December 7th, 1941

By 7 Comments 834 views

“What kind of a people do they (Japan) think we are? Is it possible they do not realise that we shall never cease to persevere against them until they have been tau

ght a lesson which they and the world will never forget?”
— Winston Churchill

Japanese military leaders recognized American naval strength as the chief deterrent to war with the United States. Early in 1941, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander of the Japanese Combined Fleet, had initiated planning for a surprise attack on the United States Pacific Fleet at the beginning of any hostilities that the Japanese might undertake. The assumption was that before the United States could recover from a surprise blow, the Japanese would be able to seize all their objectives in the Far East, and could then hold out indefinitely.

By September 1941 the Japanese had practically completed secret plans for a huge assault against Malaya, the Philippines, and the Netherlands East Indies, to be coordinated with a crushing blow on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. Early in November Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo was named commander of the Pearl Harbor Striking Force, which rendezvoused secretly in the Kuriles. The force of some 30 ships included six aircraft carriers with about 430 planes, of which approximately 360 took part in the subsequent attack. At the same time, a Japanese Advance Expeditionary Force of some 20 submarines was assembled at Kure naval base on the west coast of Honshu to cooperate in the attack.

Submarines of the Advance Expeditionary Force began their eastward movement across the Pacific in mid-November, refueled and resupplied in the Marshalls, and arrived near Oahu about December 5 (Hawaiian time). On the night of December 6-7 five midget (two-man) submarines that had been carried “piggy-back” on large submarines cast off and began converging on Pearl Harbor.

Nagumo’s task force sailed from the Kuriles on 26 November and arrived, undetected by the Americans, at a point about 200 miles north of Oahu at 0600 hours (Hawaiian time) on December 7, 1941. Beginning at 0600 and ending at 0715, a total of some 360 planes were launched in three waves. These planes rendezvoused to the south and then flew toward Oahu for coordinated attacks.

In Pearl Harbor were 96 vessels, the bulk of the United States Pacific Fleet. Eight battleships of the Fleet were there, but the aircraft carriers were all at sea. The Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) was Admiral Husband E. Kimmel. Army forces in Hawaii, including the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions, were under the command of Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short, Commanding General of the Hawaiian Department. On the several airfields were a total of about 390 Navy and Army planes of all types, of which less than 300 were available for combat or observation purposes.

The Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor and on the airfields of Oahu began at 0755 on December 7, 1941 and ended shortly before 1000. Quickly recovering from the initial shock of surprise, the Americans fought back vigorously with antiaircraft fire. Devastation of the airfields was so quick and thorough that only a few American planes were able to participate in the counterattack. The Japanese were successful in accomplishing their principal mission, which was to cripple the Pacific Fleet. They sunk three battleships, caused another to capsize, and severely damaged the other four.

All together the Japanese sank or severely damaged 18 ships, including the 8 battleships, three light cruisers, and three destroyers. On the airfields the Japanese destroyed 161 American planes (Army 74, Navy 87) and seriously damaged 102 (Army 71, Navy 31).

The Navy and Marine Corps suffered a total of 2,896 casualties of which 2,117 were deaths (Navy 2,008, Marines 109) and 779 wounded (Navy 710, Marines 69). The Army (as of midnight, 10 December) lost 228 killed or died of wounds, 113 seriously wounded and 346 slightly wounded. In addition, at least 57 civilians were killed and nearly as many seriously injured.

The Japanese lost 29 planes over Oahu, one large submarine (on 10 December), and all five of the midget submarines. Their personnel losses (according to Japanese sources) were 55 airmen, nine crewmen on the midget submarines, and an unknown number on the large submarines. The Japanese carrier task force sailed away undetected and unscathed.

On December 8, 1941, within less than an hour after a stirring, six-minute address by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Congress voted, with only one member dissenting, that a state of war existed between the United States and Japan, and empowered the President to wage war with all the resources of the country.

Four days after Pearl Harbor, December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. Congress, this time without a dissenting vote, immediately recognized the existence of a state of war with Germany and Italy, and also rescinded an article of the Selective Service Act prohibiting the use of American armed forces beyond the Western Hemisphere.

And here are a few of the hero’s of that day

Navy Ensign Herbert C. Jones:

Herbert Charpiot Jones was born in Los Angeles, California, on 21 January 1918. He enlisted in the Naval Reserve in May 1935. After receiving Midshipmen’s training on board the drill ship Prairie State (IX-15), he was commissioned in the rank of Ensign in November 1940. During the 7 December 1941 Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor, he was serving as an officer in USS California (BB-44). When his ship was attacked and badly damaged, he rescued a sailor from a smoke-filled compartment, then led an anti-aircraft battery in firing on the raiders. When the ammunition hoists were put out of action, Ensign Jones organized an ammunition passing party and led it until he was fatally injured by a bomb. He then refused evacuation out of fear for the lives of his rescuers. For his heroism during the Pearl Harbor battle, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor citation:

For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Ens. Jones organized and led a party, which was supplying ammunition to the antiaircraft battery of the U.S.S. California after the mechanical hoists were put out of action when he was fatally wounded by a bomb explosion. When 2 men attempted to take him from the area which was on fire, he refused to let them do so, saying in words to the effect, “Leave me alone! I am done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off.”

Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Charles E. Douglas:

Navy Cross citation:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Gunnery Sergeant Charles E. Douglas (MCSN: 200624), United States Marine Corps, for exceptional courage, presence of mind, and devotion to duty and disregard for his personal safety while serving on board the U.S.S. NEVADA (BB-36) during the Japanese attack on the United States Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, on 7 December 1941. Gunnery Sergeant Douglas, in charge of the forward anti-aircraft machine guns of the U.S.S. NEVADA, kept these guns in continuous action until burned out due to loss of circulating water when severed by a bomb hit. In spite of orders to abandon his station, after a bomb hit caused a fire that enveloped the forward superstructure endangering the lives of the men on the forward machine guns, he and his men remained at their station firing the remaining guns until the end of the action. His outstanding courage, aggressive fighting spirit and devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon Sergeant Hailey and the United States Naval Service.

Navy Seaman First Class William Whiteford Parker:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Seaman First Class William Whiteford Parker, United States Navy, for exceptional courage, presence of mind, and devotion to duty and disregard for his personal safety while serving on board the Battleship U.S.S. ARIZONA (BB-39), during the Japanese attack on the United States Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December 1941. Despite orders from his gun captain to take cover, Seaman First Class Parker remained at his station on anti-aircraft gun No. 1 with two other members of his gun crew until he was blown overboard by an explosion. The conduct of Seaman First Class Parker throughout this action reflects great credit upon himself, and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

For an excellent multimedia map of Pearl Harbor go here.

Curt served in the Marine Corps for four years and has been a law enforcement officer in Los Angeles for the last 24 years.

7 Responses to “December 7th, 1941”

  1. 2

    Rides A Pale Horse

    May I also add yet another hero to the honor roll?

    Relative and friend, Bill Blackwood. From an article I wrote at the now darkened DBKP on the passing of Mr. Blackwood who was a crewman on the U.S.S California at the time of the attack.

    Although the page no longer shows the comments, there were over 30 from friends, relatives and those he helped to get back into the skies he so loved.

    R.I.P. Bill

  2. 3

    James Raider

    There are many lessons we can gleam from “Pearl Harbour” including NOT ‘letting our guard down.’

    From the proceedings of Navy Court Of Inquiry questioning of Kermit A. Tyler, the Lieutenant Colonel, Air Corps, who was the officer to whom the infamous “radar blip” of incoming Japanese planes was reported, we can sense the lack of direction and absence of managerial rigour above and around Tyler. Most of all we can see the result of complacency, and repercussion of assumptions about foreign forces who do not wish us well. We can see what results when one willfully ignores endless indications of impending aggression. Japan had lulled us into “dialogue,” pulling a right-hand distraction, while its left hand was preparing a monumental assault, . . . and FDR and the military leadership fiddled – worse, actually, FDR ordered Admiral Kimmel to return all ships to harbour, just in case it might insult the Japanese. Sound like a familiar strategy? Benghazi maybe? Appeasement works so well. No?

    A nation depends on effective leadership for its safety. There’s evidently a majority (51%) which refuses to learn from history and complacently accepts a misdirected and ineffective rudder.

  3. 4


    I fervently pray that this history doesn’t repeat itself any time soon in my country. But with the pro-muslim appeasers in charge in DC, it doesn’t look good.

  4. 7

    W. C. Taqiyya

    Yep, and what did the U.S. do after that attack? They mobilized for real war which included transplanting our Japanese citizens into hastily constructed towns where their movements were controlled. It wasn’t pleasant and it may have been a bit of an overreaction, but it was war and they took war seriously back then. Contrast that with 2001. Sure, Bush bombs and invades a far away country where the leaders who planned the attacks of 9-11 were hiding. But, even knowing that almost all of the attackers and planners were Saudi Arabian and Muslim, Bush let all the rich ones fly out of the country. Did he bomb the country that is the philosophical source, inspiration and birthplace of the attackers and planners? Nope. Did he restrict the movements of our Muslim citizens or Saudi citizens living in the U.S.? Nope. Did he stop the immigration of Saudis or Muslims into this country? Nope. Bush and all the rest of our politicians thought it was more important to be politically correct. They pretend to fight a war against terror (a stupidly impossibly idea) instead. You can’t win a war when you can’t or refuse to define the enemy. You can’t win a war when you subsidize the enemy. And you can’t win a frackin war when you apologize for destroying their fields, homes, soldiers and fortifications and then pay them to rebuild.
    War is simple and brutal and unforgiving. That’s why it’s called war. Most of the people in America and certainly it’s political leadership don’t know that anymore. But, our enemies do and they are laughing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *