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A 6 Pages Term Paper on 'Military success, strategic disaster'

How Far Is This An Accurate View Of The Attack On Pearl Harbor?


The much investigated and controversial incident of December 7, 1941 of the American history, Japan attacking Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, seemingly by surprise, still proves to be an ever exciting subject since it evolved other actions leading eventually to the conclusion of World War II in the manner we know. One can argue that it was a military success on part of the aggressor, Japan subject to the examination of the losses of Japanese and American Losses, while a close and careful analysis of the series of events taking place before and after the attack will indicate an equally prominent strategic upper hand of USA.

The congressional investigations and Courts of Law proceedings have concluded the US government to have substantial information and knowledge long before the attack took place.

As far as Japan is concerned, there was sufficient desire on part of it to get hold of riches of Asia and had wide range intentions of building an expansive empire, though it was not clear enough to them the exact objective of attacking USA as it is clear from Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander in chief of the combined Japanese fleet, who at that time ordered Admiral Onishi, chief of staff of the Eleventh Air Fleet, to study the operation. Admiral Yamamoto is reported to have told Onishi “If we have war with the United States we will have no hope of winning unless the United States Fleet in Hawaiian waters can be destroyed."

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Summary Comparison of Losses

The attack on Pearl Harbor was completely successful if we look at the account of losses on both sides:

United States suffered 3,435 casualties; Japan, less than 100. We lost outright 188 planes; Japan, 29. US suffered severe damage to or loss of 8 battleships, 3 light cruisers, 3 destroyers, and 4 miscellaneous vessels; Japan lost 5 midget submarines. The astoundingly disproportionate extent of losses marks the greatest military and naval disaster in the Nation's history. [35] The only compensating feature was the many acts of personal heroisms during the attack. [29]

In addition 22 were missing in action, 2 died (nonbattle), 1 was declared dead (Public Law 490), and 21 died of wounds. (Committee exhibit No. 5. [30] See testimony of Colonel Thielen, committee record, p. 130). In a statement by General Short, concerning events and conditions leading up to the Japanese attack, a total of 128 Army planes are indicated as having been damaged in the raid. (See Roberts (Army) exhibit No. 7. [31] See committee record, p. 130; exhibits Nos. 5 and 6)

[32] See testimony of Admiral Inglis, committee record, p. 128.

[33] See testimony of Colonel Thielen, committee record, p. 139 

[34] Committee exhibit No. 8B.

[35] The Japanese estimate of losses inflicted was: 4 battleships, 1 cruiser, and 2 tankers sunk, 4 battleships heavily damaged; 1 battleship lightly damaged; and 260 planes destroyed. Committee exhibit No. 8. 

[36] In the accounts of some 90 ships under attack, commanding officers have recorded hundreds of acts of heroism in keeping with the highest traditions of the naval service. No instance is recorded in which the behavior of crews or individuals left anything to be desired. References to individual valor are replete with such acts as:

(1) Medical officers and hospital corpsmen rendering aid and treatment while they themselves needed help.

(2) Officers and men recovering dead and wounded through flame and from flooded compartments.

(3) Fighting fires while in actual physical contact with the flames. 

(4) Handling and passing ammunition under heavy fire and strafing. 

(5) Repairing ordnance and other equipment under fire. 

(6) Remaining at guns and battle stations though wounded or while ships were sinking. 

(7) Reporting for further duty to other ships after being blown off their own sinking vessels. 

For deeds of extreme heroism on December 7, 15 Medals of Honor have been awarded and 60 Navy Crosses. (Testimony of Admiral Inglis, committee record, pp. 131, 132.) 

On the Army side, too, acts of heroism were numerous. Five Distinguished Service Crosses and 66 Silver Stars were awarded to Army personnel for heroism displayed during the December 7 attack. (Testimony of Colonel Thielen, committee record. p. 133.) 


