Today marks the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously called “a date which will live in infamy.”
On that infamous day, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appeared out of the clouds above the island of Oahu at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet, killing over 2,400 Americans and wounding over 1,100 more. Japan’s losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men.
Japan hoped to cripple the U.S. Pacific Fleet and deter it from slowing Japanese advances in the region. However, the attack irrevocably drew the United States into World War II, unleashing the “unbounding determination” of the American people..
The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” After a brief and forceful speech, he asked Congress to approve a resolution recognizing the state of war between the United States and Japan. The Senate voted for war against Japan by 82 to 0, and the House of Representatives approved the resolution by a vote of 388 to 1. The sole dissenter was Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a devout pacifist who had also cast a dissenting vote against the U.S. entrance into World War I. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States, and the U.S. government responded in kind.
While much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless on Dec. 7, 1941, fortunately for the United States, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea on training maneuvers. These giant aircraft carriers would have their revenge against Japan six months later at the Battle of Midway, reversing the tide against the previously invincible Japanese navy in a spectacular victory.
The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort spanned four long years and cost more than 400,000 American lives.
Featured Image: Naval photograph documenting the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii which initiated US participation in World War II. Navy's caption: The battleship USS ARIZONA sinking after being hit by Japanese air attack on Dec. 7,1941 (Photo: The U.S. National Archives)