A look at some of the history and holidays on December 7
The U.S. and Japan were in ongoing peace negotiations when, at 7:48 AM Hawaii time on this day in 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Honolulu, home to the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The goal of the IJN was to convince the U.S. to come to an acceptable bargain, or barring that, to sufficiently damage the Pacific Fleet that it would not hinder Japanese planned offensive operations in the Pacific against resource rich Islands controlled variously by Britain, the Netherlands and the U.S.
Three U.S. Aircraft Carriers assigned to the Pacific Fleet were operating outside of Pearl Harbor when the IJN attacked. The IJN was aware of this but was operating on the premise, incorrect, that battleships would be the decisive weapons of naval warfare. The reality turned out to be that airpower launched from the carriers was decisive. Thus, the IJN attack at Pearl Harbor, even though it sunk 4 battleships and damaged four others, was not the decisive blow the Japanese had hoped. Moreover, the IJN forces concentrated on the ships in and around the harbor and the airplanes on the ground. The IJN did not attack Pearl Harbor’s support facilities whose loss would have severely hampered the American navy.
Ninety minutes after the IJN attack began, it was over. The U.S. have suffered 2,403 people killed and 1,143 were wounded, Japanese losses were minimal, but they withdrew from the battle thinking incorrectly that they had succeeded in their mission. The U.S. was able to regroup, and with its aircraft carriers intact, scored a strategic victory in the Battle of the Coral Sea six months later.
In 1994, Congress passed a resolution making Dec. 7 Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in honor of the Americans who perished and were injured in the attack.