Much is known about the attack on Pearl Harbor, but one has to stop every so often and consider how much of it is truth and how much has been twisted over the years. Seventy-five years ago, the naval base on Oahu’s coast fell victim to a surprise attack by the Japanese, launching the United States into a state of panic that can easily cause misinformation to spread. The war that immediately followed only served to exacerbate that panic and frenzy, causing further inaccurate information to spread.
It’s this series of events that can easily have led to the following myths taking root and, over the years, becoming engrained among the truth of the Pearl Harbor attack.
The Absence of United States Aircraft Carriers Was Intentional
It’s true that there were no American aircraft carriers stationed at Pearl Harbor during the attack, but this had nothing to do with the US knowing about the attack ahead of time and protecting its assets. In fact, the two carriers stationed at Pearl Harbor, USS Enterprise and USS Lexington, were heading west. The Enterprise was scheduled to return to Pearl Harbor the night before the attack, but inclement weather impeded her progress.
Though the carriers were a vital part of the US Navy, and the course of the war likely would have been different without them, the ships’ manifests and orders don’t indicate any irregularities on the part of the US government, especially since it was Mother Nature and not FDR that delayed the Enterprise’s return.
There Was No Urgent Message Sent to Pearl Harbor
How was it that nobody knew the Japanese were so close to their target before the first bomb fell, especially after a message was intercepted from the Japanese and decoded to reveal diplomatic talks with Washington were to be ceased? The truth of the matter is, a message was sent from D.C. to Pearl Harbor to warn the fleet, but its transmission was delayed and it arrived too late.
The atmospheric conditions that morning made it impossible for a direct transmission to be sent to Pearl harbor. Instead, the message was sent via telegraph through Western Union and was not received until after Japan had commenced its attack.
Pearl Harbor Was the Only Target on December 7th
Though Pearl Harbor is widely thought to be the only planned target on December 7th, Japan actually had other places to go that day. Only ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor had ended, Japan turned its attention to the Philippines and engaged the unprepared region. On the morning of December 8th, Japan launched an aerial assault similar to the one at Pearl Harbor. The Japanese were met with resistance from B-17s, but that didn’t’ stop additional troops being deployed to Legazpi on southern Luzon just four days later.
These movements were the start of Japan’s lengthy campaign in the Philippines, which ended on May 8th, 1942, when Japan pushed back American forces and fully occupied the Philippines.