Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor - HISTORY

The destruction of the U.S. Navy fleet at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Associate Pages

Visitor Statistics Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor National Memorial
1,716,535 visitors
#52 Most Visited National Park Unit

Source: NPS 2019 Visitor Attendance, Rank among 378 National Park Units.

Park Size

USS Arizona Memorial
10.5 acres (Federal)

Other Pearl Harbor Attractions

USS Bowfin
Submarine Park
Battleship Missouri
Pacific Aviation Museum

Historic Site Fees

USS Arizona Memorial

USS Bowfin Submarine Park
$15 adults, $7 child (4-12), $8 senior, military, Hawaii residents

USS Missouri
$29 adults, $13 child with tour.

Pacific Aviation Museum
$20 adults, $10 child (4-12), $10 extra guided tour

Additional tours that combine attractions are also available. Fees subject to change without notice.


Summer - Average temps in the upper 80s.

Winter - Temperatures moderate to 80 degrees on average in the winter with the wettest months between November and March.

Photo above: Naval Air Station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii after attack on December 7, 1941. Photo courtesy Library of Congress. Right: The battleships USS West Virginia and USS Tennesse after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Photo courtesy NARA.

Pearl Harbor

A day like no other in the anals of American history, when an attack by a foreign power on the soil of the United States awoke the sleeping giant in the United States and signalled our entry into World War II. December 7, 1941. A day that would live in infamy, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt would say in his address to the nation after the Japanese bombing of the 6th Fleet of the United States Navy in the Hawaiian harbor.

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Pearl Harbor Then

The war had raged in Europe and Asia for over two years prior to the surprise attack. There had been much debate about what our role in this conflict should or should not have been. But there was no doubt once the Japanese zeros flew over the territory of Hawaii that day, sinking the fleet into the harbor. Above, the USS Arizona, now memorialized, as it lists, on fire, toward the water. 1,177 men lie beneath the memorial inside the battleship.

Pearl Harbor is located five miles west of Honolulu and has been one of the best naval anchorages in the world since the U.S. navy deepened the channel in 1900. In December of 1941, it was home to the Pacific Fleet, which included seven battleships among its seventy-four naval vessels. When the three hundred and sixty warplanes of the Japanese nation roared into the harbor at 7:55 a.m. from the flotilla of thirty-three warships two hundred miles north, the United States fleet and force were surprised. By the end of the attack two hours later, three thousand, five hundred and eighty-one people were dead, eighteen ships sunk, and one hundred and seventy-four planes destroyed. The Pacific Fleet was in shambles, and the United States, with a declaration of war one day later, now involved in the struggle against the Axis Powers, eventually on two fronts. By the end of World War II, over 405,000 soldiers of the United States of America were dead, of the nearly 15 million from all nations and 670,000 U.S. soldiers were wounded.

Naval Air Station - Although less publicized than the attack on the ships in the harbor itself, the devastation on the Ford Island Naval Station was also very severe, although pilots were able to scramble aircraft to pursue the Japanese planes during the attack despite the heavy damage. The U.S. Navy and Army lost a total of 169 planes during the attack with an additional 159 damaged. The Japanese lost 9 fighter planes and 20 bombers. Pearl Harbor U.S. Naval Fleet - Tension between Japan and the United States had been on the rise from 1940 and the majority of the U.S. Pacific Fleet had been brought back to Pearl Harbor and placed in small groups in case of a sabotage attack. There were about 185 ships in the harbor when the attack began. The attack lasted approximately two hours. After the USS Arizona had been hit, it took only nine minutes to sink. 337 service members on the Arizona survived the attack. For more information about the attack, check out the website of

Photo above: Maiden voyage from New York City of the USS Arizona on November 10, 1916. Courtesy National Park Service. Below: Photo: Aerial photo of the USS Arizona and USS Arizona Memorial. Courtesy National Park Service.

50e. Pearl Harbor

The USS Arizona was pounded by Japanese bombers as it rested at anchor at Pearl Harbor. The ship ultimately sank, taking the lives of 1,177 crew members.

