Eyewitness Reports in History Pearl Harbor Part 2

An eyewitness account of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor starting United States involvement in World War II.

Pearl Harbor

At 7:55 A. M. Honolulu time, the first bomb hit Pearl Harbor. Minutes later the U. S. S. Oklahoma was hit by five torpedoes, the West Virginia by six, the California by two, the Utah by two, and the Detroit, Raleigh, and Helena by one each.

Men who had never fired automatic weapons manned them and shot down enemy aircraft. Prisoners at Hickam and Wheeler fields were released to fight.

By 10:00 A.M., 18 ships were sunk, beached, or badly damaged, including the battleships Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia, California, Tennessee, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Nevada; the target ship Utah; destroyers Downes, Shaw, and Cassin; the minelayer Oglala; cruisers Helena, Honolulu, and Raleigh; the seaplane tender Curtiss; and the repair ship Vestal. In addition, 188 planes were destroyed and 159 were damaged.

Casualties included 2,008 sailors killed, 710 wounded; 218 soldiers killed, 346 wounded; 109 marines killed, 69 wounded; 68 civilians killed, 35 wounded.

The Americans shot down 29 Japanese planes, exploded 1 large and 6 midget submarines, and killed 55 airmen, 9 submarine crewmen, and an undetermined number of other submarine crew members.

A scare swept the U. S. that the Japanese might follow through and attack the West Coast. However, it soon became clear that the attack forces were traveling west. On Dec. 8, Japanese aircraft attacked the Philippines. Two days later two British battleships were sunk by Japanese torpedo-bombers off the coast of Malaya. On Dec. 25 Hong Kong fell to the Japanese.

Pearl Harbor ensured U. S. entry into the war. Indeed, Roosevelt has been accused by some critics of deliberately ignoring foreknowledge of the attack to precipitate U. S. entry into the war. Clare booth Luce commented, "He lied the American people into war because he could not lead them into it." On the other hand, pro Roosevelt thinkers maintain that the President was merely preparing the nation for the inevitable.

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