Pearl Harbor has been in our history since King Kalakaua of Hawaii gave the area in 1887, to the United States. Initially it served as a coaling station. The United States deepend the channel through the reef outside the harbor in 1902 and began to turn it into a major naval port. The first dry dock was completed in 1919. Pearl Harbor became the site of the Pearl Harbor Naval Complex. It covers about 12,600 acres on Oahu Island.
Pearl Harbor gained significance when Hitler began his march across Europe in 1939, commencing a long war that wouldn't end until 1945 with the surrender of all Axis countries. At that time in history, Nazi Germany had taken over much of Europe. The United Kingdom and the Soviet Union had up to that point been the only major resistance to Hitler. America had stayed out of the war. With the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese fleet, that was about to change.
On December 7, 1941, Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, commending the 33-ship Japanese strike force, approached Pearl Harbor to a point about 230 miles North of Oahu. At 7:00am, he ordered his aircraft carriers to launch a strike force of 350 airplanes against the American fleet, Marine Corp., airfields and Army bases. The first bombs fell at about 7:55 a.m. The chief targets were the eight battleships among the 180 American vessels anchored in the harbor.
The attack killed 2,388 people at Pearl Harbor and wounded about 2,000. It destroyed or damaged 21 American ships including the majority of the Battlewagons, which were the most powerful elements of the American fleet at that period of time. Nagumo destroyed more than 300 U.S. planes. The Japanese lost 29 aircraft. Though the attack caused heavy casualties and destroyed much of the American Pacific Fleet. The attack also brought the United States into World War II.
On December 8, Roosevelt addressed Congress. He called December 7 "a date which will live in infamy." Congress declared war on Japan. In a radio speech the same day, Roosevelt urged Americans to back the war effort and avenge Pearl Harbor. On December 11, 1941, Germany declared war on America!
The question of why Japan undertook to attack America may have been because Japan wanted to acquire the rich resources of Asia. It needed to expand its empire. By the 1930's, it had invaded China and much of Southeast Asia. The growth of its population was forcing the Japanese to seek natural resources that it didn't have. The island nation had to rely on exports of petroleum and other goods from the United States and other countries to survive.
General Hideki Tojo, premier of Japan in October 1941 and other Japanese military leaders realized that only the United States Navy had the power to block Japan's expansion in Asia. They decided to try to cripple the U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor. They failed and Japan paid the price.
December 7, 1941 taught America a costly lesson; one that was paid with the deaths of thousands of American servicemen . . . America should never again be isolated from the rest of the world.
On this day let us bow our heads in prayer in memory of all those who gave their lives in defense of our country.