The Aftermath – Pearl Harbor after the attack


By: Tara Tyrrell

By the time the people at Pearl Harbor had the chance to come to terms with what had happened on December 7, 1941, there was no doubt that the aftermath of the attack would take a long time to clear. America had suffered amazingly at the hands of the Japanese, losing 1,999 sailors, 233 soldiers and 109 marines. Along with this, there were also 49 civilians killed by bombs of shells.

Dead bodies were everywhere: in the water, the streets, on the islands. Many would never be recovered and today they remain in the waters or immersed in the soil. There is no doubt the devastation of that event caused a lot of heartache, both physically and psychologically; and there is no doubt the events of that day had a major impact on the American government and military forces.

Despite the devastation, the good news was that as soon as Japan had finished the attack, they left Hawaii. This gave the State the chance to commence the recovery and recuperation efforts immediately – once they were over the shock of what had happened.

Homes and businesses hung black out curtains in their windows, citizens were issues with gas masks, and businesses that were able to continue to operate did so at all times of day and night to ease transport issues. Supplies were limited, but everyone worked together to start the clean up.

Following the attack, the military in Pearl Harbor were more prepared. As support increased from military around the world, the number of soldiers, sailors and marines increased to more than 135,000 people (double the amount that was there before the attack). There were more gun batteries, the beaches were surrounded with barbed wire, and all the major buildings were painted in camouflage colors. At night, people were made to turn off all the lights early (or have limited lighting) and all the major provisions were rationed (such as gas).

Nevada Hole in port bow

Both the military forces and the locals were happy to oblige. Everyone was terrified of a repeat attack and wanted to do what they could to prevent that kind of devastation again.

One of the interesting things about the attacks was that Hawaii actually had quite a large Japanese-background population. While these people were not treated as though they were the enemy, there was some obvious suspicion, particularly those who were living along the West Coast of the State. As you can imagine, everyone becomes a suspect in times of such uncertainty.

In order to combat that suspicion, once they had permissions (in 1943), many of the Japanese civilians actually joined the United States military to prove their loyalty to their home.

Seamen at Kaneohe NAS decorate graves of Pearl Harbor

This led to Hawaii receiving the highest enlistment rate per capita during the war, and the story of the Japanese-American 442nd Brigade is well known to this day. They 442nd Brigade fought in Europe, particularly in Italy, southern France and Germany and had a total of 14,000 men serve under the banner, earning almost 9,500 Purple Hearts.

Following the attack, it took the locals time to accept and to trust outsiders, but over time, Hawaii and Pearl Harbor transformed again into an amazing “paradise”.

Find out more on our blog – Rebuilding Pearl Harbor.

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