The attack on Pearl Harbour by Japan and the declaration of war against the USA by Nazi Germany brought America into WW2; which four years later resulted in the unconditional surrender of both Japan and Germany.



The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour was a vicious surprise attack by Japan on the USA base in Hawaii.  Australian wartime Labor Prime Minister John Curtin stated that:

'Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.' This article makes the following points:

  • At the time of the attack, Japan controlled Korea, Taiwan, French Indo-China (Vietnam}, and Chinese Manchuria.

  • Japan aimed to control much of the Asia-Pacific through the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

  • Although part of the Axis Alliance, Japan was not involved in the war in Europe.

  • Japan's growing empire needed raw materials, particularly oil and pig iron

  • America and Europeans in Asia were a threat to Japanese expansion, but the war in Europe was keeping the British Empire occupied, leading Japan to believe that an attack on Pearl Harbour was feasible and strategically necessary.

  • Japan was controlled by its military.   

  • The Japanese naval victories in the 1905  Russo-Japanese war resulted in Japanese military leaders thinking, that like Russia in 1905, the USA would withdraw from the Pacific after the defeat at Pearl Harbour, giving Japan a free hand.

  • The US was not like Russia in 1905, as it was a dynamic and powerful country with strong leadership.

  • The attack aimed to knock the US Pacific Fleet, based in Hawaii, out of the war.

  • Thanks to sightseeing trips over Pearl Harbour, the Japanese had detailed base plans. 

  • By simple observation, they knew the status and location of ships and aircraft.

  • The Philippines and Malaya would be attacked simultaneously as Pearl Harbour.

  • The attack on Pearl Harbour would combine dive bombers, high altitude bombing and torpedo attacks.

  • To stop Japanese torpedoes from running deep in the shallow waters of Pearl Harbour, wooden fins were added.

  • No balloons, blackouts or torpedo nets were deployed at Pearl Harbour, and the US forces did not have any planes in the air.

  • Each part of the attacking Japanese task force had responsibility for specific areas and targets.

  • All US army aircraft were grouped to prevent sabotage.

  • Radar stations were shut down at 0700 hours.

  • The US commanders took some precautions with aircraft carriers rotated in and out of the harbour, ship and naval aircraft patrols and anti-submarine patrols were in operation.

  • After Pearl Harbour, the US agreed to a  Germany first policy with the UK.

  • The Japanese aircraft carriers launched from about 200 miles north of Pearl Harbour when USS Enterprise was about the same distance south.

  • A Hawaiian radio station inadvertently provided a directional locater for Japanese aircraft.

  • Radar operators did detect the incoming Japanese attack, but this was initially dismissed as friendly aircraft.

  • The Japanese used the code word 'Tora Tora Tora' (Tiger Tiger Tiger) to begin the attack.

  • Two waves of aircraft attacked the harbour vessels, and the airfield destroyed two-thirds of the aircraft on the ground.

  • The US Navy destroyed two Japanese submarines.

  • Incredibly Japan did not conduct additional strikes; therefore, the US oil storage facilities remained intact.


  • Japan 185 killed.

  • US 2,403 killed.

  • 169 US aircraft lost.