When it comes to the most important events in history, there are typically little tidbits of information not readily known, sometimes even by those who were involved in the event. The attack on Pearl Harbor may have only lasted a few hours, but there is a slew of incredible factoids that have emerged from it. No matter how much you feel you’ve learned about Pearl Harbor, through reading, movies, exhibits and memorials, or historical references, there still may be something worth learning.
Japan Was Actually at a Disadvantage
On the surface, that statement may not make any sense considering how the United States was taken by surprise, but there were two fairly big factors in play that made the attack on Pearl Harbor more ineffective than expected.
If you follow the course of the war, you’ll see that several of the battleships that took on damage and water during the attack were raised and returned to the fight. Though they were sitting in the open in Battleship Row, lined up neatly for their attackers, the ships were also moored in shallow waters. This ultimately led to the reemergence of vessels that weren’t damaged beyond repair. While the USS Arizona, Utah, and Oklahoma were total losses, two of the ships that sank—the West Virginia and California—were raised and returned to service along with the other four damaged battleships, USS Tennessee, Maryland, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.
Additionally, other major ships were at sea during the attack. Three of the US Pacific Fleet’s aircraft carriers—USS Enterprise, Saratoga, and Lexington—could have been major losses to the American fleet, but Japan never had the chance to bombard them.
The Focus of Attack was Limited
As Japanese fighters zeroed in on Pearl Harbor, they had major targets in mind. The battleships were among the most vital vessels to hit, and accounted for most of the attackers’ attention. The nearby Hickam Airfield was also a target, as the Japanese sought to prevent an American counterattack. Despite the organized effort to cripple the American Navy, Japan left other targets on Oahu unscathed. Submarine bases, repair facilities, and fuel storage tanks were inexplicably ignored during the attack, making the American recovery easier.
The Brothers of the USS Arizona
When considering the devastation of the Pearl Harbor attack, it can be easier to picture it with numbers. For instance, the thought of a battleship sunk to the bottom of the harbor is chilling—especially considering it can still be seen in its watery grave today—but the destruction of the Arizona is felt even more deeply when you learn that there were over 1,100 men who died on that ship alone.
Of those 1,177 men, the Arizona was carrying 37 known sets of brothers, accounting for 77 different men. By the time the attack had ended, 62 of those men were dead within the Arizona. Twenty-three sets of brothers were lost on one ship. It’s said that a military unit becomes like a family. Considering the actual blood relations between some of these fallen sailors, the feeling of loss becomes even more acute.