On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The attack led the United States into World War II – a result the Japanese would regret.
In the late 1930s, relations between the U.S. and Japan were getting worse, but no one in America expected the attack. World War II had begun in 1940, but it was a European conflict. Imperial Japan wanted to expand into China and other Asia-Pacific countries, and it thought that defeating the U.S. and joining the war would help it to achieve this goal. When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, it brought both Japan and the U.S. into the war. In the end, Japan lost the war when the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs onto the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
The Plan to Cripple America
The Japanese Imperial Air Force, under Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, plotted for a year how best to decimate the U.S. Navy. Within two days, the assault by Yamamoto left Pearl Harbor, Malaya, Hong Kong, Guam, the Philippine Islands, Wake Island, and the storied Midway Island in ruins.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) spoke to Americans over the radio, to explain the nation’s entry into war:
“As commander in chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.”
The world – and FDR – did not know that the attack on Pearl Harbor would eventually lead to Japan’s defeat in WWII, and the U.S. becoming a global superpower.