The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor remains one of the most important events in American history. The horrific loss of life and the sinking of vital American ships on the morning of December 7, 1941 drew the United States into World War II and eventually made it the world power it is today. Once firmly committed to a policy of isolationism, the attack on Pearl Harbor immediately changed that. Being such a turning point in American history, it’s important to have a general understanding of what happened that quiet Sunday morning over 75 years ago.
Recognizing the importance of remembering this crucial moment, we’ve put together a list of key people and terms that everyone should know about the Pearl Harbor attack.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Thirty-second President of the United States, Roosevelt gave an impassioned speech on December 8th, 1941, imploring Congress to approve the motion declaring war against Japan. Roosevelt had close ties to Winston Churchill, Prime Minster of Great Britain, and was a proponent of slowing down Japan’s expansion throughout the Pacific.
Husband E. Kimmel
Admiral in the US Navy and Commander of the Pacific Fleet at the time of the attack, Kimmel was later accused of failing to protect Pearl Harbor from the Japanese strike force. Many believe Kimmel was a scapegoat, lacking vital information that would have led to better preparation for the attack.
Japanese admiral, Yamamoto was responsible for planning the attack on Pearl Harbor. Yamamoto’s views often contrasted with those of other Japanese officials, and he is believed to have questioned whether the attack on Pearl Harbor was even the best course of action. Yamamoto was killed in a retaliatory attack when American Lockheed P-38 Lightning shot down his Mitsubishi G4M bomber.
The Imperial Japanese Navy’s 1st Air Fleet, known as Kido Butai, or Mobile Force, was the large attack force sent by the Japanese to Pearl Harbor. At the time, the Kido Butai was the largest grouping of aircraft carriers in the world. The ships remained 230 miles away from Oahu while two waves of aircraft carried out the assault.
United States Pacific Fleet
The grouping of ships based at Pearl Harbor, including nine battleships and three aircraft carriers. On the morning of the Japanese attack, all three carriers and one of the battleships were absent. In addition to these capital ships, there were dozens of other vessels of varying types and around 100 aircraft in the US Pacific Fleet.
A United States naval base on the southern coast of Oahu. Pearl Harbor was the target of the December 7th, 1941 Japanese assault. Known today as Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, it is still in active use.
The greatest single casualty of the Pearl Harbor attack, the USS Arizona suffered the loss of 1,177 crewmen, most of whose remains were never retrieved from the wreckage. Today, the Arizona lies just below the surface of the harbor and is the focal point of the USS Arizona Memorial.
The other US battleship destroyed during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Oklahoma lost 429 crewmen. Most of the fallen sailors have still not been definitively identified, and are buried in mass graves at the National Cemetery of the Pacific. The Department of Defense and Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency launched a program in 2015 to finally identify the lost sailors of the Oklahoma for proper burial with military honors.