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  • As we've seen in the previous episodes, the  Japanese Empire had decided on war with the West  

  • since the embargo enacted by the US in July, 1941.  The plans to simultaneously execute invasions on  

  • the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines and  Malaya, as well as a preemptive attack on  

  • Pearl Harbor to destroy the American Pacific  Fleet, had all been drafted back in September,  

  • with preparations carried out successfully  by late November. By the way, don't forget  

  • to check out our podcast on the Pacific Warit  has all the episodes in a longform format with  

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  • The United States, meanwhile, was also well aware  that war was imminent, engaging in negotiations  

  • with Japan to delay this conflict as long as  possible for their forces to adequately prepare.  

  • But on November 26, the main Japanese strike force  under Vice-Admiral Nagumo Chuichi had already left  

  • its base heading to the Hawaiian Islands; thustime was running out for the United States.  

  • In Hawaii, the principal objective  of the attack was Pearl Harbor,  

  • the main naval base for the Pacific Fleet of  the US because of its geographical advantages,  

  • making it perfect for accommodating large warships  and aircraft carriers. The Japanese planned  

  • to bombard these ships using dive-bombershigh-altitude bombing and torpedo attacks,  

  • hoping that the destruction of these vessels would  be enough to render the Pacific Fleet inoperative;  

  • that's why they didn't target the submarine base  or the oil yard that were also present in Pearl  

  • Harbor. This attack was so important to get an  early win in the war that the planners had gone  

  • to the extent of preparing mock ups and models  on which the pilots could practice maneuvers, so  

  • much so that thousands of hours of air time were  spent in charting out the perfect plan of attack  

  • while the Type 91 torpedoes of the  era were modified with wooden fins  

  • to be effective in shallow waters. Yet the plan of Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku  

  • also had some flaws; one is that Pearl Harbor  was a naval base, so rescue services could be  

  • quickly mobilized and many sailors would be on  shore leave, thus reducing the amount of possible  

  • American casualties. Another drawback was that  the American ships were moored in shallow waters,  

  • so most of the destroyed vessels could be  salvaged and repaired with comparative ease.  

  • But the most important disadvantage was that the  three aircraft carriers of the Pacific Fleet were  

  • absent from Pearl Harbor on the day of the attackThis was something that the Japanese command knew,  

  • as many spies had already acquired detailed  reports of all vessels and schedules at Pearl  

  • Harbor, but they decided to attack anywayseven though these carriers were one of the most  

  • important objectives of the operation. Meanwhilein the American base, Major-General Walter Short  

  • and Admiral Husband Kimmel were concerned  about a possible attack on Pearl Harbor,  

  • believing that they could be subjected to  a naval invasion or a sabotage operation.  

  • In that regard, all army aircraft was bunched  together for more protection at Wheeler Field,  

  • although this also made it an easier target  for an air attack; munitions were secured;  

  • coastal artillery was put on alert; carriers  started to rotate in and out of harbor;  

  • and ships and naval aircraft started to patrol  in search of submarine threats to shipping.  

  • As their preparations show, they were  definitely not expecting an air attack

  • On December 2, while cruising onwardsNagumo received orders to start the  

  • final preparations for the attack on Pearl  Harbor, scheduled to commence five days later.  

  • Although the Japanese commander was worried that  they might encounter American ships on their way,  

  • none came, and by December 7, the Japanese  task force had finally reached its destination.  

  • At predawn , the operation began with Japanese  midget submarines starting to stalk some American  

  • minesweepers that were on patrol, attempting to  shadow their prey into the safety of the harbor  

  • while the anti-submarine net was openMeanwhile, Nagumo ordered the first wave  

  • of aircraft to prepare for take-off at 06:15.  Commanded by Fuchida Mitsuo, the first 183 planes  

  • then steadily took off from their six aircraft  carriers some 250 miles north of Oahu. At 06:30,  

  • they adopted V-formation and headed southwest  towards Pearl Harbor. A couple minutes later,  

  • some Japanese submarines were discovered and one  was sunk by the destroyer Ward in what would be  

