4. The Devastating Raid on Pearl Harbor
The Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, which commenced at 7:48 AM local time, caught the defenders off guard. 353 warplanes, in two waves, devastated anchored American vessels. Armed with torpedoes modified for Pearl Harbor’s shallow waters, and with bombs designed to pierce thick armor, the attackers sank four battleships and damaged another four. They also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, a minelayer, and a training ship. It was a lopsided slaughter. For the loss of 29 airplanes, 5 midget submarines, and 64 personnel killed and 1 captured, the Japanese killed more than 2,400 Americans and wounded around 1,200.
In addition to twelve ships beached or sunk, the attackers damaged nine others, destroyed 160 airplanes and damaged 150 more. However, the Japanese ignored important infrastructure. They failed to destroy oil storage facilities, docks, power stations, and other installations whose destruction would have impeded the use of Pearl Harbor as a launchpad for the US war effort in the Pacific. Additionally, there were no US aircraft carriers in Pearl Harbor that day, so America’s carrier arm remained intact. That arm of the US Navy was destined to play a key role in the frustration of Japanese plans, and in the eventual doom of Japan.