Saturday, December 6 - Washington D.C.
- U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt makes a final appeal to the Emperor
of Japan for peace. There is no reply. Late this same day, the U.S. code-breaking
service begins intercepting a 14-part Japanese message and deciphers the
first 13 parts, passing them on to the President and Secretary of State.
The Americans believe a Japanese attack is imminent, most likely somewhere
in Southeast Asia.
Sunday, December 7 - Washington D.C. -
The last part of the Japanese message, stating that diplomatic relations
with the U.S. are to be broken off, reaches Washington in the morning and
is decoded at approximately 9 a.m. About an hour later, another Japanese
message is intercepted. It instructs the Japanese embassy to deliver the
main message to the Americans at 1 p.m. The Americans realize this time
corresponds with early morning time in Pearl Harbor, which is several hours
behind. The U.S. War Department then sends out an alert but uses a commercial
telegraph because radio contact with Hawaii is temporarily broken. Delays
prevent the alert from arriving at headquarters in Oahu until noontime
(Hawaii time) four hours after the attack has already begun.
Sunday, December 7 - Islands of Hawaii,
near Oahu - The Japanese attack force under the command of Admiral Nagumo,
consisting of six carriers with 423 planes, is about to attack. At 6 a.m.,
the first attack wave of 183 Japanese planes takes off from the carriers
located 230 miles north of Oahu and heads for the U.S. Pacific Fleet at
Pearl Harbor - At 7:02 a.m., two Army operators
at Oahu's northern shore radar station detect the Japanese air attack approaching
and contact a junior officer who disregards their reports, thinking they
are American B-17 planes which are expected in from the U.S. west coast.
Near Oahu - At 7:15 a.m., a second attack wave
of 167 planes takes off from the Japanese carriers and heads for Pearl
Pearl Harbor is not on a state on high alert.
Senior commanders have concluded, based on available intelligence, there
is no reason to believe an attack is imminent. Aircraft are therefore left
parked wingtip to wingtip on airfields, anti-aircraft guns are unmanned
with many ammunition boxes kept locked in accordance with peacetime regulations.
There are also no torpedo nets protecting the fleet anchorage. And since
it is Sunday morning, many officers and crewmen are leisurely ashore.
At 7:53 a.m., the first Japanese assault wave,
with 51 'Val' dive bombers, 40 'Kate' torpedo bombers, 50 high level bombers
and 43 'Zero' fighters, commences the attack with flight commander, Mitsuo
Fuchida, sounding the battle cry: "Tora! Tora! Tora!" (Tiger!
The Americans are taken completely by surprise.
The first attack wave targets airfields and battleships. The second wave
targets other ships and shipyard facilities. The air raid lasts until 9:45
a.m. Eight battleships are damaged, with five sunk. Three light cruisers,
three destroyers and three smaller vessels are lost along with 188 aircraft.
The Japanese lose 27 planes and five midget submarines which attempted
to penetrate the inner harbor and launch torpedoes.
Escaping damage from the attack are the prime
targets, the three U.S. Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers, Lexington, Enterprise
and Saratoga, which were not in the port. Also escaping damage are the
base fuel tanks.
The casualty list includes 2,335 servicemen and
68 civilians killed, with 1,178 wounded. Included are 1,104 men aboard
the Battleship USS Arizona killed after a 1,760-pound air bomb penetrated
into the forward magazine causing catastrophic explosions.
In Washington, various delays prevent the Japanese
diplomats from presenting their war message to Secretary of State, Cordell
Hull, until 2:30 p.m. (Washington time) just as the first reports of the
air raid at Pearl Harbor are being read by Hull.
News of the "sneak attack" is broadcast
to the American public via radio bulletins, with many popular Sunday afternoon
entertainment programs being interrupted. The news sends a shockwave across
the nation and results in a tremendous influx of young volunteers into
the U.S. armed forces. The attack also unites the nation behind the President
and effectively ends isolationist sentiment in the country.
Monday, December 8 -
The United States and Britain declare war on Japan with President Roosevelt
calling December 7, "a date which will live in infamy..."
Thursday, December 11 - Germany and Italy declare war on the United States. The European and
Southeast Asian wars have now become a global conflict with the Axis powers;
Japan, Germany and Italy, united against America, Britain, France, and
Wednesday, December 17 - Admiral Chester
W. Nimitz becomes the new commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Both senior commanders at Pearl Harbor; Navy Admiral
Husband E. Kimmel, and Army Lt. General Walter C. Short, were relieved
of their duties following the attack. Subsequent investigations will fault
the men for failing to adopt adequate defense measures.
Photo credits: courtesy U.S. Navy, U.S. National Archives, Library of Congress