While the international picture in Europe was growing increasingly dimmer for the United States, relations with Japan were souring as well. Japan's aggression was literally being fueled by the United States. The Japanese military machine relied heavily on imports of American steel and oil to prosecute its assault on China and French Indochina.

Placing a strict embargo on Japan would have seemed obvious, but Roosevelt feared that Japan would strike at the resource-laden Dutch East Indies to make up the difference. Beginning in late-1940, the United States grew less patient with Japanese atrocities and began to restrict trade with the Empire.

Just prior to Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, Japan signed a nonaggression pact with Stalin. This removed the threat of a Russian attack on Japan's new holdings. With Europe busy fighting Hitler, the United States remained the only obstacle to the establishment of a huge Japanese empire spanning East Asia.

By the end of 1940, the United States had ended shipments of scrap metal, steel, and iron ore to Japan. Simultaneously, the United States began to send military hardware to Chiang Kai-shek , the nominal leader of the Chinese forces resisting Japanese takeover.

By the beginning of World War II, Japan had established a powerful navy aviation division. It was this superior air power that carried out the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Negotiations between Japan and the U.S. began in early 1941, but there was little movement. By midsummer, FDR made the fateful step of freezing all Japanese assets in the United States and ending shipments of oil to the island nation. Negotiations went nowhere. The United States was as unwilling to accept Japanese expansion and Japan was unwilling to end its conquests.

American diplomats did, however, have a hidden advantage. With the help of " Magic ," a decoding device, the United States was able to decipher Japan's radio transmissions. Leaders in Washington knew that the deadline for diplomacy set by Japan's high command was November 25. When that date came and passed, American officials were poised for a strike. The prevailing view was that the attack would focus on British Malaya or the Dutch East Indies to replenish dwindling fuel supplies.

Unbeknown to the United States, a Japanese fleet of aircraft carriers stealthily steamed toward Hawaii.

The goals for the Japanese attack were simple. Japan did not hope to conquer the United States or even to force the abandonment of Hawaii with the attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States was too much of a threat to their newly acquired territories. With holdings in the Philippines, Guam, American Samoa, and other small islands, Japan was vulnerable to an American naval attack. A swift first strike against the bulk of the United States Pacific Fleet would seriously cripple the American ability to respond. The hopes were that Japan could capture the Philippines and American island holdings before the American navy could recuperate and retaliate. An impenetrable fortress would then stretch across the entire Pacific Rim. The United States, distracted by European events, would be forced to recognize the new order in East Asia.

All these assumptions were wrong. As the bombs rained on Pearl Harbor on the infamous morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, almost 3,000 Americans were killed. Six battleships were destroyed or rendered unseaworthy, and most of the ground planes were ravaged as well. Americans reacted with surprise and anger.

Most American newspaper headlines had been focusing on European events, so the Japanese attack was a true blindside. When President Roosevelt addressed the Congress the next day and asked for a declaration of war, there was only one dissenting vote in either house of Congress. Despite two decades of regret over World War I and ostrichlike isolationism, the American people plunged headfirst into a destructive conflict.

From Engagement to Peace

At the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, learn about one of the most pivotal moments in US history: the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent entry of the United States into World War II.

Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial

The USS Arizona Memorial program is free for all visitors. The visitor center and museums are also free. Find out more about the park.

Plan Like a Park Ranger

Read more plan your trip to Pearl Harbor National Memorial like a Park Ranger

79th Commemoration Events

Learn more about upcoming 79th commemoration events the week of December 7, 2020.

Moments of Infamy

In this web series, Park Ranger Jason Ockrassa takes you to historical sites around Oahu & talks about the service members of WWII Hawaii.

Bag Policy and Safety

Bags are not allowed at the park, but can be stored onsite. Find out more about our bag policy, medical concerns, and safety at the park.

Coming Home 77 Years Later

Using DNA & other technology, the remains of service members lost on the USS Oklahoma on Dec 7, 1941, are being identified & returned home.

DECEMBER 2-8, 2021 -- FULL!

