Why did the US set up at Pearl Harbor?
October 15, 2016
The history of the Hawaiian Islands is clear, and the historical presence of its people is known to date back as far as 124AD, depending on which history book you read it from. The original Hawaiians were of Polynesian origin and came from the Marquesas Islands. The Islands were run under their own monarchy for hundreds of years before the arrival of the British in the 1700’s. When western civilization came to realize how prosperous and important the Kingdom of Hawaii was because of its agriculture and strategic location in the Pacific, it was only a matter of time that its rule would be over thrown.
When American immigration began late in the 1700’s the native population of the islands was around 300,000 strong, but across the next 70 years, the native population declined progressively and by 1850, the population was only around 60,000. When Queen Liliuokalani attempted to re-store the deep-rooted royal powers in 1893 her rule was overthrown by well-connected businessmen who utilized the US military as backing during a coup provoked by US sugar interests.
During the 1890’s, the United States was being crippled by economic and social turmoil; and with the belief that the US economy would soon be incapable of absorbing the huge amounts of industrial and commercial goods being produced, the United States realized they needed new markets across the oceans. To access new international markets required 3 main things: a merchant navy, a battleship navy to protect their merchant navy; and a network of naval bases capable of providing fuel and supplies for their ships.
Hawaii was perfectly located in the Pacific Ocean to set up the naval base to refuel and resupply, and Pearl Harbor being one of the largest and best natural harbors in the Pacific Ocean, made for the perfect fit. Following the annexation of Hawaii in 1893, the refitting of Pearl Harbor to allow for more navy ships began.
Between 1900 and 1908, the Navy devoted it’s time to construction of storage sheds and housing. A foundry and machinist, Chief Officer’s house, a wharf crane, and water-pipe system were all built over the next 10 years, making it the biggest naval base in the Pacific. Pearl Harbor was then dredged, the channel enlarged to accommodate larger ships, and the Wisconsin battleship first entered the harbor on 28 May 1903. Hawaii’s location also made it easy to explore territorial outposts like Guam and Midway.
During the First World War, Pearl Harbor’s role was fairly small but being an international port at the time, many ships that were docked in Hawaii’s Honolulu Port when US announced that they were going to war were overthrown by the Hawaiians. It is estimated that over 10,000 men and women served overseas as soldiers and sailors, and locally as Red Cross workers, ambulance drivers and missionaries.
It was not until the 1930’s, when the Imperial Japanese military pressed its war on China, concern over Japan’s intentions caused the US to begin taking defensive measures.
In 1933, the US Navy staged a simulated attack on the Pearl Harbor base as part of a readiness exercise, but the defense system was considered a failure. Leading to the Second World War, the US interference in Japan’s war, led to the attack on Pearl Harbor.