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Pearl Harbor Attack Facts, History, and Timeline

What events were leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor? In 1939 President Roosevelt cancelled the US trade agreement with Japan. In 1940, he imposed a trade embargo, halting exports to Japan of petroleum products including gas and lubricants, iron and steel scrap. In July 1941, Roosevelt ordered the freezing of all Japanese assets in the United States, ending all trade between US and Japan.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was serving his third presidential term in office and had pledged the US to the “good neighbor” policy, entering into

agreements for joint action with allied nations against aggressors. Although he hoped to avoid war, Roosevelt provided extensive support to the British war effort. After the attack, which pulled the U.S. into the fighting, critics blamed Roosevelt for being unprepared.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 they incorrectly assumed that if they could cripple the US Pacific Fleet that the country would be demoralized. Instead, the attack solidified the emotions of the people and led to the eventual fall of the Japanese Empire.

On December 8, 1941, Roosevelt addressed the members of Congress asking for a declaration of war against the Japanese Empire. In his speech, he uttered one of the most famous saying of all time when he referred to the bombing of Pearl Harbour as “a date which will live in infamy”!

Timeline of The Attact On Pearl Harbor December, 7th 1941

December, 7th at 3:42am: The minesweeper Condor is on patrol less than two miles off the entrance to Pearl Harbor. The officer of the deck sees something “about fifty yards ahead off the port bow.” He asks a sailor what he makes of the object. “That’s a periscope, sir,” the sailor replies. “And there aren’t supposed to be any subs in the area.”

December, 7th at 6:10am: Already in flight, Comdr. Mitsuo Fuchida, who will lead the Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor, sees the Japanese aircraft carriers rocking on a choppy sea. The carriers turn into the wind, and the first wave of planes—183 fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes—roar into the sky.

December, 7th at 6:45am: The U.S. destroyer Ward, which had not been able to find the midget submarine reported by the minesweeper Condor, moves in for the kill. The Ward’s captain, Lt. William W. Outerbridge, has been in command for only two days. He orders men to commence firing. The first shot misses. The second strikes the submarine at the waterline.

December, 7th at 6:53am: From the Ward to the 14th Naval Headquarters, at Pearl Harbor Naval Station: “We have dropped depth charges upon sub operating in defensive sea area.”

December, 7th at 7:02am: The Army’s Opana Mobile Radar Station is one of six radar stations on Oahu. One of the two privates on duty looks at the radar oscilloscope and sees 50 or more aircraft on a bearing for Oahu.

December, 7th at 7:15am: The Ward had sent out its message—that it had attacked an unidentified sub—in code. The message gradually makes its way to the top: Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet. Because there had been so many “false reports of submarines” recently, Kimmel decides to “wait for verification of the report.”

December, 7th at 7:20am: An Army lieutenant who is in training at the radio-network operations center at Fort Shafter gets the Opana radar station report: “the biggest sightings” the radar operator had ever seen. By now the planes are about 70 miles away. The lieutenant believes that the radar had picked up a flight of U.S. B-17 Flying Fortress bombers heading from California to Hawaii.

December, 7th at 7:33am: U.S. code breakers have cracked the Japanese diplomatic code. From a Tokyo-to-Washington message, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Gen. George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, learn that Japanese negotiators in Washington have been told to break off talks.

December, 7th at 7:40am: Planes of the first wave take off from the Japanese carriers—49 high-altitude bombers, 51 dive-bombers, 40 torpedo planes, 43 fighters.

December, 7th at 7:49am: Air-attack commander Mitsuo Fuchida, looking down on Pearl Harbor, sees no aircraft carriers, which the Japanese hoped to destroy and thus thwart U.S. retaliation.

December, 7th at 7:55am: At the Command Center on Ford Island, Comdr. Logan C. Ramsey looks out a window to see a low-flying plane. Ramsey runs to a radio room and orders the telegraph operators to send out an uncoded message to every ship and base: “AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR THIS IS NOT DRILL” The coordinated attack begins as dive-bombers strike the Army Air Forces’ Wheeler Field, north of Pearl Harbor, and Hickam Field, near Ford Island’s Battleship Row.Most U.S. planes have been parked wingtip-to-wingtip in neat rows to make it easy to guard them against sabotage. Most are destroyed.

December, 7th at 8:00am: As part of a U.S. plan to bolster the Pacific forces, 12 B-17 Flying Fortresses have been ordered to the Philippines. The first stop is Oahu. Unaware that Japan is attacking Oahu, they prepare to land.

December, 7th at 8:10am: An armor-piercing bomb, dropped by a high-altitude bomber, pierces the forward deck of the Arizona, setting off more than a million pounds of gunpowder, creating a huge fireball, and killing 1,177 men. A sailor on the torpedoed battleship Nevada sees the Arizona “jump at least 15 or 20 feet upward in the water and sort of break in two.” In nine minutes the Arizona is on the bottom.

December, 7th at 8:17am: Through the flames and smoke, the destroyer Helm speeds to the open sea. As the Helm leaves the channel, a lookout spots a Japanese sub snagged on a reef. The Helm “turned hard right toward enemy submarine,” shoots—and misses. The two-person sub breaks free and submerges. But it snags again. Trying to escape the foundering sub, one crewman drowns. The other is washed ashore—and becomes the United States’ first World War II prisoner of war.

