Pearl Harbor


A date that will live in infamy.

The Imperial Japanese Navy struck  the US fleet at Pearl Harbor, and associated military installations across Oahu. It was a devastating strike, slashing our airpower in the Pacific, and crippling the main line of battle of our fleet.

Every US battleship in Pearl Harbor was sunk or damaged.

It was a tactically brilliant raid, and a strategic blunder. Few things could have more aroused the population to support the war effort against Japan, and even stir enough rage that support for the war against the Nazis in Europe was strong.

And while the battle line was crippled, eventually all but two of those ships would again steam into battle, visiting a terrible vengeance upon their erstwhile attackers.  Already building or planned were millions of tons of newer, faster, better armed warships. The hundreds of aircraft destroyed would be replaced by thousands, tens of thousands, that would darken the skies over the Empire. The soldiers strafed would see their ranks swell with millions of their countrymen called to arms, and ready to repay the blood debt with interest.

The iconic image of the attack on Pearl Harbor is the loss of the USS Arizona.  From queen of the fleet, to funeral pyre, to tomb to many, when Americans today think of Pearl Harbor, they think of this ship, still to this day in commission, and a somber reminder that, sometimes, war comes to our shores.


For almost 60 years, the attack on Pearl Harbor remained the single deadliest attack on US soil. It would be another lovely day when perfidious enemies struck from the sky without warning, without quarter, without honor. Another reminder that no matter how much we may wish for peace, there are others who wish for death.

Never forget.

9 thoughts on “Pearl Harbor”

  1. In spite of being surprised, on sunday in peacetime our Grandfather’s and Father’s fought back quite well.
    Never Forget, never drop your guard.

  2. From a military standpoint, I never really understood Japanese thinking for the Pearl Harbor Raid. They needed at least one, probably two, more strikes on Pearl to do the level of damage they needed to do there. Then Nagumo should have started a systematic hunt for Halsey and the Carriers and destroyed those too. They would have had to keep a close eye on the US bringing any new assets to the Pacific, which would have forced raids on San Diego, San Francisco and some other minor spots on the Pacific coast, but they could have kept the US under control and possibly even forced us to the table.

    There was never a danger of the Japs invading the mainland. Yamamoto didn’t even consider it. Having been Naval Attache he knew the US and stated that there would be “a rifle behind every blade of grass.”

    I don’t know if Harry Turtledove’s counter-factual, which has the Japs taking Oahu, would have been workable, given the military assets we had on the Island, but it might have been necessary to keep the US from doing much in the Pacific for quite awhile.

    I am, however, grateful, my father’s generation never had to find experience any of the possibilities. I know my father’s generation was grateful they didn’t. The realities, were bad enough.

  3. It has long been my contention that the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941 could not have worked out better for the United States if it had been planned by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff.

    May I expain my reasoning?

    If the battleships had not been sunk in a shallow harbor, they would have been total loses with many, if not most of their crews. Also, if the fleet had put to sea, there would have been many escort ships wof which many likely would have also been lost along with their crews. Of the aircraft lost, a high percentage were obsolete or obsolescent. That so few got airborne meant that fewer of their pilots and aircrew were lost. Another thing, the U.S. learned that battleships with out aircraft support were just targets; a lesson the Japanese didn’t learn until later, despite having taught it to us.

    These items along with the other factors that XBRADTC points out are some of the reasons why I feel that my contention has some validity.

    This is in no way meant to denigrate our dead on wounded men and women, just to point out further how lucky we were that, if we had to be attacked, it really went much better for us than the Japanese.


    1. The Japanese had hoped to find the fleet in Lahaina Roads, as it occasionally was. Had ships been sunk there, they would have been too deep for salvage. And as Paul mentions, casualties would likely have been higher.

      The greatest mistake of the Japanese raid was failing to attack either the fuel supplies or the ship repair and machine shops at Pearl, that did so much to sustain US fleet combat power over the next four years. It was a stunning oversight, especially considering the working over Cavite in the PI got.

    2. Yes, we were very lucky at Pearl. I’ve gamed it out many times, and we were blessed to lose so little. Kimmel was planning a meeting engagement in the Marshals, and we would have had a catastrophic defeat if Kimmel’s plans had been carried out.

      One constraint on Nagumo was he had high aircrew losses in the first attack, ISTR 10% of the TF aviators. An additional raid on Pearl Harbor would entail more losses than the fragile IJN could afford. Most WWII air power strike planners figure 3% losses per raid is tops for sustained ops. IJN had a very small pool of excellent aviators, with a small replacement pipeline. The pre-war carrier aviators ware Japan’s killer app, and they ran wild for 6 months with that strike force, until Coral Sea and Midway.

      The information the IJN had, from attaches in Hawaii, was geared for warships and not sustainment. They did have a few aircraft bomb sites of proposed underground storage tanks, but ignored the visible ones. This was a cultural issue as the IJN wanted to confront warriors and not attack supporting forces throughout the war.

      Tanker support for Nagumo was only geared for a quick raid and back. Remember, the IJN did not do unrep well, and could not support operations further than Hawaii, or for longer around Pearl Harbor. The IJN was at it’s absolute limit for operations in December 1941.

      Cites available upon request.

      1. ISTR that most of the IJN losses at Pearl happened during the second wave. Total losses for the day are usually listed as 29 aircraft. Given the paucity of AA guns aboard ships and shore at the time, and the very modest numbers of US fighters aloft, that’s actually a pretty remarkable feat.

    3. Salty makes good points, but given what Brad says above, I think the losses on a second strike to take out the tank farm and support infrastructure at the base would have been well worth a few more losses. The failure to do that made Yamamoto’s prediction of running wild for 6 months to a year self fulfilling.

      That logistical support for something as important as the contingency of not finding the carriers in harbor was not provided strikes me as very short sighted. I think they could have staged the second strike, but the inability to hunt down Halsey was a strategic debacle of the first order.

      I can’t remember who it was that wrote a paper for the Japanese General Staff that outlined a plan to produce 120,000 pilots. The plan was rejected because it was felt that the war would not last long enough to need it. I think they may have regretted that decision 18 months later.

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