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