Pearl Harbour: Debunking the Myths

Posted in North America | December 4, 2010 | 0 Comments


The naval base of Pearl Harbour in Hawaii was assaulted by Japanese bomber planes and torpedoes. The attack took place on December 7, 1941. An outrage was sparked among Americans. The government and the media were left flabbergasted.

President Roosevelt addressed the senate and the nation the following day. The President sought the Congress’s approval for an open war. The Congress was convinced, and they passed the historic Declaration of War on Japan. This marked America’s entry into the Second World War.

Pearl Harbour was attacked on a Sunday morning. The number of soldiers on duty was minimal. A majority of offices at the naval base were shut. Many officers were on a weekend leave. The new radar that was mounted on Opana Point was functional while the attack took place. The radar detected the arrival of Japanese planes. However, they were thought to be American planes arriving from the mainland. A Japanese submarine was spotted by an American destroyer during practice maneuvers at Pearl Harbour. The submarine was subsequently attacked.

Pearl Harbour is located at Oahu Island’s south coast. The naval base was spread over an area of 22,000 acres. Pearl Harbour received designation as the new base of the American Pacific Fleet. This was due to increasing hostility on the part of Japan. Pearl Harbour served as the headquarters of many military commands of America in the Pacific region.

There were numerous warnings prior to the attack. There was also a steady build up of hostilities from the Japanese side. However, no officer or commander expected the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbour without prior declaration of war. Cryptography and cryptanalysis were in their nascent stage during the attack on pearl Harbour. Cryptanalysts on duty during the attack lacked proper equipment and funds. In addition, they were under-manned. Instead of concentrating on naval messages, their focus lay on diplomatic traffic of Japan.

On December 7, the ambassador of Japan was supposed to submit a document of 14 pages to US Secretary of State. However, news of the Pearl Harbour attack already arrived at the White House.

Japan was in need of oil and natural resources to support its plans of expansion. Its hostility toward America grew from this need. The refusal of America to recognize authority of Japan in China further fueled the anger.

One myth centers on the depth of Pearl Harbour. Pearl Harbour is considered quite shallow at 45 feet to be bombed by torpedoes. Japan prepared for six months before the attack. Airplane carriers and battleships were the primary target of Japanese torpedoes. Nearly 92 vessels were destroyed in the Pearl Harbour attack. The Attack on pearl Harbour was carried out by 360 Japanese plains. The American casualties swelled to 3,700.

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