World War II/Pearl Harbor

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The Battle of Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7, 1941. Planes of the Japanese Navy attacked the American naval base and Army air field at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. Eighteen ships were sunk or damaged, and around 2400 Americans lost their lives. The Japanese suffered minimal casualties.

The Japanese deployed six aircraft carriers for the attack, /Akagi, /Hiryu, /Kaga, /Shokaku, /Soryu, /Zuikaku, with a total of 441 planes, including fighters, torpedo-bombers, dive-bombers, and fighter-bombers. Of these, 55 were lost during the battle.

The Japanese planes bombed Hickham Airfield and the ships anchored in Battleship Row. The American battleship Arizona was sunk with a loss of 1100 men, nearly half of the American dead. Seven other battleships and twelve other ships were sunk or damaged.

Historical significance
This, like the Battle of Concord, was a comparatively minor battle that had history-altering consequences. It drew the United States into World War II and led to the demise of the Japanese Empire and Nazi Germany as well. America's ultimate victory in this war and its emergence as a world power has shaped international politics ever since.

Strategic appraisal
The purpose of the attack on Pearl Harbor was to neutralize American naval power in the Pacific. The Japanese wanted license to do as they pleased in the Pacific and Asia, and thought they could get this by eliminating American influence. Specifically, Japan had been embroiled in a war with China which had come to a stalemate after many years of fighting. Japan thought by cutting China off from American (as well as British) aid, China would be weakened, and the stalemate could be broken. Japan also knew that American naval power could not be neutralized indefinitely, but thought that by dealing it a heavy blow at Pearl Harbor, the American Navy could be neutralized long enough for Japan to achieve it's objectives in Asia and the Pacific.

In terms of its strategic objectives, the attack on Pearl Harbor must be viewed as a complete failure. Whether it was even possible to achieve these objectives, while half the American fleet was stationed in the Atlantic and therefore quite safe, is debatable. What is certain is that on December 8, 1941, the American Navy remained perfectly capable of operations in the Pacific and a major obstacle to the designs of the Japanese government.

Despite the perception of this battle as a devastating blow to America, only three ships were permanently lost to the Navy. These were the battleships Arizona, Oklahoma, and Utah. Five ships that were sunk during the attack were later raised and returned to duty. Of the 22 Japanese ships that took part in the attack, only one was to survive the war.