Pearl Harbor History
Before the Attack
While Pearl Harbor is most known for the attack that occurred on December 7th, 1941, it has always had an interesting history. At one time there were abundant pearls, shark gods and was nicknamed the “island of attraction”.
The English ship Butterworth, under Captain William Brown, entered Honolulu Harbor in 1793. Captain Cook passed it on his famous voyage in 1778 because there was coral at the entrance of the harbor. The coral rock was blasted away in 1902 and sand a rock was dredged to allow large vessels to enter the locks.
The violent interference with the harbor was said to upset the shark goddess Ka’ahupahau and Hawaiians soon predicted trouble. Many tragic incidents followed as work continued in Pearl Harbor.
Read More about the History of Pearl Harbor before the attack
The Japanese Attack
Despite a submarine spotted at 3:42am at the mouth of Pearl Harbor and despite the 7:10am call to HQ about the planes on the radar, the attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise. Japanese forces struck ground targets at Wheeler field: aircraft, hangars, base buildings. They knew that as soon as they torpedoed the ships, Americans would retaliate. Without airfields or planes, retaliation would be minimized.
Read More about the Pearl Harbor Attack
After the Attack
There was a staggering 2,390 casualties from 44 states, Washington DC, Guam, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Canada. The Japanese had 64 killed. The US Pacific Fleet had 21 ships sunk or heavily damaged with 164 aircraft lost and 159 damaged. The attack was seen as a victory for Japan.
Admiral Yamamoto was right when he said that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor awakened a sleeping giant. Americans became united against a common enemy. Now that American lives had been lost, the country could no longer remain isolationist.
Read More about what happened After the Attack
Commanders in Pearl Harbor History
Admiral in command of the Imperial Japanese Navy Combined Fleets was Isoroku Yamamoto. Yamamoto had lived in the United States and was educated at Harvard University. Although he knew the industrial capacities of the United States, he planned the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Read more about Admiral Yamamoto
Admiral Husband E. Kimmel was the naval commander at Pearl Harbor during the attack. He was not happy with the land and air defense arrangements of Pearl Harbor and Hawaii. He made sure his feelings were known, but Washington did little to improve the situation.
Lt. General Walter C. Short commanded the army in Hawaii, which at the time of the attack was responsible for land and air defense. While these commanders did not have an open rivalry, both Short and Kimmel were competing for allocations in order to defend their bases.
The American public wanted to find fault in the aftermath of the attack. The obvious answer was the commanders at the time of the attack. They spent their lives being blamed for the US failures at Pearl Harbor only to be exonerated posthumously by the senate in 1999. Whether information was intentionally withheld from them or not is the most controversial question in Pearl Harbor history.
Read more about the people involved at Pearl Harbor
May 10, 2021
As we watch the number of Pearl Harbor survivors dwindle, we also bid farewell to other icons of the Second World War. The latest World War II hero to pass... Read More
March 5, 2020
On December 7, 1941, the United States suffered devastating losses during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The assault launched the War in the Pacific and put the entire nation... Read More
February 7, 2020
Pearl Harbor tours are planned out with predetermined itineraries based on each site's location rather than a historical timeline. If you consider the Pearl Harbor sites in chronological order, each... Read More
January 14, 2020
[Editor's note: The following are the recollections of USS California survivor Robert Boulton. We are reproducing them exactly as written. Please be advised that some of the descriptions are graphic,... Read More
August 22, 2019
Looking at the actions of the Japanese military during the early phases of the War in the Pacific, it’s reasonable to believe that they may have gotten overzealous with their... Read More
May 9, 2019
On the morning of December 7, 1941, an attacking force of the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise assault on the Oahu naval base of Pearl Harbor. Those stationed at... Read More
October 24, 2018
John Danaher celebrated his 100th birthday on Saturday, October 20, 2018 surrounded by his friends and loved ones. Like any time an individual joins the club of centenarians, it was... Read More
June 25, 2018
The political climate between the United States and Japan was tense when a group of college athletes from two football teams set out from California to Hawaii in November 1941,... Read More
February 9, 2018
A lot happened on the island of Oahu during the morning of December 7, 1941. Though the devastation at Pearl Harbor and airfields all across Oahu are what's most remembered... Read More
July 31, 2017
When we think of war, we tend to generalize it as a conflict of men. For millennia, only men served in militaries around the world, but today that's an... Read More
July 29, 2017
The USS Arizona (BB-39) suffered a fate on December 7th, 1941 that would make her one of the most iconic battleships of all time. During the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor,... Read More
July 14, 2017
Teaching American history is one of the most important parts of shaping young minds to ensure the events that shaped this nation are never forgotten. That’s one reason why the... Read More
July 10, 2017
For Cornelia Clark Fort, as for most other Americans, December 7th, 1941 began as a quiet Sunday morning. It started out as an otherwise normal day as she embarked on... Read More
June 30, 2017
On December 7th, 1941, the naval base at Pearl Harbor suffered its first large-scale tragedy. At 0755, a fleet of Japanese fighters and bombers swooped in on the harbor and... Read More
May 8, 2017
When humans first walked the Earth, their wars and conflicts were fought with sticks, stones, and whatever natural features they could use to their advantage. Far from the technology we know... Read More
May 3, 2017
American history can be observed and experienced all across the United States. From the museums in Washington DC to the Old West landmarks along Route 66, you’re never too far from a... Read More
April 15, 2017
On December 7th, 1941, Mitsuo Fuchida was an enemy to the United States, but much changed over the course of his life. By the time he died in 1976, Fuchida's change of heart had... Read More
April 11, 2017
Everybody had their jobs. For Wesley Hoyt Ruth, on December 7th, 1941, when the Japanese started bombing Pearl Harbor, his job was of the utmost importance: locate the Japanese fleet... Read More
March 25, 2017
Before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Navy men like John S. Harper were simply doing their jobs. They woke up, got dressed, and engaged in their daily activities just... Read More
March 22, 2017
Who was the mind behind Pearl Harbor? War with the United States was inevitable. Though the Americans refused to pick up arms and join the battle, it would only be... Read More