December, 7th at 8:39am: As the destroyer Monaghan tries to “get out of that damn harbor as fast as possible,” a nearby U.S. ship signals that it has sighted a submarine. The Monaghan heads for the sub at top speed, hits it with gunfire, then rams it and drops depth charges. The charges are so close that when they explode, the blasts lift the Monaghan out of the water but do not damage her.

December, 7th at 8:50am: The Nevada gets her steam up in 45 minutes and, with antiaircraft guns blazing, heads for the open sea. Japanese planes of the second wave bomb her, hoping that by sinking her in the narrow channel she will bottle up the fleet.

December, 7th at 8:54am: The second wave—35 fighters, 78 dive-bombers, and 54 high-altitude bombers—meets heavy antiaircraft fire. Bombers attack the navy yard dry dock and hit the battleship Pennsylvania. Another bomber hits oil tanks between the destroyers Cassin and Downes. Bombs hit the light cruiser Raleigh, which had been torpedoed in the first wave.

December, 7th at 9:30am: A bomb blows off the bow of the destroyer Shaw. A photo of the spectacular explosion becomes one of the best known images of December 7, 1941.

December, 7th at 10:00am: Japanese fighters do not have homing devices or radar. They rendezvous with bombers off Oahu and follow them back to the carriers.Exultant Japanese pilots urge a third strike. But superiors, saying the attack has been successful, rule out a third strike.

December, 7th at 10:30am: From the ships and airfields come the wounded—some horribly burned, others riddled by bullets and shrapnel.

December, 7th at 1:00p: The Pearl Harbor strike force turns for home.

List of US Ships That Were Damaged or Destroyed During the Attack on Pearl Harbor

Battleships lost or damaged duing the attack on Pearl Harbor
USS Arizona (BB-39) – See Books sunk, total loss, lies at bottom of Pearl Harbor See History
USS Oklahoma (BB-37) See Books – capsized, total loss
USS West Virginia (BB-48) See Books – sunk, later raised, repaired and rejoined fleet July 1944
USS California (BB-44) See Books – sunk, later raised, repaired and rejoined fleet May 1944
USS Nevada (BB-36) – heavily damaged, grounded, repaired and rejoined fleet December 1942
USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) See Books – was in drydock – slightly damaged, repaired and rejoined fleet August 1942
USS Maryland (BB-46) – damaged, repaired and rejoined fleet February 1942
USS Tennessee (BB-43) – damaged, repaired and rejoined fleet March 1942.

Cruisers lost or damaged duing the attack on Pearl Harbor
USS Helena (CL-50) – heavily damaged, repaired and rejoined fleet June 1942
USS Honolulu (CL-48) – damaged, repaired and rejoined fleet January 1942
USS Raleigh (CL-7) – heavily damaged, repaired and rejoined fleet July 1942

Destroyers lost or damaged duing the attack on Pearl Harbor
USS Cassin (DD-372) – was in drydock – heavily damaged, rebuilt and rejoined fleet February 1944
USS Downes (DD-375) – was in drydock – heavily damaged rebuilt and rejoined fleet November 1943
USS Helm (DD-388) – damaged, continued on patrol, repaired and rejoined fleet January 1942
USS Shaw (DD-373) – severely damaged and repaired

Minelayers lost or damaged duing the attack on Pearl Harbor
USS Oglala (CM-4) – sunk, raised, repaired and rejoined fleet February 1944

Auxiliaries lost or damaged duing the attack on Pearl Harbor
Seaplane Tender – USS Curtiss (AV-4) – damaged, repaired and rejoined fleet January 1942
Harbor Tug – USS Sotoyomo (YT-9) – with Shaw – sunk, raised, repaired and rejoined fleet August 1942
USS Utah (AG-16) See Books – capsized, on bottom of Pearl Harbor
Vestal – heavily damaged, beached, refloated, repaired and rejoined fleet February 1942
YFD-2 – sunk, raised, refloated, repaired and rejoined fleet May 1942

Aircraft Losses
How many U.S. Navy aircraft were lost during pearl harbor – 92 lost, 31 damaged.
How many U.S. U.S. Army aircraft were lost during pearl harbor – 77 lost, 128 damaged.
How many Japanese aircraft were lost during pearl harbor – 9 fighters, 15 dive bombers, 5 torpedo bombers.

What Were the Results of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

Japanese major tactical victory
United States declares war on the Empire of Japan
Nazi Germany and Kingdom of Italy declare war on the United States.

Quick Trivia for Kids about Pearl Harbor

Did the United States have warning of the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Ten hours before the surprise attack on December 7, 1941, Americans intercepted a 14-part Japanese message. They deciphered it at 4:37 am, Washington time, just hours before the attack, but the message remained in the code room; not until three hours later was it delivered to PresidentRoosevelt. By 11:oo am, the U.S. chief of naval operations and the army chief of staff received the deciphered message, which was then transmitted to all areas of the Pacific except Hawaii, where the receiver was not working. The message did not reach Pearl Harbor until nearly three hours after the attack, which took 3,000 lives.