The United States, which had important political and economic interests in East Asia, was alarmed by these Japanesemoves. The U. S. increased military and financial aid to China, embarked on a program of strengthening its militarypower in the Pacific, and cut off the shipment of oil and other raw materials to Japan.
Because Japan was poor in natural resources, its government viewed these steps, especially the embargo on oil as athreat to the nation’s survival. Japan’s leaders responded by resolving to seize the resource-rich territories of SoutheastAsia, even though that move would certainly result in war with the United States. The problem with the plan was the danger posed by the U. S.
Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor. Admiral IsorokuYamamoto, commander of the Japanese fleet, devised a plan to immobilize the U. S. fleet at the outset of the war withThe key elements in Yamamoto’s plans were meticulous preparation, the achievement of surprise, and the use ofaircraft carriers and naval aviation on an unprecedented scale.
In the spring of 1941, Japanese carrier pilots begantraining in the special tactics called for by the Pearl Harbor attack plan. In October 1941 the naval general staff gave final approval to Yamamoto’s plan, which called for the formation of anattack force commanded by Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo. It centered around six heavy aircraft carriersaccompanied by 24 supporting vessels. A separate group of submarines was to sink any American warships whichNagumo’s fleet assembled in the remote anchorage of Tankan Bay in the Kurile Islands and departed in strictestsecrecy for Hawaii on 26 November 1941.
The ships’ route crossed the North Pacific and avoided normal shippinglanes. At dawn 7 December 1941, the task force had approached undetected to a point slightly more than 200 milesAt 6:00 a. m. , the six carriers launched a first wave of 181 planes composed of torpedo bombers, dive bombers,horizontal bombers and fighters. Even as they winged south, some elements of U. S.
forces on Oahu realized there wassomething different about this Sunday morning. In the hours before dawn, U. S. Navy vessels spotted an unidentified submarine periscope near the entrance to PearlHarbor.
It was attacked and reported sunk by the destroyer USS Ward (DD-139) and a patrol plane. At 7:00 a. m. ,an alert operator of an Army radar station at Opana spotted the approaching first wave of the attack force. Theofficers to whom those reports were relayed did not consider them significant enough to take action. The report of thesubmarine sinking was handled routinely, and the radar sighting was passed off as an approaching group of AmericanThe Japanese aircrews achieved complete surprise when they hit American ships and military installations on Oahushortly before 8:00 a.
m. They attacked military airfields at the same time they hit the fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor. The Navy air bases at Ford Island and Kaneohe Bay, the Marine airfield at Ewa and the Army Air Corps fields atBellows, Wheeler and Hickam were all bombed and strafed as other elements of the attacking force began theirassaults on the ships moored in Pearl Harbor. The purpose of the simultaneous attacks was to destroy the Americanplanes before they could rise to intercept the Japanese. Of the more than 90 ships at anchor in Pearl Harbor, the primary targets were the eight battleships anchored there.
seven were moored on Battleship Row along the southeast shore of Ford Island while the USS Pennsylvania(BB-38) lay in drydock across the channel. Within the first minutes of the attack all the battleships adjacent to FordIsland had taken bomb and or torpedo hits. The USS West Virginia (BB-48) sank quickly. The USS Oklahoma(BB-37) turned .