Attack on Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor Bombing

The USS Shaw explodes during the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

On 7 December 1941, an aerial attack against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, left thousands dead and pushed the U.S. to enter World War II.

Background

Japanese expansion in China strained relations with the United States for decades before the attack, and tensions worsened when Japan and China entered open war in 1937. In 1941, the U.S. cut off all trade with Japan in hopes of curbing further expansion.

Negotiations to improve the situation between the U.S. and Japan were ineffective, and an attack seemed inevitable.

Warnings

Though the bulk of the U.S. Pacific Fleet was moored around Ford Island and hundreds of planes crowded in nearby airfields, few considered Pearl Harbor a likely target. Still, commanders were warned about the imminent threat of war. Some precautions were taken, including putting radar sets into daily operation during the most dangerous hours of 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.

Other warnings were delayed or ignored. A Japanese submarine sighting near Pearl Harbor was reported on the morning of 7 December but wasn’t confirmed until it was too late. Radar also detected a large cluster of incoming aircraft shortly after 7:00 a.m., but this was assumed to be a group of American B-17s from the mainland and was dismissed.

Attack

Japanese aircraft appeared over Pearl Harbor at 7:55 a.m. and opened fire on the airfields, preventing any significant air resistance. Meanwhile, bombers and submarines focused on the harbor, sinking the USS Arizona in a deadly explosion and capsizing the Oklahoma, California, and Utah. An hour later, a second wave of Japanese planes wrecked the remaining five battleships.

Japanese forces withdrew shortly after 9:00 a.m., leaving 20 naval vessels and more than 300 aircraft damaged or destroyed. 2,403 people were killed, and over 1,000 injured.

War

The following day, U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the famous speech that called 7 December “a date which will live in infamy.” Congress declared war against Japan, and the U.S. officially entered World War II.

Aftermath

Though costly, the Pearl Harbor attack did not debilitate U.S. forces as intended. All battleships but the USS Arizona and Oklahoma were eventually repaired and returned to service, and critically important oil supply facilities were unaffected. Enlistment numbers surged, and a previously conflicted U.S. public became unified on the issue of entering the war.

Learn more about the Attack on Pearl Harbor through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.


Articles and Clippings about the Attack on Pearl Harbor

Front page headline shares news of war  between Japan and China, a prelude to Pearl Harbor attackFront page headline shares news of war between Japan and China, a prelude to Pearl Harbor attack 19 Jul 1937, Mon The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, California) Newspapers.comPhoto of Photo of "Smiling Officers and Men" stationed at Pearl Harbor in Jan. 1938 30 Jan 1938, Sun The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii) Newspapers.com1940 article speculates on Pacific naval maneuvers of U.S. and others, with Hawaii as U.S. base1940 article speculates on Pacific naval maneuvers of U.S. and others, with Hawaii as U.S. base 13 Apr 1940, Sat Times Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada) Newspapers.comStar-Bulletin covers the bombings at Pearl Harbor, 1st ExtraStar-Bulletin covers the bombings at Pearl Harbor, 1st Extra 07 Dec 1941, Sun Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii) Newspapers.com"U.S. at War!!" Pearl Harbor headline news 07 Dec 1941, Sun The Evening Times (Sayre, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.com"U.S. Battleship Oklahoma Afire"; Damage from Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor is "heavy" 07 Dec 1941, Sun Palladium-Item (Richmond, Indiana) Newspapers.com"Congress Declares War on Japan; 1500 Killed in Attack on Hawaii" at Pearl Harbor, December 1941 08 Dec 1941, Mon St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Newspapers.com"Japan Strikes All Over Pacific" December 8 headline news following attack on Pearl Harbor 08 Dec 1941, Mon The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) Newspapers.com"Japan Declares War on U.S. and Britain; Roosevelt to Address Congress at Noon"; Pearl Harbor news 08 Dec 1941, Mon The Austin American (Austin, Texas) Newspapers.com"Japan Declares War on the United States; Bombing Planes Attack Hawaii, Philippines; Many Killed" 08 Dec 1941, Mon Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina) Newspapers.comPhoto page following attack on Pearl Harbor includes reports on battleships, hints of coming warPhoto page following attack on Pearl Harbor includes reports on battleships, hints of coming war 08 Dec 1941, Mon Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comPhotos of Photos of "How Minneapolis Reacted to War News" following attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941 08 Dec 1941, Mon Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota) Newspapers.com"Youths rush to enlist in Navy" following attack on Pearl Harbor 08 Dec 1941, Mon Miami News-Record (Miami, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com"Rush to join Navy or Army Occurs" after attack on Pearl Harbor 08 Dec 1941, Mon Miami News-Record (Miami, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com"U.S. Lost These Ships" article with photos of U.S. ships at Pearl Harbor during attack, 1941 16 Dec 1941, Tue The Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida) Newspapers.comPhoto of U.S. battleship Arizona, destroyed by explosion in 1941 Pearl Harbor attackPhoto of U.S. battleship Arizona, destroyed by explosion in 1941 Pearl Harbor attack 16 Dec 1941, Tue The Winnipeg Tribune (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) Newspapers.comExcerpt from article on Japanese submarines used in Pearl Harbor attack; includes photosExcerpt from article on Japanese submarines used in Pearl Harbor attack; includes photos 17 Dec 1941, Wed Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.com"First Photos of Japanese Attack on Oahu" show destruction of USS Arizona, airfields 20 Dec 1941, Sat The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii) Newspapers.comTwo brothers serving on battleship USS Arizona killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941Two brothers serving on battleship USS Arizona killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941 22 Dec 1941, Mon The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee) Newspapers.com"Private at Pearl Harbor Sends Message of Cheer to Mothers" after surviving Pearl Harbor attack 08 Jan 1942, Thu The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) Newspapers.comAdmiral Kimmel & Lieut. Gen. Short accused of Admiral Kimmel & Lieut. Gen. Short accused of "dereliction of duty" in Pearl Harbor attack 25 Jan 1942, Sun The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Missouri) Newspapers.comPhoto of Marine injured during attack on Pearl HarborPhoto of Marine injured during attack on Pearl Harbor 31 Jan 1942, Sat The Mercury (Pottstown, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.comDorie Miller identified as a hero of Pearl Harbor, 1942Dorie Miller identified as a hero of Pearl Harbor, 1942 14 Mar 1942, Sat The Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.comPvt. Lockhard saw planes on radar before Pearl Harbor attack, ignored as American B-17sPvt. Lockhard saw planes on radar before Pearl Harbor attack, ignored as American B-17s 01 Sep 1945, Sat The Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia) Newspapers.comPhoto of the Patten brothers, who were on USS Nevada when it was hit at Pearl HarborPhoto of the Patten brothers, who were on USS Nevada when it was hit at Pearl Harbor 12 Mar 2003, Wed The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Florida) Newspapers.com
"Attack on Pearl Harbor," Newspapers.com Topics (https://www.newspapers.com/topics/world-war2/pearl-harbor-attack/ : accessed January 28, 2022)
Topics World War II ,

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