The Attack that Changed the Course of WW2


JC Siapno, Journalist

Attack On Pearl Harbor


Wars are feared things. Wars can destroy the world with a push of a button. But if one attack hadn’t happened, then things might’ve ended badly for the allies. Seventy years ago, Japan attacked a U.S. military base named Pearl Harbor, causing the U.S. to join ww2.


December 7th, 1941, ww2 had been raging for two years, and all seemed well at Pearl Harbor when suddenly, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service launched a surprise military strike against the military base, even though the U.S. had been neutral in the war. Almost 200 American aircraft were destroyed. 2,000 Americans died that day, and 1,000 were left injured. On the other hand, only 35 Japanese aircraft and submarines were destroyed, and only 60 Japanese servicemen were killed.


Attack Waves

The Japanese attacked in two waves, each with three groups. The first group of the initial wave had 50 Nakajima B5N Kate bombers with 800 kilograms of bombs that could penetrate even the strongest armor. They also had 40 B5N bombers that were armed with type 91 torpedoes. The second group had 50 Aichi D3A dive bombers with 250 kilograms of bombs that effectively destroyed enemy troops, vehicles, and buildings (general-purpose bombs). The third group had 40 Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighters used for air control and strafing. Strafing is a way of attacking ground targets using weapons mounted on an aircraft.


The second wave’s first group had 50 B5Ns and was armed with 250 kilograms and 60 kilograms of general-purpose bombs. They had 30 B5Ns, aircraft, and hangars in multiple locations. The second group had 80 D3As that were armed with general-purpose bombs. The third group had 35 A6Ms for defending and strafing.


A third wave was urged to destroy more of Pearl Harbor. However, Chuichi Nagumo, a Japanese admiral who commanded the Japanese aircraft carrier striking force during the early stages of WW2, believed that they had completed their mission of neutralizing the U.S. Pacific Fleet. He didn’t want to risk more aircraft losses because the American anti-aircraft performance had improved during the second wave. The American carrier’s location was unknown, and the task force’s fuel was low. He didn’t want to risk fuel being so low that they had to abandon the ships or wait for rescue.



The Japanese military had been training for months and would not put that to waste. They came with 350 aircraft, including 40 torpedo planes, 100 level bombers, 130 dive-bombers, and 80 bombers. Japan had also brought 2 heavy and light cruisers, 2 battleships, and 10 destroyers.



Japan had a few goals in mind apart from destroying the base. They wanted to destroy critical American fleet units so that the Japanese didn’t have to deal with America interfering with their plans and expanding into different targets across the ocean. Second, they wanted to increase their naval strength because naval strength is critical when crossing large oceans. Third, they wanted to stop the Americans from mobilizing forces in the Pacific. And finally, they wanted to lower America’s morale and make them want peace with Japan.


American Casualties

Two thousand sailors died, and 710 were injured. Two hundred twenty soldiers and airmen were killed, and 360 were injured. One hundred ten marines lost their lives, and 70 were wounded. Seventy civilians were killed, and 40 were hurt.


Japanese Casualties

Fifty-five airmen and ten submariners were killed. Only a naval officer was captured. Thirty planes were destroyed: ten in the first wave and twenty in the second, and anti-aircraft machines damaged only seventy planes.  



Later that day, Japan would declare war on the U.S. and the British Empire. The British government would also declare war on Japan after their territory had been attacked as well. The day after that, the U.S. declared war on Japan, causing Germany and Italy to declare war on the U.S. The U.S. responded by declaring war on them.


What resulted was a three-day battle known as the Battle of Midway that occurred six months after the attack, ending with the Allies winning. This battle erased Japan’s hopes of destroying the U.S. as a naval power. Japan also stopped its plan to expand in the Pacific and would stay on the defensive for the rest of the war.


Japan surrendered after the U.S. bombed Japan in 1945 with the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima and a second in Nagasaki. What resulted was the end of ww2. But the U.S. wouldn’t be in the clear yet. The Cold War would almost lead to ww3, which in turn could have led to a nuclear war, but thankfully, it didn’t.