It was 7:48 a.m. on Sunday, December 7, 1941, at the U.S. naval base of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. And at that moment, much to the astonishment and sheer disbelief of the thousands of naval personnel belonging to Uncle Sam’s Pacific Fleet ships sheltering in the port, Japanese planes appeared above them. Then the enemy bombs began to drop, some of them hitting the USS Arizona, in what turned out to be a massive preemptive strike. The attack would herald the United States of America’s entry into World War II, but for the stricken battleship the conflict was already over. The vessel swiftly sank to the bottom of Pearl Harbor, where she remains today, lying there in an eerily well-preserved state, full of historical artifacts which can help tell future generations the story of that dreadful day.
This massive sneak attack came as an almighty shock to America. Indeed, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called it “a day which will live in infamy,” and the appalling events it witnessed ended any debate over the wisdom of the States entering another global conflict. The very next day, the U.S. announced that it was at war with Japan, followed by the news a few days later on December 11 that a state of war also now existed with Nazi Germany and Italy.
The Empire of Japan launched its unanticipated twin-stage air attack from half a dozen aircraft carriers. The first bombing sortie consisted of 183 aircraft while the second surge contained 171. As well as the all-out assault on the naval installations at Pearl Harbor, airfields elsewhere in Hawaii were also targeted. The murderous barrage only lasted for an hour and a half but, nevertheless, the colossal human and material destruction it wreaked was utterly devastating.