  • the first shots of the Pacific War. Around 07:00,  the radar post on Opana Ridge identified a group  

  • of more than 50 aircraft 132 miles north  of Oahu and then notified headquarters,  

  • which didn't receive the message because the  personnel had left for breakfast. At the same  

  • time, Nagumo ordered the 168 aircraft of the  second wave to take off, commanded by Shimazaki  

  • Shigekazu. Commander Fuchida then sighted the  northern shore of Oahu at 07:40, relieved to  

  • see no enemy aircraft in front, and subsequently  ordered his pilots to deploy into attack formation  

  • at 7:49. Because of a misunderstanding of his  orders, both the dive-bombers and the torpedo  

  • planes simultaneously commenced their operations. Wheeler Field, one of the main objectives due  

  • to the concentration of most of the American  aircraft, was first systematically bombarded  

  • by the dive-bombers and then repeatedly  shredded with gunfire by A6M Zeros.  

  • Most of the planes were completely destroyed  as a result, but twelve pilots managed to  

  • get into their fighters to lift off  and engage the Japanese in dogfights.  

  • Meanwhile, torpedo forces split into two stringswith 16 planes closing on their targets northwest  

  • of Ford Island and with 24 planes going south  to Hickam Field and Battleship Row intending to  

  • attack enemy battleships and aircraft. Some eleven  fighters also turned east to attack Kaneohe,  

  • arriving at 07:53 and completely  neutralizing the American aircraft there.  

  • At the same time, the Ewa Marine Air Corps  Station came under attack by eight Zeros,  

  • leaving behind Wildcats blazing, scout-bombers  burning and utility aircraft destroyed.  

  • Pearl Harbor itself was finally attacked at  07:55, six minutes after the assault commenced,  

  • and the Pacific Fleet would be caught unaware  with a rude and violent awakening. As dive-bombers  

  • started their bombardment over Hickam Fieldtorpedo planes nosed down on Pearl Harbor,  

  • leveling and dropping their deadly loads into the  water. Northwest of Ford Island, the ex-battleship  

  • Utah and the cruiser Raleigh reeled under torpedo  explosions, while to the south of the island, the  

  • TenTen Pier experienced a slashing attack in which  the cruiser Helena was hit. On Battleship Row,  

  • the battleship Oklahoma was the first one to  get hit by torpedoes at 07:57. At this point,  

  • alarms had been sounded and men started to pour  from below decks to man the anti-aircraft guns

  • Soon after 08:00, the Oklahoma received three  more torpedo hits that left her capsizing,  

  • while the battleship Arizona was attacked with  armor-piercing bombs that penetrated the deck and  

  • caused small fires. The repair ship Vestal nearby  was also hit by these bombs, but it continued to  

  • fire against the Japanese planes even while  engulfed in flames. And behind the Oklahoma,  

  • the battleship West Virginia was hit by two  bombs that caused serious fires and by a total  

  • of seven torpedoes that opened two large holes and  caused extreme damage; while on the other side,  

  • the battleship California was attacked by torpedo  bombers that managed to hit her around 08:05,  

  • tearing two huge holes that started  a flooding. As the Oklahoma capsized,  

  • Arizona was hit for a fourth time at 08:06,  piercing her forward magazine and causing  

  • such a powerful explosion that a fireball  erupted from the ship, tearing her in half.  

  • Vestal's fires were suddenly extinguished due to  the concussion, but oil from ruptured tanks of the  

  • Arizona reignited the repair ship a couple minutes  later, forcing Commander Cassin Young to ground  

  • the Vestal . The West Virginia was also set on  fire by fuel leaking from the destroyed Arizona,  

  • and she would end up sinking due to the  damage. 429 men died that day in the Oklahoma,  

  • while the Arizona suffered 1177 losses including  its two leading commanders . This was more than  

  • half the total number of casualties  the US would receive in this attack

  • At the same time, a recon squadron of SBDscoming from the aircraft carrier Enterprise  

  • some 200 miles west of Oahu, arrived at the  battle and was quickly engaged by the Japanese,  

  • but its efforts couldn't prevent their enemy from  destroying half the aircraft at Hickam Field.  

