Pearl Harbor is a harbor on Oahu Island of Hawaii, west of Honolulu. The harbor is also a United States naval base. Also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, it was attacked by the Empire of Japan on December 7, 1941. It was this act that plunged the United States into World War II. The surprise attack was planned in order to reduce or eliminate US military powers in the Pacific. It was a preventive action by Japan, as it wanted to wage a war against Britain, Netherlands and the United States.
The attack was premeditated in two aerial waves, comprising of total 353 aircrafts, which were launched from six Japanese aircraft carriers. The main aim behind the ambush was well thought of. Japan wanted to secure its advance into Malaya and the Dutch East Indies for their natural resources of oil and rubber, by neutralizing the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The attack was planned in three waves. This was intended to paralyze the US Fleet completely and to throw it out of operation.
The First Wave
The first attack wave was launched north of Oahu, commanded by Captain Mitsuo Fuchida. It was carried out by three groups. The first group aimed at US battleships and aircraft carriers. The second group hit the Ford Island and Wheeler Field. The third group attacked aircrafts at Ford Island, Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, Barber’s Point and Kaneohe.
The Second Wave
The second wave of attack was commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Shigekazu Shimazaki. It was also divided into three groups. The first targeted the aircrafts and hangars at Kaneohe, Ford Island and Barber’s Point. The second aimed at aircraft carriers and cruisers. The third group was employed to raze aircrafts at Ford island, Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, Barber’s Point and Kaneohe.
The Third Wave
A third wave was also planned and was intended to be launched. It mainly targeted the fuel storage, maintenance and dry dock facilities. It was estimated that the destruction of the oil tanks and repair facilities would have paralyzed the US Pacific Fleet. It would have been thrown out of severe operation in the Pacific for more than a year. However, the third wave was not carried out due to serious considerations on the Japanese side. They did not wish to incur further losses as the task of neutralization of the Fleet was already achieved. On the contrary, the dismissal of the third attack was highly regretted by Japan later.
On the whole, Japanese managed to damage 18 ships, including 8 battleships, 3 light cruisers and 3 destroyers. On the airfields, 161 American planes (Army 74, Navy 87) were destroyed and 102 (Army 71, Navy 31) were severely damaged. The US Navy and Marine Corps suffered a total of 2,896 casualties, out of which 2,117 were deaths (Navy 2,008, Marines 109) and 779 comprised of wounded soldiers (Navy 710, Marines 69). By 10 December 1941, the Army lost 228 personnel, while 113 were seriously wounded and 346 were slightly wounded.
Moreover, at least 57 civilians were killed and around equal number were severely injured. On the Japanese side, 29 planes were lost over Oahu, along with one large submarine and all five of the midget submarines. According to Japanese sources, the personnel loss comprised of 55 airmen, 9 crewmen on the midget submarines and an indefinite number on the large submarines. The Japanese carrier task force sailed away undetected and unscathed. However, the aftermath of the attack indicated that though it produced large scale destruction, it was insignificant in terms of harming American fuel storage, maintenance and intelligence capabilities.