Attack on Pearl Harbor Research Paper

Pages: 7 (2365 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Military

Japan and WWII

The Japanese naval attack on Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands was a devastating loss for the United States, both in terms of the loss of vessels and lives in the U.S. Pacific Fleet and in terms of the political and psychological shock waves that the surprise attack caused. But notwithstanding that tremendous blow to American military might, and notwithstanding the territories in the South Pacific that the Japanese had control over, the Americans found the will and the wherewithal to defeat Japan. This paper recounts the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the attack itself, and the way in which the United States went about the task of bringing Japan to its knees.

The Attack on Pearl Harbor

"In one stroke, the Japanese navy scored a brilliant success -- and assured their ultimate defeat"


There were important events prior to December 7, 1941 -- the day that President Franklin Roosevelt called "A day that shall live in infamy" -- that can be seen in hindsight that showed the world Japan was becoming militarily arrogant and dangerous. Also, there were events that apparently led Japan to believe it needed to attack the United States. First, in the Naval History & Heritage website (NHH) (a project of the U.S. Navy) the authors explain that Japan had conquered Manchuria in 1931 as part of its expansion into China and Indochina. By 1940 Japan had basically conquered all of Indochina and had allied itself with Nazi Germany, which raised red flags of great concern in countries all over the world, including Western Europe and the United States.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
paper NOW!

Research Paper on Attack on Pearl Harbor Assignment

In response to the aggression Japan had shown in Asia, America cut off the sale of oil and other raw materials to Japan, and also, America sent aid to China to help it fend off Japan's ceaseless attacks. Japan had no oil reserves of its own, and otherwise is lacking in natural resources, so when the U.S. cut off the flow of oil, it angered Japan and it caused Japan to resolve to "…seize the resource-rich territories of Southeast Asia," including the Philippines, an territory affiliated with the United States (NHH). And in order to make sure they could conquer territories in Southeast Asia, Japan's military strategists decided to attack Pearl Harbor in order to "immobilize the U.S. Pacific Fleet" (NHH). The attack would need to use "meticulous preparation" on an "unprecedented scale," and certainly the precise training and planning paid off for Japan.

On the 7th of December, 1941, Japanese Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo led a force of 6 heavy aircraft carriers (accompanied by 24 other vessels in support of the carriers) to within 200 miles of Pearl Harbor. This massive armada of ships and planes had apparently not been detected by the American forces (there were no satellites in space allowing real-time visual images of activities on land or in the sea) and the first wave of 181 planes took off heading for Pearl Harbor (NHH). The attack planes included "…torpedo bombers, dive bombers, horizontal bombers and fighters"; and while the U.S. Navy had seen and had sunk a Japanese submarine just outside the entrance to Pearl Harbor, no one apparently suspected that a huge attack was on the way (NHH).

At about 8:00 A.M. On December 7, the first wave of Japanese planes attacked the military airfields simultaneously with the destruction of vessels in the harbor. About 8:30 the first attack ended and about 9:00 A.M. The second wave arrived (170 planes) and continued hammering vessels and military installations. The Americans were caught by surprise and they paid a very heavy price. In fact 21 ships were sunk or severely damaged, and those included 8 battleships, 3 cruisers and other ships including 3 destroyers.

The USS Arizona was "…mortally wounded," and the explosion that was caused when the Japanese "…armor-piercing bomb ignited the ship's forward ammunition magazine" killed 1,177 crewmen on that battleship (NHH, p. 2). Japan only lost 29 planes, about ten percent of the total number of planes that were sent to attack Pearl Harbor. The only reason that the U.S. aircraft carriers were unscathed is that they were not in port; the U.S.S. Enterprise was delivering planes to Wake Island; the U.S.S. Lexington was delivering bombers to Midway Island; and the U.S.S. Saratoga was on its way to the west coast for maintenance and repairs (NHH). The Japanese attack did not damage the "…shore-side facilities at Pearl Harbor Naval Base," which the Navy's website claimed played a "…important role in the Allied victory in World War II" (page 2).

The U.S. was able to raise and repair every ship that was sunk except for three; and moreover, what the attack on Pearl Harbor really accomplished was to unite a previously divided nation, which translated into a "…wholehearted commitment to victory in WWII" (NHH).

