War and Conflict

World War II

What happened at Pearl Harbor?

On the night before the attack, the Japanese moved a fleet of 33 ships to within 200 miles of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where Pearl Harbor is situated. More than 300 planes took off from the Japanese carriers, dropping the first bombs on Pearl Harbor just before 8:00 A.M. on December 7, 1941. There were eight American battleships and more than 90 naval vessels in the harbor at the time. Twenty-one of these were destroyed or damaged, as were 300 planes. The biggest single loss of the day was the sinking of the battleship USS Arizona, which went down in less than nine minutes. More than half the fatalities at Pearl Harbor that infamous December day were due to the sinking of the Arizona. By the end of the raid, more than 2,300 people had been killed and about the same number were wounded.

Pearl Harbor forever changed the United States and its role in the world. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) addressed Congress the next day, he called December 7 “a date which will live in infamy.” The United States declared war against Japan, and on December 11 Germany and Italy—Japan’s Axis allies—declared war on the United States. The events of December 7 had brought America into the war, a conflict from which it would emerge as the leader of the free world.


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