Eighty years ago in December 1941, the United States was pulled into the largest and most destructive war in human history. In the end, the allies triumphed over the fascism of Germany, Italy and Japan. The latter nation, by attacking the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, ensured a titanic struggle for mastery of the vast ocean and its periphery would be waged to the end.

This will be the last major opportunity to mingle with veterans of the Greatest Generation, especially those who are Pearl Harbor survivors (an 18 year old in December 1941 will be 98 today!). This Pearl Harbor guided tour will take us to the island of Oahu in Hawaii to examine the beginnings of America’s involvement in the great struggle. We will visit two ships, lying end-to-end, that encapsulate the war – the USS Arizona, under its memorial, where the war began that terrible Sunday morning, and the USS Missouri, on whose decks the allies accepted complete Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945. We will also see numerous other sites of the war, from ships, submarines and aircraft to Army garrisons and mountain observation points. We will attend several significant WWII remembrance events throughout the week, and incorporate them into the itinerary as the schedule is announced.

In addition to the Pearl Harbor tour, we will further visit many places associated with Hawaiian history from its founding as a kingdom under Kamehameha through American whaling and missionary arrivals and on to the US agricultural and financial interests that led to the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893 and the annexation of Hawaii as a US territory in 1898. The incredible story of this civilizational intersection will unfold as we visit critical sites.

Finally, no visit to this beautiful, sun-splashed island would be complete without visits to its gorgeous beaches and small towns for optional snorkeling, swimming, diving, hiking, golfing and just relaxing. From our spectacular Waikiki beachfront base at the beautiful and historic Moana Surfrider Hotel, we will spend a week in paradise and come away far richer for the experience!

The itinerary is subject to minor change as the 80 th Commemoration committee begins to announce activities and celebrations. We will continue to add events to the itinerary as they become available. We expect commemorations at numerous military sites, including Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Airfield in addition to Pearl Harbor.

Finally, while we certainly anticipate that the Covid-19 crisis will be behind us in December 2021, Essential History Expeditions will ensure adherence to all Covid-19 recommended precautions in place in December 2021. Breakfasts will be included at the hotels, lunches will be primarily on your own at onsite cafes where available, and group dinners will be at restaurants with excellent outdoor dining space at the hotel or within walking distance from the hotel. Essential History Expeditions will provide hand sanitizer after each stop. This trip is predicated on the successful opening of all included sites by December 2021. If by chance, we cannot travel in December 2021, Essential History Expeditions will refund the full deposit and any additional payments.

Pearl Harbor Research Paper

Pearl Harbor was a naval base located in Hawaii (the homeport of the Pacific Fleet). It was considered by most a wonderful “home away from home” for the men who preserved America’s interests abroad. Even though Europe was involved in a bitter world war, in the Pacific, there were no signs of trouble. During this time, Great Britain was at war with Germany and Italy, Japan’s allies. The United States attempted to aid Great Britain in every way possible which in turn caused Japan to grow vociferous towards the United States. Japanese anger also focused on the embargos which the United States had placed on American exports to Japan. Above all, Pearl Harbor stood athwart Japan’s path-a navy which Japanese admirals thought capable of menacing their nation’s existence. Because of this grudge held against the U.S., Japan named this situation: Taiheyo-no-gan (“Cancer of the Pacific”). Even though there was “bad-blood” between the U.S. and Japan, the Japanese preferred to try the hand of diplomacy before they unsheltered the sword. To negotiate their differences, in November 1940, Tokyo selected an ambassador, Admiral Kichisaburo Nomura, who was liked and respected by both Americans and Japanese. On January 7th, 1941, Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of Japan’s Combined Fleet, sat at his desk aboard the Nagato as he prepared his most dreaded task, initiating a war against the United States by a surprise attack on its Pacific Fleet. Yamamoto was one of the few Japanese men who wanted to avoid a war with the U.S. for the fact he knew that the U.S. was surely gain victory in a war with Japan. He expressed this lack of faith in a meeting with Konyoe in Tokyo by stating, ”If I am told to fight regardless of the consequences, I shall run wild for the first six months or a year, but I have utterly no confidence for the second or third year.