Japanese -- American Rivalry in the Pacific

An article in Explains that Japanese "imperial ambitions had been evident from as early as 1931," following the conquest of Manchuria. Japan needed the raw natural resources from Manchuria to continue expansion plans into the region; Japan was referring to this ambition as the "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere"; and the U.S. And other nations clearly could see Japan's aggression when it went into an all-out war with China in 1937.

In 1941 Japan occupied French Indochina but President Roosevelt preferred to avoid a direct confrontation with Japan, although after the U.S. stopped shipping oil to Japan, as mentioned earlier in this paper, there was justification in the minds of Japan's military leaders to go after America in Pearl Harbor. Indeed, though Pearl Harbor was a mighty big success for Japan, what it also did was "strategically catastrophic" ( "The sleeping giant had been awoken, and in America, a sense of fury now accompanied the mobilization for war of the world's most powerful economy" ( The rage Americans felt towards Japan was used "…to take a terrible vengeance on Japan" (

Looking Deeper into the Pearl Harbor Attack Issue

An article in the New York Times in 1999 reveals previously undiscovered documents that reflect the "…breathtakingly cunning deceit by Tokyo" that allowed the attack to seem to be out of the question (French, 1999). Apparently on December 3, 1941, four days prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan had sent created a document (from the Japanese Foreign Ministry) that stated, "We are forced to terminate negotiations" (French, p. 1). Moreover, the document said that the Americans would be "…held responsible for any and all the consequences that may arise in the future" (French, p. 1). That document was supposedly written because the "Hague Convention" bound all nations to an agreement to "…declare war before attacking" but it was never delivered, French explains.

However, a researcher named Takeo Iguchi discovered the draft memo and he also discovered correspondence within the Japanese Foreign Ministry documents that showed the Japanese military and political leaders were having a "…vigorous debate" as to how to (or whether to) let Washington know that the Japanese were breaking off all dialogue (French, p. 1). French asserts that the document pertaining to breaking off negotiations with the U.S. was "intercepted" before it could be delivered and President Roosevelt laid eyes on it; but the president reportedly believed this was an announcement that Japan intended to go to war, but his aides discounted it and no preparations were made.

The document reached the State Department at 1:00 P.M. But the Secretary of State didn't see it until 2:20 P.M., an hour after the attack in Hawaii. Why did it take an hour and twenty minutes for the staff at the State Department? French says there was speculation that State Department staff had hangovers from a rowdy night before and was not in the office on time. That said, would there have been time for the military at Pearl Harbor to prepare for a strike? Probably not.

The Japanese Strategy that Failed

Robert W. Coakley writes in the Army history website and he explains that Japan's goal was to occupy and use raw natural resources from the following territories: Malaya, the Netherlands Indies, the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam, the Gilbert Islands, Thailand and Burma" (Coakley, 2001, p. 502). Ultimately, Japan planned to create a "defensive perimeter stretching from the Kurile Islands…to New Guinea" and would also include Thailand and Burma, Coakley writes (502). The Japanese figured that the Allies would "wear themselves out in fruitless frontal assaults" to take back those territories -- and eventually the U.S. would sign a peace treaty giving Japan those properties (Coakley, 502).

Coakley writes that the Japanese expected the U.S. To fight a "limited war" -- not a total war -- and that was one of the key Japanese miscalculations. A once-divided nation had become totally united in anger over the devastation in Hawaii and Americans backed a total, all-out effort to take the war to the Japanese. The U.S. was not about to give… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

Two Ordering Options:

Which Option Should I Choose?
1.  Download full paper (7 pages)Download Microsoft Word File

Download the perfectly formatted MS Word file!

- or -

2.  Write a NEW paper for me!✍🏻

We'll follow your exact instructions!
Chat with the writer 24/7.

Lessons Learned From the Attack on Pearl Harbor Essay

Pearl Harbor Thesis

Intelligence Failure at Pearl Research Paper

Pearl Harbor Term Paper

Pearl Harbor and the Cuban Missile Crisis Term Paper

View 200+ other related papers  >>

How to Cite "Attack on Pearl Harbor" Research Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Attack on Pearl Harbor.  (2013, July 8).  Retrieved May 11, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Attack on Pearl Harbor."  8 July 2013.  Web.  11 May 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Attack on Pearl Harbor."  July 8, 2013.  Accessed May 11, 2021.