On November 26, 1941 , a battle group of six Japanese aircraft carriers and their escorts set out from Hitokappu Bay ( Kuril Islands ). There were over four hundred planes on board. The task was: to destroy all the United States fleet, which will be located on December 7, 1941 at the main American base in the Pacific in the Hawaiian Islands in the port of Pearl Harbor. The attack was supposed to be surprising - Japan was not at war with the United States at the time. The war was to be the result of the conquest plans of Imperial Japan to create the so-called Greater Asia under the rule of the Japanese ( similar to Hitler's "United Europe" ).
The union was composed of six aircraft carriers Akagi , Kaga , Sórjú , Hirjú , Zuikaku and Šókaku . The escort consisted of the battleships Hiei , Kirishima , heavy cruisers Tone , Chikuma , light cruiser Abukuma and nine destroyers. The operation also included 27 Class I submarines to chase the escaped ships. All of this, the strongest group of battleships to date, sailed unnoticed to the Hawaiian Archipelago.
Despite various warnings, the Americans did not take any countermeasures, the attack was completely surprising to them and the consequences were catastrophic. Discussions are still taking place on the extent to which the attack could have been prevented.
A few minutes before six in the morning, the strike force reached a position to take off aircraft 230 miles from the island of Oahu. The aircraft carriers turned in a strong wind and the first attack wave started at 6:00 despite fifteen-degree fluctuations. After the formation, 140 bombers of the Kate and Val type, equipped with bombs and torpedoes, and 43 Zero- type fighters headed for the Hawaiian Islands at the direction of their commander, the frigate captain Micu Fucida.
Around seven o'clock, a massive signal indicating a large group of aircraft was detected almost randomly on the screen of a newly installed American radar. The imperfection of the system, the inexperience and laziness of some officers caused this fact to be replaced by the planned arrival of twelve B-17 flying forts that day. The defense thus remained calm, and in the words of the then US Senator Connally, " she got caught with her pants down ."
At seven forty-nine frigates. Captain Fuchida sent an order to launch an attack. The aircraft were divided into several groups. They first attacked an airport located on Ford Island and at the same time bombed Wheeler Field Air Base. An important task of these formations was fulfilled. All US air forces were destroyed or paralyzed. The bombs landed on planes set up side by side, triggering a huge trigger. The American air defense did not intervene at all after this surprising blow.
7:53 freg. Captain Fuchida sent out the legendary coded TORA signal TORA TORA, which announced to the Japanese assault alliance that the surprise attack had succeeded. At about the same time, another group of torpedo and dive bombers was heading for Pearl Harbor.The view of their goals was impressive. Seventy warships and twenty-four auxiliary vessels. Of which eight battleships, two heavy cruisers, six light, 29 destroyers, five submarines, one gunboat, nine minesweepers and ten minesweepers. These ships became an easy target for attacking Japanese aircraft. Without maneuverability and air protection, with crews unprepared to attack, the US armor struck one blow after another. Precisely aimed torpedoes and bombs reliably performed their terrible work. The long-term perfect training of Japanese tigers also played a part in this fact. Fire, explosions, smoke, moans of the wounded - this is what the image of this attack looked like. However, the defense slowly began to take shape. At first sporadically, then more dense were the shots of American weapons of all types and calibers, which made it difficult for the attackers to aim. Meanwhile, forty-three Zero fighters circled over the bay, watching American planes. When the pilots found out that none of them had taken off, the descent and subsequent shooting of live and inanimate targets began. Then Zeros rushed to Ewa Field and set fire to thirty-three of the forty-nine parked planes with gunpowder. As the attacking planes gradually consumed ammunition, bombs and torpedoes, they gradually began to return to their mother ships.
It should be added that during the attack on Pearl Harbor, it was agreed that if a surprise was achieved, first torpedo planes would attack after one flare fired, and only then dive bombers. Although Genda fired a flare before the attack, the torpedo bomber leader did not register it, so he fired another, but then, based on that, the dive bombers attacked the airport first. But even this small mistake did not diminish the devastation that struck Pearl Harbor.
After the raid of the first strike group, the American defenders made feverish preparations to repel another alleged attack. After about half an hour, a second wave of one hundred and sixty-seven planes appeared. But their position was more difficult because the Americans were able to at least partially form a defense.
Nevertheless, the bombs hit their targets again. Mainly battleships, cruisers and destroyers were interrupted again and again, and from them burned other vessels and various port facilities. One group of high-altitude bombers attacked Hickham Field Airport, an air base on Ford Island and Kanehoe Bay. The red-target planes again wreaked havoc among the parked planes, destroying those that had escaped the first wave.
