December 6 - Washington, D.C. - U.S. President
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 message from the Japanese and deciphers the first
13 parts and passes them on to the President and Secretary of State. The
Americans believe a Japanese attack is imminent, most likely somewhere
in Southeast Asia.
December 7 - Washington, D.C. - The last
part of the Japanese message, stating that diplomatic relations with the
U.S. are to be severed, 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 in Pearl Harbor, which is several hours behind. The
U.S. War Department then sends out an alert but uses commercial telegraph
because radio contact with Hawaii is broken. Delays result in the alert
arriving at headquarters in Oahu around noon time (Hawaii time) four hours
after the attack has already begun.
December 7 - Near Oahu, Hawaii - 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.
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii - 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, Hawaii - At 7:15, a second attack wave of 167
planes takes off from the Japanese carriers and heads for Pearl Harbor.
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
The casualty list includes 2,335 servicemen and
68 civilians killed, and 1,178 wounded. Included are 1,104 men aboard the
USS Arizona battleship 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 Declaration of War 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 sentiments in the country.
The next day, the United States and Britain declare
war on Japan with President Roosevelt calling December 7, "a date
which will live in infamy..." On December 11, Germany and Italy declare
war on the United States. Thus the European and Southeast Asian wars now
become a global conflict with the Axis powers, Japan, Germany and Italy,
united against America, Britain, France, and their Allies.
Both senior commanders at Pearl Harbor; Navy Admiral,
Husband E. Kimmel and Army Lt. General, Walter C. Short, are relieved of
their duties following the attack. Subsequent investigations will fault
the men for failing to adopt adequate defense measures.
On December 17th, Chester W. Nimitz succeeds Kimmel
as commander of the Pacific Fleet.