1941 Attack on Pearl Harbor

By John Mizerak –

Much like the days following the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 had a much different result than our enemies intended. America responded in unity as a nation of great resilience, demonstrating strength and resolve in the fight to preserve freedom.

Pearl Harbor is a U.S. naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii, and was the scene of a devastating surprise attack by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Just before 8 a.m. on that Sunday morning, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes descended on the base, where they managed to destroy or damage nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight enormous battleships, and over 300 airplanes. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, including civilians, and another 1,000 people were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.


In all, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor crippled or destroyed nearly 20 American ships and more than 300 airplanes. Dry docks and airfields were likewise destroyed. Most important, 2,403 sailors, soldiers and civilians were killed and about 1,000 people were wounded.

But the Japanese had failed to cripple the Pacific Fleet. By the 1940s, battleships were no longer the most important naval vessel: Aircraft carriers were, and as it happened, all of the Pacific Fleet’s carriers were away from the base on December 7. (Some had returned to the mainland and others were delivering planes to troops on Midway and Wake Islands.)

Moreover, the Pearl Harbor assault had left the base’s most vital onshore facilities—oil storage depots, repair shops, shipyards and submarine docks—intact. As a result, the U.S. Navy was able to rebound relatively quickly from the attack.

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