The Date of Infamy that launched an epic conflict with Japan took place in the early morning hours of December 7, 1941. The tranquil waters of Pearl Harbor were forever disrupted by the tides of war. The USS Arizona and 1,177 of her crew were among the first casualties of the Pacific War; the USS Arizona Memorial in the waters off Waikiki stands above the sunken vessel and her fallen sailors, serving as a reminder of their sacrifice and commitment.
Imperial Japan moved forward with war plans for the conquest of Asia. They believed the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor was their only threat and set out to neutralize the fleet by means of a surprise air attack.
The Japanese began their air attack. The first wave arrived over Pearl Harbor at approximately 7:45 a.m. to find seven U.S. battleships moored along “Battleship Row”, on the east side of Ford Island. Another battleship was in dry dock in the nearby Navy Yard. Other moorings which the Japanese believed might include battleships, or the equally important aircraft carriers, were at the Navy Yard’s 1010 Dock and along Ford Island’s western side.
The Japanese initially hit the airfields, destroying many aircrafts located on the southern tip of Ford Island. This attack followed by the dispatch of communications was the World’s first notification that war had begun in the Pacific.
Moments thereafter, torpedo planes attacked from west hitting the USS Helena, USS Utah and USS Raleigh, all on the west side of Ford Island. From the east, torpedo planes came in and hit the USS California, the USS Nevada, USS Oklahoma and West Virginia located on the east side of Ford Island.
As the torpedo planes continued the first wave attacks, additional bombs were dropped on “Battleship Row”, hitting several ships. The USS Arizona received a death blow followed by a huge explosion. As the first wave departed, the Japanese telegraph operator taped out Tora, Tora, Tora: the code word for surprise attack achieved.
The second wave of planes further attacked some of the ships already hit, further destroying the Navy Yard. The battleship Pennsylvania and three destroyers were bombed in dry dock. Other bombers went after the Nevada, which had left her berth and was trying to get to sea. Anti-aircraft gunfire met these ships, causing losses which were far greater than those of the first attack wave.
Fortunately, neither wave had the opportunity to hit American aircraft carriers, all of which were out at sea. Fuel storage tanks, maintenance areas and most destroyers and submarines were not targeted. However, in less than two hours the Japanese had ruined the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s battleship force.
The Pacific theater of World War II introduced a major paradigm shift in naval warfare, as the battleship ceded its dominance of the oceans to the aircraft carrier. Air power over the seas was crucial to the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor; naval aviation too led to U.S. victory.
Today the word stands in a place of freedom because of the sacrifice of the men and women of Americas greatest generation. We pause today to honor the Veterans of World War II.