The Triparite Pact has been concluded, and we cannot help it. Now that the situation has come to this pass, I hope you will endeavor to avoid a Japanese-American war.” In spite of Yamamoto’s outlook, he continued to plan the attack. After several months of careful planning, Yamamoto decided that it would be best to engage war with the U.S. Navy by moving the scene of action to waters near the Hawaiian Islands. This way the enemy would be forced to do battle in a way that the Japanese fleet could overcome their opponent.

Eventually Yamamoto had a plan. He envisioned a task force made up primarily of aircraft carriers, cruisers, and destroyers, to deliver an annihilating aerial strike against the U.S. Fleet in Pearl Harbor. But to carry the war to the very threshold of the enemy’s power, he must catch his foe’s unaware. In a meeting between Yamamoto, Admiral Takijir Onishi, chief of staff of the Eleventh Air Fleet, and Commander Kosei Maeda, and expert on aerial torpedo warfare, Koasei Maeda made a suggestion of a torpedo attack against Pearl Harbor. This tasks seemed nearly impossible to Yamamoto and Onishi considering the fact that the base was too shallow. They believed that it would take a technical miracle to achieve a torpedo battle. Finally after close thought, it was decided that 2 merchant ships should precede the tasks force, 1 at an angle to the port, the other to starboard. These vessels would serve as the eyes of the fleet and as decoys. To increase security, they decided the route to Hawaii should be the one providing the best chance for surprise.

December 7th, 1941
At 7:30 A.M. Yamamoto’s 2 battleships, 2 cruisers, and 11 smaller ships were ordered to begin the attack on Pearl Harbor. At 0615 hours the first wave of Japanese aircraft was spotted at a station in Opana. They were led down to the western coast of Oahu by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida. By 0750 hours Fuchida could see Pearl Harbor where at that moment he gave the order to attack. From endlessly repeated practice and meticulous study of maps and models of Pearl Harbor, every Japanese pilot knew exactly what to do. While the squadrons of dive- bombers split up into sections which were to swoop simultaneously on the several army, navy, and marine airfields, the high level bombers settled onto their pre-arranged approach course, bomb aimers adjusting their sites, and the torpedo-bombers began the long downward slant to their torpedo launching positions abreast the battleships. A few minutes before 0800 hours, to the scream of vertically plummeting planes, bombs began to burst among the aircraft drawn up, wingtip to wingtip in parade ground perfection on the various airfields.

Simultaneously the duty watch abroad the ships in “Battleship Row” saw the torpedo-bombers dip low to launch their torpedoes and watched the thin pencil line of the tracks heading for their helpless, immobile hulls. Moored together in the harbor were five battleships- West Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, and California-were rent open by torpedo hits in the first few minutes. Only the Maryland, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania escaped torpedo damage. Other ships torpedoed were the old target battleship Utah, and the light land cruisers Raleigh and Helena. Nevertheless, although to the shudder and shock of underwater explosions was soon added the riding whine of dive- bombers and the shriek and shattering detonation of bombs from then and from high-flying bombers, the American crews, for the most part, went into action with speed and efficiency, shooting down several of their attackers. Damage control parties worked manfully to minimize the consequences of flooded compartments, counter flooding to keep the foundering ships on an even keel, restoring electric and water power and communications, fighting the fires. Meanwhile, however, high up above the smoke and confusion, hardly able at first to credit the total absence of any fighter opposition, and any inconvenienced by the sparse gunfighter directed at them, Fuchida’s high level bombers were calmly selecting their targets and aiming will cool precision. An armor-piercing bomb sliced through the 5 inches of armor of a turret in the Tennessee to burst inside it another plunged down through the several decks to explode in the forward magazine of the Arizona, which blew up. Both the Maryland and the California were hit with devastating effect. When a lull occurred at 0825 hours, as the first wave of Japanese aircraft retired, almost every US aircraft at the air bases was damaged or destroyed, the West Virginia was sinking and on fire, the Arizona had settled on the bottom with more than a thousand of her crew fatally trapped below. The Oklahoma had capsized and settled on the bottom with her keel above water the Tennessee, with a turret destroyed by and armor-piercing bomb, was badly on fire and the California had received damage that was eventually to sink her, in spite all efforts of her crew. Elsewhere, all that was visible of the Utah was her upturned keel. The Raleigh, deep in the water from flooding, and counter-flooding, was being kept upright only by her mooring wires. While all this had been taking place, at least one Japanese midget submarine succeeded in penetrating the harbor, passing through the gate in the boom defenses which had carelessly left open after the entry of two minesweeper at 0458 hours. During a lull in the air attacks this submarine was sighted just as it was firing a torpedo at the seaplane tender Curtis.
The torpedo missed and exploded harmlessly against the shore, as did the second one. The submarine was attacked by the destroyer Monaghan and sunk by depth charges. Of the other 3 midgets launched from their parent submarines, 2 were lost without a trace the third after running on a reef and being fired at by the destroyer Helm, was finally beached and her crew taken prisoner. The parent submarines and the 11 other large boats of the Advanced Expeditionary Force achieved nothing. The second wave of Japanese aircraft-54 bombers, 80 dive-bombers, and 36 fighters led by Lieutenant Commander Shimazaki of the aircraft-carrier Zuikaku- had taken off an hour after the first wave.
They were met by a more efficient defense and thus achieved much less. In the breathing space between the 2 attacks, ammunition supply for the US anti-aircraft guns had been replenished, gun crews reorganized, and reinforced and a number of the Japanese dive-bombers were shot down. Nevertheless, they succeeded in damaging the Pennsylvania, wrecking 2 destroyers which were sharing the dry-dock with her, blowing up another destroyer in the floating dock, and forcing the Nevada-feeling her way towards the harbor entrance through the billowing clouds of black smoke from burning ships- to beach herself. Meanwhile the high-level bombers were able to make undisturbed practice and wreak further damage on the already shattered and burning US ships. At 1000 hours it was suddenly all over. The rumble of retrieving aircraft engines died away leaving a strange silence except for the crackle of the burning ships, the hissing of water hoses and the desperate shouts of men fighting the fires. For the loss of only nine fighters, 15 dive-bombers, and 5 torpedo-bombers out of the 384 planes engaged, the Japanese navy had succeeded in putting out of action the entire battleship force of the US Pacific Fleet.

After the attack, Fuchida and his men had sunk, capsized, or damaged in varying degrees a total of 18 warships- eight battleships, three light cruisers, three destroyers, and four auxiliary craft. The U.S. ”Navy’s air arm had lost eighty-seven aircraft of all types. The Japanese also destroyed 77 aircraft of Major General Frederick L. Martin’s Hawaiian Department of the U.S. Army. An additional 128 aircraft had been damaged however 80 percent of these were later salvaged. Worst of all 2,403 personnel of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and civilians had been killed, were listed as missing or died later of wounds, while those wounded but not killed totaled 1,178. On the other hand, the Japanese lost 29 aircraft, one large submarine, and five midget undersea craft. On the morning of December 8th, 1941, President Theodore Roosevelt prepared his speech that was to be given to joint session of Congress in the chamber of the House of Representatives at 12:30 P.M. Then he called for a declaration of war for this “unprovoked and dastardly attack.” Thirty-three minutes later, Congress passed a resolution declaring that a state of war existed between the United States and Japan. After the Pearl Harbor attack, Japan still set out to capture and seize power over neighboring islands and countries. After an astounding 6 months a triumph, Japan was halted. In May, 1942, two Japanese invasion forces set out for Port Moresby in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands farther south. The group bound for the Solomon Islands met no difficulties but the group bound for New Guinea was intercepted by American carriers Lexington and Yorktown. The American sank the Japanese ship, Shoho, in ten minutes, a record for war. The next day, Japanese pilots found the Americans and Lexington. Torn by torpedoes, battered by bombs, and listing, she was nevertheless when a series of internal explosions gave her death blows. This continuance of naval actions is known as the Battle of Coral Sea. Admiral Yamamoto had grown tired and decided to destroy the remnant of the American Pacific Fleet. He gathered a powerful fleet of 162 ships, which was divided into a large and small force. Against Yamamoto’s ships were 76 American ships. On June 4th, American patrol planes found the enemy carriers and were destroyed by torpedo-bombers and dive-bombers from the American carrier decks. Unfortunately the Japanese changed their course, and won the Battle of Midway and, perhaps, even the war. But only some days later, American dive bombers found both carriers and destroyed the enemy by torpedoes. On July 21st, 1945, the Japanese ambassador made a formal announcement to bring the war to an end. After 4 years of war, with the Americans gaining victories over Japan in Guadalcanal, the Kwajalein Atoll, Tinian, Guam, the Philippine Sea, New Britain, the Leyte Gulf, Luzon, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, the war had finally came to an end.

