7 Key Facts about Pearl Harbor - History Key

7 Key Facts about Pearl Harbor

The attack on Pearl Harbor from  December 7, 1941, is one of the best-studied events of the 20th century. Yet there are many Pearl Harbor facts that remain largely unknown. Below are listed seven Pearl Harbor facts that you probably didn’t know.

1. Peace Request

On December 6, 1941, the U.S. president at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt, makes the last request for peace to the Empire of Japan. The United States gets no reply.

US president Franklin D. Roosevelt
US president Franklin D. Roosevelt © history.com

2. Four hours late

On December 7, 1941, the U.S. begins to intercept a message that was sent by the Japanese. The message stated that the attack will occur at 1:00 p.m. After a short period, the radio contact with Hawaii is broken, which forced the Americans to use a commercial telegraph. Unfortunately, the warning message from Washington was received too late. It was delivered four hours after the attack has begun.

A copy of the telegram stating "Air raid" on Pearl Harbor
A copy of the telegram stating “Air raid X this is no drill” on Pearl Harbor © wrex.com

3. 183 planes

Near Oahu, Hawaii, the Japanese fleet commanded by Admiral Nagumo, is about to attack. At 6 a.m. the first wave of Japanese planes takes off from the carriers located 230 miles north of Oahu. 183 Japanese planes are heading towards Pearl Harbor.

Japanese fleet
Japanese fleet © Wikipedia.org

4. +167 planes

At 7:15 the second wave of 167 planes takes off from their carriers. They go straight to Pearl
Harbor.

A6M3 Model 22, 1943
A6M3 Model 22, 1943 © flying-tigers.co.uk

5. Unprepared and unaware

At 7:53 a.m. the first wave arrives. It consists of 40 Kate torpedo bombers, 43 Zero fighters, 50 high-level bombers, and 51 Val dive bombers. As the attack started, the United States is completely unprepared, the Anti-Aircraft guns are unmanned, and the torpedo nets are not deployed.

A plume of water erupts as a torpedo strikes the USS West Virginia, anchored in Battleship Row next to Ford Island
A plume of water erupts as a torpedo strikes the USS West Virginia, anchored in Battleship Row next to Ford Island © Wikipedia.org

6. Aftermath 

  • Eight American battleships are damaged and five are sunk. The main targets, the U.S. aircraft carriers, are not in port.
  • 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians are killed.
  • 1,178 wounded. Half of the casualties came from the USS Arizona which had 1,104 killed when an air bomb, weighing 1,760 pounds (about 800 kg), penetrated the ship and caused massive explosions.
Battleship USS West Virginia sunk and burning at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In background is the battleship USS Tennessee
Battleship USS West Virginia sunk and burning at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In background is the battleship USS Tennessee © viraltalks.com

7. Meantime, in Washington D.C.

The message delays, caused the Japanese diplomats to present their declaration of war to the United States after the attack. The news of the attack, forced everyone who opposed for the United States to enter the war, to change the decision. The next day the U.S. and Great Britain declared war on Japan.

Newspaper headline: US declares War
Newspaper headline: U.S. Declares War © thinglink.com

What if the message from Washington would have arrived sooner to Hawaii? There would have been an atomic bomb? Or the war would have extended?

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