Therefore the above comparison reveals quite obviously the military success on part of Japan prevailed well enough. Though later on the events indicate a strategic failure as the outcome of World War II resulted in total disaster of Japan. This is due to the fact that Japan did not comprehensively paralyze the US forces as was stipulated earlier by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander in chief of the combined Japanese fleet to Onishi in his order to study the operation. They simply miscalculated and grossly underestimated the full capability of American war Machine, so to speak. Quite contrarily, the Americans who apparently suffered immensely in terms of casualties as well as in military hardware as far as military operation were concerned, the Administration in reality were covertly working for a far-reaching strategy. Therefore an average citizen of this country would think that the whole episode of attack on Pearl Harbor was a total surprise to American defense systems, but in reality the Administration knew all about it well ahead of time. In fact President Roosevelt (FDR) provoked the attack, knew about it in advance and covered up his failure to warn the Hawaiian commanders. FDR needed the attack to sucker Hitler to declare war, since the public and Congress were overwhelmingly against entering the war in Europe. It was his backdoor to war. Pearl Harbor was not about war with Japan, it was about war with Germany. These facts were revealed during the full investigation conducted by two courts of law (The Navy Court and the Army Board found Washington guilty (in 1944)); similar findings were made by Joint Congressional Committee formulated to investigate the attack on Pearl Harbor.

A few of the facts and testimonies collected by the investigators are mentioned here to remove any doubts occurring in anybody‘s mind about the ‘Surprise’ factor in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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14 August - At the Atlantic Conference, Churchill noted the "astonishing depth of Roosevelt's intense desire for war." Churchill cabled his cabinet "(FDR) obviously was very determined that they should come in."

18 October - diary entry by Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes: "For a long time I have believed that our best entrance into the war would be by way of Japan."

10 August 1941- the top British agent, code named "Tricycle", Dusko Popov, told the FBI of the planned attack on Pearl Harbor and that it would be soon. The FBI told him that his information was "too precise, too complete to be believed. The questionnaire plus the other information you brought spell out in detail exactly where, when, how, and by whom we are to be attacked. If anything, it sounds like a trap." He also reported that a senior Japanese naval person had gone to Taranto to collect all secret data on the attack there and that it was of utmost importance to them. The info was given to Naval IQ.

22 Nov. - Tokyo said to Ambassador Nomura in Washington about extending the deadline for negotiations to November 29: "...this time we mean it, that the deadline absolutely cannot be changed. After that things are automatically going to happen."

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26 Nov. 3 A.M. - Churchill sent an urgent secret message to FDR, probably containing above message. This message caused the greatest agitation in DC. Of Churchill's voluminous correspondence with FDR, this is the only message that has not been released (on the grounds that it would damage national security). Stark testified, "On November 26 there was received specific evidence of the Japanese intention to wage offensive war against Great Britain and the United States." C.I.A. Director William Casey, who was in the OSS in 1941, in his book (THE SECRET WAR AGAINST HITLER, p 7), wrote, "The British had sent word that a Japanese fleet was steaming east toward Hawaii." Washington, in an order of Nov 26 as a result of the "first shot" meeting the day before, ordered both US aircraft carriers, the Enterprise and the Lexington out of Pearl Harbor "as soon as practicable." This order included stripping Pearl of 50 planes or 40 percent of its already inadequate fighter protection. In response to Churchill's message, FDR secretly cabled him that afternoon - "Negotiations off. Services expect action within two weeks." Note that the only way FDR could have linked negotiations with service action, let alone have known the timing of the action, was if he had the message to sail. In other words, the only service action contingent on negotiations was Pearl Harbor.

26 Nov. - the "most fateful document” was Hull's ultimatum that Japan must withdraw from Indochina and all China. FDR's Ambassador to Japan called this "The document that touched the button that started the war."

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27 Nov. - Secretary of War Stimson sent a confused and confusing hostile action possible or DO-DON'T warning. The Navy Court found this message directed attention away from Pearl Harbor, rather than toward it. One purpose of the message was to mislead HI into believing negotiations were continuing.

War with Japan was a given reality, because they had to attack the Philippines. If Japan's fleet were destroyed, it would defeat the purpose. It would have been obvious suicide for Hitler to declare war if Japan were crippled - it would allow the US to attack him without even the possibility of a two-front war. That was what he had just been avoiding for months. The plan could only work if Japan's attack succeeded.


It may be derived from the given facts that for Japan, Pearl Harbor attack was a Military Success but resulted in eventual disaster, while for United States it was just the opposite. 

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1) Pearl Harbor, Mother of All Conspiracies, by Mark Emerson Willey, online: http://www.xlibris.com/PearlHarbor.html;

2) URL: http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/6315/pearl.html

3) http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/congress/part_0.html

4) http://motlc.wiesenthal.org/pages/swcindex/indafrm.html


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