On December 7, 1941, the attack on a U.S. Naval Base on the Hawaiian island of Oahu rocked the nation to its core. Seventy years later, the "day which will live in infamy" still resonates in the minds of Americans.
Leading up to the 1930s, conflicts regarding raw materials heightened, resulting in rising tensions between the United States and Japan. The Japanese goal to expand upon China led to threats from the United States to put an end to iron, oil and steel provisions.
In 1940, the alliance between Japan, Italy and Germany in order to continue the Chinese expansion brought about America's decision to instill an embargo on aviation gas, iron, scrap metal and steel. Upon Japan's success in securing China, known as Indochina at the time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt included oil to the embargo list. Additionally, he closed off the Panama Canal for Japanese shipping.
Though negotiations ensued, both countries saw the end leading to war. Aircraft carriers in Hawaii and troops on the present-day border of Malaysia were being sent by the Japanese during 1941 in late November. However, American intel and military leaders in Oahu concluded that while attacks would transpire, they would occur somewhere in southeast Asia.
Due to the available intelligence reports, Pearl Harbor took few precautionary measures with nothing prepared in the instance of an attack--the base was not on high alert. The typical Sunday morning, which December 7, 1941 began as, saw officers and crewmen enjoying a relaxed weekend while ships had few men on board.
Around 7:55 a.m. (Hawaiian time), the atrocity unfolded with the first Japanese air attack. Dive, high-level and torpedo bombers along with "zero" fighter aircrafts bombarded Pearl Harbor, targeting airfields and battleships. The Americans, caught unaware and unprepared, made every best effort to defend their area.
One hour later, the second attack took place as the Japanese attempted to destroy more ships and facilities. By 9:45 a.m., a majority of American aircraft, totaling around 180, was wrecked in Oahu.
Other equipment lost in the onslaught included three destroyers, three light cruisers and three smaller vessels. Eight battleships were damaged, with the U.S.S. Oklahoma totally lost, along with the Arizona battleship which sunk from a 1,760-pound air bomb.
But though America suffered great loss in material, the number of those who died in the raid perpetuates in comparison. Several online sources report that American fatalities number anywhere from 2,000 and upward to 3,400. In a great contrast, Japan only suffered a loss of less than 100 men.
Panic and pandemonium resonated throughout America and echoed around the world when the attack became known through radio broadcasts and other media outlets. President Roosevelt, at the helm of American leadership at the time, addressed America and, with the joint approval of Congress, declared war on Japan. Men from sea to shining sea volunteered and joined the combat, inevitably leading the nation and the world once again into the horror that became known as World War II.
The attack at Pearl Harbor, seventy years past. A lifetime for some, though a drop in the bucket in the annals of history. As the chapter on the Iraqi war closes with droves of servicemen coming home, we must never forget the casualties suffered seven decades ago on that island in Hawaii, and forever remember those who--after all this time--still fight in the name of freedom today.