt is pictured during the dramatic moments before the joint session of Congress, December 8, 1941, as he called on Congress to declare war on Japan for its "unprovoked and despicable attack." On the right is his son, James Roosevelt. In the background are Vice President Henry A. Wallace (left) and House Speaker Sam Rayburn. The Senate and House complied with FDR's request almost immediately.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt is pictured during the dramatic moments before the joint session of Congress, December 8, 1941, as he called on Congress to declare war on Japan for its ‘unprovoked and despicable attack’. On the right is his son, James Roosevelt. In the background are Vice President Henry A. Wallace (left) and House Speaker Sam Rayburn. The Senate and House complied with FDR’s request almost immediately.
(Photo by Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

“Yesterday the Japanese government also launched an attack on Malaysia. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong: Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night , the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Middle Island.”

“Within days,” notes the National WWII Museum, “the Japanese were masters of the Pacific.”

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Japan had already occupied a large part of China for several years.

German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, with two years of his own victories, recklessly declared war on the United States on December 11. His declaration also gave the United States justification for entering the European war.

The attack on Pearl Harbor proved to be the biggest miscalculation in military history.

But Japan and Germany seemed invincible. The United States seemed woefully unprepared to enter a global conflict across vast expanses of ocean.

The future of civilization seemed hopeless.

Yet within four years, thanks to American “just power,” Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany lay in ruins, their ability to wage war destroyed, their conquered lands reclaimed, and hundreds of millions of people freed from domination.

The United States then led the effort to rebuild the two nations into major global economies with stable democratic leaders.

A Michigan newspaper dated December 8, 1941 airs in Hawaii Thursday, December 20, 2012. The newspaper covers the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

A Michigan newspaper dated December 8, 1941 airs in Hawaii Thursday, December 20, 2012. The newspaper covers the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
(Photographer: Jim Clash/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The shape of the future world began to transform amid the attack on Pearl Harbor. American sailors, soldiers and airmen overcame the shock of a sudden attack and quickly began to return fire.

Fifteen Sailors and one Marine received the Medal of Honor for heroic actions that day alone.

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Among them were Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd, who died commanding the defense from the deck of the USS Arizona, the first American flag officer killed in a war; Captain Mervyn Bennion, who remained in command of the USS West Virginia, saving the ship despite fatal injuries; and Crew Chief Edwin Hill, whose remarkable heroism freed the USS Nevada from attack.

“At the height of the strafing and shelling, Crew Chief Hill led his men from the details of the USS Nevada’s line management to the docks,” reads his Medal of Honor citation. .

The USS Arizona Memorial circa 1987 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The USS Arizona Memorial circa 1987 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
(Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)

Nevada can now sail. But Hill wasn’t done.

He jumped into the water and swam to his boat to continue the fight.

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“Later, while he was on the forecastle, trying to let go of the anchors, he was thrown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs,” notes the Ministry of Health.

Nevada was the only battleship to set sail that morning. She then performed distinguished service during the war.

The USS Nevada helped lead the invasion of Europe on D-Day in 1944 and the final attacks on the Japanese islands in the summer of 1945.

Japan had hoped to stun the American people into docility on December 7, 1941.

USS West Virginia also survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, but at the cost of losing 106 sailors.

She sailed triumphantly into Tokyo Bay less than four years later, to witness Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II on September 2, 1945.

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Japan had hoped to stun the American people into docility on December 7, 1941, as its army and navy rapidly conquered territories across Asia and the Pacific Ocean.

Rather, the attack on Pearl Harbor forged the resolve of the American people and proved to be the greatest miscalculation in military history.


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