27. A Japanese Feat That Sent America Into Shock
America was shocked to its core by the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. In just a few hours on a quiet Sunday morning, hundreds of Japanese warplanes in a stunning feat had devastated the US Pacific Fleet as it lay at anchor. All eight battleships at Pearl, plus three cruisers, three destroyers, and five other ships were sunk or seriously damaged, and hundreds of airplanes were destroyed. About 2400 US servicemen and civilians were killed, and another 1200 were wounded. The country was catapulted into World War II in the rudest way possible, and to say that Americans were hopping mad and itching for payback would be an understatement.
However, in the months after the attack, there was a huge gap between the desire to hit back and the ability to do so. Indeed, instead of hit back, America and her allies got hit repeatedly by the rampaging Japanese. In short order, the forces of Japan conquered Hong Kong, overran the Philippines, seized the Malay Peninsula and Singapore, took the Dutch East Indies, forced the surrender of the US Marine garrison at Wake Island, and chased the British out of Burma. At sea, they shocked the British Royal Navy by effortlessly sinking the battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battle cruiser HMS Repulse, and dealt an allied fleet a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Java Sea.