  • Around 08:10, one of the torpedo bombers managed  to hit the battleship Nevada , causing a small  

  • flooding, but at the same time getting shot  down by the American gunners. Ten minutes later,  

  • after some relentless bombardment and surrounded  by the fires of the Arizona , the battleship  

  • Tennessee was hit by two bombs that luckily didn't  cause serious damage, although fragments of the  

  • bombs were sent flying and ended up killing  Captain Mervyn Bennion of the West Virginia.  

  • Around 08:30, Japanese aircraft identified the  remaining battleship, Pennsylvania, undergoing  

  • a refit at Dry Dock No. 1, and then started  to bombard it for the next fifteen minutes.  

  • Although one of the bombs caused large fires  on the destroyers Cassin and Downes nearby,  

  • the Pennsylvania only got hit once and suffered  no serious damage for it. At the same time,  

  • Shimazaki's second wave reached the east coast of  Oahu, but waited for the given command to attack,  

  • and at 08:45, the California was struck  by a bomb that started serious fires  

  • and caused considerable damage, although she  continued to resist for the next few hours.  

  • While the Japanese planes made their last sorties  with less intensity, the Nevada managed to control  

  • her flooding and then started to get away  from the row . Around 08:50, a momentary  

  • pause in the battering occured as the second  wave was ordered to commence its operations

  • Thus, over the Koolau Mountains, 78 dive-bombers  advanced directly towards Pearl Harbor,  

  • intending to continue the bombardment  over the American vessels. Meanwhile,  

  • 18 bombers and 17 fighters attacked Kaneohe and  27 bombers and some fighters took a wide sweep  

  • around the south of the mountains to attack Hickam  Field. By 09:00, the rain of death had resumed,  

  • but this time the US forces were determined to  offer more resistance. On Kaneohe, the bombers  

  • made strikes on the hangars and managed to explode  one of them, while the Zeros continued farther  

  • south to Bellows Field, shredding with machine-gun  fire the enemy aircraft there. On Hickam,  

  • the Japanese resumed their bombardment over the  field, but were met with considerable opposition,  

  • so they continued towards Ewa and Wheeler. The  main attack also resumed over Battleship Row,  

  • hitting the battleship Maryland at 09:08  and causing a small flooding, although she  

  • would continue to fight for another day. Around  09:20, Pennsylvania's drydock was also hit again,  

  • finally exploding the destroyers there and  causing severe damage on the battleship . But the  

  • strong American resistance forced the Japanese  aircraft to target whatever ship they could,  

  • starting more attacks over cruisers and destroyers  and not over their real objectives, so in the end,  

  • the second wave would be much less successful than  the first one because of this fierce opposition.  

  • Around 09:50 however, the Nevada would be struck  by five bombs as she steamed past the TenTen Pier,  

  • thus suffering severe damage, although she would  manage to safely return to shallow waters . The  

  • California would also succumb to its damage around  10:00, so her crew would have to abandon her and  

  • she would finally sink over the next three days. Commander Fuchida would be the last aircraft to  

  • remain in Hawaii while he conducted his  recon and assessment flight over Oahu,  

  • finally returning around 11:00. When he  reached the aircraft [carrier?] Akagi at 13:00,  

  • his report dissuaded Nagumo from ordering a third  wave directed against American infrastructure,  

  • like the submarine base or the oil yard. He  decided this because they were running low on fuel  

  • and because they had lost the element of surprisebut this would prove to be a very bad decision in  

  • the future. The operation, however, was considered  a huge success in Japan, damaging or sinking all  

  • eight battleships , among other vesselsdamaging or destroying 219 American aircraft  

  • and causing 3497 casualties on the US with only  minimal losses . Consequently, the Japanese had  

  • acquired naval superiority in the Pacific and  could then continue with their plans of expansion.  

  • But before the smoke had drifted away in Hawaiithe American sleeping giant had awakened ashamed  

  • and angered, and it wanted revenge. The Japanese  war declaration had been scheduled to reach  

  • Washington before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but  delays in the decodification and transcription of