Perhaps all combat-ready weapons were turned against the attacker, but mainly the cannons and machine guns of the accompanying ships. These, as less important targets, were mostly spared direct attacks by bombs and torpedoes. Many American soldiers, out of desperation, turned their handguns against the aggressor. The defenders of the island were usually very brave and selfless. They often tried successfully to extinguish fires and eliminate subsequent explosions of ammunition, tried to prevent the complete destruction of ships, rescue the wounded, and hastily repair damaged equipment. Nevertheless, it was not in human power to prevent losses. The second raid lasted about an hour. As in the first attack, the Japanese flew their targets several times, due to the more accurate placement of their torpedoes and bombs. This is despite the increasing fire from all possible weapons of the base's defenders. The return and landing of the second wave of aircraft was hampered by worsened weather. Some damaged aircraft had to be thrown into the sea due to a place on the flight decks, several of them got lost and fell into the sea after running out of fuel, many were damaged. After eleven o'clock, the frigate captain Fucida also landed. He reported to Vice Admiral Nagum - the direct commander of the whole operation and advocated the deployment of another wave of attack, which would complete the complete work of destruction. Despite urging some officers to carry out the third attack, the admiral issued an order to return at 1:30 p.m.
This order was still debated for years after the war.Nagumo was aware of the potential danger posed by submarines and aircraft carriers, of which he had no news, and last but not least by the estimated fifty aircraft that remained undamaged on the island. Although the vice admiral belonged to the old school of armor with their cannons and could not recognize the importance of ever higher quality naval air force ( he was against the whole operation from the beginning ), he also feared the possible formation of island defense and subsequent heavy losses on attacking aircraft air force.
On the afternoon of December 7, it was again proposed to find and destroy American aircraft carriers aboard the Akagi Command. However, due to dwindling fuel supplies and a planned meeting with tankers, the plan had to be rejected. But for Americans, this circumstance was favorable. Their forces against the Japanese had no chance of winning at all. Without further complications, the strike force gradually returned between Japan on December 24 and 27 to the great cheers of the crowds. Sailors and pilots were celebrated as heroes who achieved great victory. At first glance, the American losses seemed huge. 2,403 killed or missing, 1,178 wounded, eighteen ships sunk or damaged. Of which eight battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers.
Against Japan's lost 29 aircraft and 55 men, these losses were seemingly immense. However, only Oklahoma and Arizona were completely destroyed from the battleships - a memorial was later built from that. All others were repaired, modernized ( original entry into service 1916-1923 ) and returned to the sea by 1943.
A substantial part of the base's equipment remained intact - the commander's main tent, workshops, docks, power plant, submarine base, four and a half million barrels of diesel. Above all, however, the Japanese failed to attack American aircraft carriers, which at that time began to become the main strike tool of the Navy and whose importance was growing very quickly. Waspu was known to operate in the Atlantic and Saratoga anchored in San Diego. Four aircraft carriers were expected in the Hawaiian Islands. Hornet , Yorktown , Enterprise and Lexington . Hornet and Yorktown were relocated to the Atlantic, which escaped intelligence. The Enterprise and the accompanying alliance were to transport fighter jets to Wake Base and sailed from Pearl Harbor on November 28 under Vice Admiral Halsey. Lexington (Union Commander Rear Admiral Newton) set out on December 5 with a similar task towards Midway Atoll. This was a huge disappointment for the Japanese command and especially the spiritual father of the entire operation of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto - the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Naval Forces. The failure to destroy this backbone of the entire fleet did not completely destroy the US Navy in the Pacific. This was fully reflected in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May of the following year, where the Americans lost Lexington , but the Japanese invasion of the very important base of Port Moresby was prevented.However, Hornet , Yorktown and Enterprise played a major role in June at the Battle of Midway Atoll , where the Japanese lost their four aircraft carriers and, according to some historians, never fully recovered from the defeat.
Another aspect of the attack on Pearl Harbor was the fact that there was a wave of enormous hatred in the United States for all things Japanese. Until then, according to opinion polls, Americans were half of the opinion that it was appropriate not to interfere in the ongoing war. However, as early as December 8 , one day after the attack, the United States declared war on the Japanese Empire. Four days later, Germany and Italy did the same to the United States. The war could now really be called World War.
There has been a dispute for many years over who actually caused "Day of Infamy," as it was later called on December 7, 1941 . Are the base commanders in charge, Admiral Kimmel and Lieutenant General Short, or in the light of later indications, even the government itself, led by President Roosevelt, which was supposed to play a high-level political game in this case? The full truth will probably never be known, even though several commissions of inquiry have been set up. Many military experts, politicians and historians claim that it is somewhere in the middle.
On the other hand, it is well known that the Japanese declared war on the United States only after the attack. Although it was not their original intention, it happened by coincidence.
And how could the Japanese Empire hope to defeat the military and economic giant like the United States at the time? Boundless belief in the invincibility of the imperial tigers, the rapid acquisition of vast territories in Asia, and thus virtually inexhaustible resources of manpower and raw materials, alliances with Germany and its satellites, the rapid destruction of American forces in areas of Japanese interest. These assumptions led the Japanese to the idea of a blitzkrieg and the subsequent rapid conclusion of a separate peace with the United States, while preserving all the conquered territories and benefits. Fortunately, this plan did not work. From today's point of view, we can only regret that the communist regime pushed the entire Pacific battlefield to the other side, or did not even mention it at all. At the same time, the battles that took place on this vast area were extremely important for the further performance of the Americans in World War II. world. war, and thus its subsequent development. No less interesting is this area for further historical research due to the uniqueness of naval battles, landing operations, encounters with an enemy that no one knew until then, many different specifics, mistakes, touches and coincidences and heroism and victory that led to the development of war in this large areas.
More articles from this author