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The Attack On Pearl Harbor

Dec. 7, 1941

"They fought together as brothers in arms; they died together and now they
sleep side by side..." - Adm. Chester W. Nimitz

Just before 8 am on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, many of the sailors aboard naval vessels moored in Pearl Harbor were getting ready for leave and preparing for church services. In a few minutes, the colors would be raised on more than 185 naval vessels throughout the harbor. On Ford Island and around O'ahu, soldiers, Marines, and sailors at Army and Marine airfields and naval air stations were going through similar military routines.

The attack came with no warning, as aircraft emblazoned with red disks bore down on the moored ships from all directions. Torpedo planes struck first, flying low over the water and launching torpedoes toward Ford Island's Battleship Row, the primary target. They struck West Virginia, Oklahoma, California, and Nevada, along with vessels berthed in the navy yard. Dive-bombers destroyed hangers and other buildings and parked aircraft at Hickam Field and on Ford Island. Bombs dropped from aircraft high above the harbor tore through Arizona and other battleships. Fighter planes wheeled and dived, strafing aircraft and military personnel.

In minutes, the attackers had transformed quiet routine into a nightmare of massive explosions, black smoke, and men leaping from burning ships into oil-covered water. Pearl Harbor was not alone, as bases all over O'ahu were simultaneously attacked. The intent was to disable the planes on the ground, preventing airborne resistance to the main attack on the fleet at Pearl Harbor. In Honolulu, civilians lost their lives when improperly fused antiaircraft shells landed in the city. Around the island, soldiers and sailors fired back with whatever guns they could find, but with little effect.

The second wave arrived about a half-hour after the first. Dive-bombers concentrated on the southeast side of Ford Island and the dry docks, heavily damaging the battleship Pennsylvania and the two destroyers sharing its dock. Nevada got underway, but after the battleships was stuck by at least six bombs, the captain intentionally beached the ship. Bombers again pummeled Hickam Field, while fighters and dive-bombers swept other O'ahu airfields and bases. In less than two hours, the Japanese attackers had weakened - but not crippled - the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Source: Pearl Harbor National Memorial 

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