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Hollywood vs. history / Historians say 'Pearl Harbor's' version of the World War II attack is off the mark

2 of 8 The Japanese surprize attack on Pearl Harbor successfully decimates the U.S. Pacific Fleet, including the USS Arizona (tilted) in Touchtone Pictures'/Jerry Bruckheimer Films' epic drama, "Pearl Harbor." The film is distributed by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution. HANDOUT Show More Show Less

4 of 8 Photo of Dr. Harry Gailey, an expert on the attack of Pearl Harbor during World War II. Story about the accuracy or lack thereof of the new Pearl Harbor movie. Photo by Craig Lee/San Francisco Chronicle CRAIG LEE Show More Show Less

5 of 8 The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, is pictured in this historic United States Navy photograph. In the distance, the smoke rises from Hickam Field. The Walt Disney Company is releasing a new action drama film "Pearl Harbor" about the attack, with the film premiere at Pearl Harbor May 21, 2001 aboard the aircraft carrier USS John Stennis. B&W ONLY REUTERS/United States Navy/Handout HO Show More Show Less


"Pearl Harbor" may be scoring at the box office, but it's getting failing grades from historians, who see it as oversimplified and inaccurate.

"They spent 150 million on this thing," says Harry Gailey, author of the acclaimed "War in the Pacific: From Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay." "They should have been able to afford two or three dollars for a historian."

Gailey, who has written seven books on the Pacific theater of World War II, admires the spectacle but doesn't see much history in the new movie. Bruce Reynolds, also a nationally regarded military historian, agrees. The author of "Thailand and Japan's Southern Advance: 1941-1945," Reynolds is an authority on modern Asian history, and he teaches a course on World War II at San Jose State. "History is complicated," he says. "When you try to portray it, facts are distorted, and the context gets jerked around."

In this case, really jerked around. The experts saw plenty of anachronisms, jumblings of fact, odd points of emphasis and mistakes. Some are small. For example, in the first scene, two boys in 1923 play with a crop duster that was not commercially available until the late '30s.

Other mistakes are bigger. "They have Japanese torpedo bombers attacking the American airfields," says Gailey. "What are they going to torpedo on an airfield?"

The film puts 21st century communications technology into 1940s aircraft. The pilots communicate with the ease with men in a control tower and, in a later scene, a woman in Hawaii is able to hear, as if over the radio, an entire battle play out, thousands of miles away.

"The idea that she can hear the in-plane radios while sitting back in Hawaii is nonsense," says Reynolds. "Planes did not have radios like that. And the control-tower scene is ludicrous. These things are pure Hollywood and have no relation to reality."

The film depicts the commanding officer, Admiral Kimmel, finding out about the attack while on a golf course, and it also shows Americans playing baseball as the Japanese planes fly in.

"But Kimmel hadn't left for the golf course," says Reynolds. "And who plays baseball at 7 in the morning?"

The movie depicts the war as coming as something of a surprise to the American leadership. But Reynolds points out that as early as Nov. 26 the Navy was issuing a "war warning" to all its officers, and the Army said that a "hostile action was possible any moment."

"They knew Japan was going to move," says Reynolds. "They just didn't know where."

