Military Wednesdays - The Attack on Pearl Harbor

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Wednesday, Mar 23 2011 by

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941.

Pearl Harbor (Google Maps)
Pearl Harbor

First Wave

The first attack wave of 183 planes was launched north of Oahu, commanded by Captain Mitsuo Fuchida.

As the first wave approached Oahu a U.S. Army SCR-270 radar at Opana Point near the island’s northern tip (a post not yet operational, having been in training mode for months) detected them and called in a warning. Although the operators reported a target, a newly assigned officer at the thinly manned Intercept presumed the scheduled arrival of six B-17 bombers was the source.

The early warning was ignored.

Opana Radar Site (Google Maps)
Opana Radar Site

Slow, vulnerable torpedo bombers led the first wave, exploiting the first moments of surprise to attack the most important ships present (the battleships).

Wreck of the Battleship USS Utah (BB-31) sunk during attack on Pearl Harbor (Google Maps)
Wreck of the Battleship USS Utah (BB-31) sunk during attack on Pearl Harbor

As the first wave of attacks progressed dive bombers hit U.S. air bases across Oahu, starting with Hickam Field, the largest, and Wheeler Field, the main U.S. Army Air Force fighter base., Barbers Point and NAS Kaneohe.

Hickam Air Force Base (Google Maps)
Hickam Air Force Base

Wheeler Army Airfield (Google Maps)
Wheeler Army Airfield
Kalaeloa Airport (Former NAS Barbers Point) (Google Maps)
Kalaeloa Airport (Former NAS Barbers Point)

Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay (Google Maps)
Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay

Second Wave

The 171 planes in the second wave attacked the Air Corps’ Bellows Field, NAS Kaneohe on the windward side of the island, and Ford Island again.

Bellows Air Field (Google Maps)
Bellows Air Field

Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay (Google Maps)
Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay
Ford Island Naval Air Facility (Google Maps)
Ford Island Naval Air Facility

Aftermath

Four U.S. Navy battleships were sunk (two of which were raised and returned to service later in the war) and the four others present were damaged. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,402 men were killed and 1,282 wounded.

USS Arizona (BB-39) Memorial (Birds Eye)
USS Arizona (BB-39) Memorial

The attack came as a profound shock to the American people and led directly to the American entry into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters.

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