When the battle starts, the fighter pilots played by Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett take off from an airfield that's under aerial assault. Their heroics parallel that of real-life pilots George Welch and Kenneth Taylor, but they didn't take off under those conditions. "They were at a smaller airfield, to the west," says Gailey.

Later the pilots are recruited by Lt. Col. James Doolittle for a bombing raid over Tokyo. "But this was a bombing mission," says Gailey. "Doolittle needed bombers, not fighter pilots. They're not the same thing."


Both historians expressed doubts about Franklin D. Roosevelt's big scene, in which he pulls a "Dr. Strangelove" and struggles out of his wheelchair in order to show his cabinet that the impossible can happen. It's actor Jon Voight's hammiest moment, but neither historian has ever read of any incident remotely like that.

"Roosevelt in this movie was a caricature -- a caricature of somebody who wasn't Roosevelt," says Reynolds. "The movie has him making John Wayne-type speeches. Roosevelt didn't talk like that. It's entirely contrived."

The movie also suggests that Japan had a chance of winning the war, and that if it had pressed its advantage, it could have invaded the United States all the way from California to Chicago. "That's garbage about Chicago," says Reynolds. "Pure fantasy. Japan had no such ambitions or plans."


"There are only so many soldiers you can get on a ship," says Gailey. "Where could they have invaded on the West Coast? It would never have worked."

Though neither historian was swept away by the film, Reynolds thinks some good may come of it. "The best thing that could happen is that people will see it, be entertained and come away interested in why this stuff happened."

And Gailey, who was in high school at the time of Pearl Harbor, says the movie at least got some things right.

"They were reasonably accurate about the era," says Gailey. "They were pretty accurate about the attitude of the people. And the automobiles. And the swing music. They did a good job on that."

Pearl Harbor Anniversary Timeline

September 2, 1945
Instrument of Surrender signed on Battleship Missouri 1950 Admiral Arthur W. Radford, commander of the United States Pacific Fleet, attaches a flag pole to the main mast of the Arizona

December 7, 1955
The Navy places the first memorial, a ten-foot- tall basalt stone and plaque, over the remains of the Arizona

March 25, 1961
Elvis Presley performs a concert to raise funds for a new Arizona Memorial

May 30, 1962
Permanent Arizona Memorial is formally dedicated

April 1, 1981
Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park opens to the public

April 15, 1998
Adm. Clary Bridge linking Kamehameha Highway to Ford Island is dedicated

January 29,1999
Battleship Missouri opens to the public

December 7, 2006
Pacific Aviation Museum opens

December 7, 2016
Events for 75th Anniversary commemoration

Why Was Pearl Harbor Important?

The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was important because it sparked the United States' entrance into World War II. The day after the Japanese attacked Honolulu's Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war on Japan.

When the events at Pearl Harbor took place, World War II had already been going on for two years. Three days after President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan, Japan's allies, Germany and Italy, declared war on the United States. Following this, Congress reciprocated, declaring war on both Germany and Italy. In the end, Japan's decision to attack Pearl Harbor left the United States with no choice but to enter the international conflict.

In the aftermath of the 2-hour attack on Pearl Harbor, 21 ships in the U.S. Pacific fleet had been sunk or severely damaged. United States air crafts also took a hit, as 188 were destroyed and 159 were damaged, most were hit before they could even leave the ground. In total, 2,403 people were killed, the majority of which were soldiers and sailors.

The surprise Pearl Harbor attack was also responsible for uniting the nation, which was split about whether or not to even enter the conflict that was World War II.

Government Publications & Related Official Sources

Gantenbein, James W., comp. and ed. Documentary Background of World War II. New York: Octagon, 1975. D735.G25

Japan's Decision for War: Records of the 1941 Policy Conferences. Translated and edited by Ike Nobutaka. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1967. D754.J3I4

  • "Invaluable records of 62 conferences held in Tokyo between March and December of 1941" - Inside ft. cover.

U.S. Department of State. Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States - Japan: 1931-1941. 2 vols. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1943. E183.8.J3U6

Watch the video: Pearl Harbour - Surprise Attack