Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The Battleship Arizona under attack.

At dawn on Sunday, December 7, 1941, naval aviation forces of the Empire of Japan attacked the United States Pacific Fleet center at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and other military targets. The goal of this attack was to sufficiently cripple the US Fleet so that Japan could then attack and capture the Phillipines and Indo-China and so secure access to the raw materials needed to maintain its position as a global military and economic power. This would enable Japan to further extend the empire to include Australia, New Zealand, and India (the ultimate boundaries planned for the so-called "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere"). The prevailing belief within the Japanese military and political establishment was that eventually, with the then expected German defeat of Great Britain and Soviet Russia, the United States' non-involvement in the European war, and Japan's control of the Pacific, that the world power structure would stabilize into three major spheres of influence:

1.) The Empire of Japan controlling East, Southeast, and South Asia and the entire Pacific Ocean.

2.) The combined powers of Germany and Italy controlling Great Britain, all of Europe, Western and central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

3.) The United States, controlling North and South America.

Imperial Emperor Yamamoto
Imperial Admiral Yamamoto, who conceived, designed and promoted the Pearl harbor attack, cautioned against a war with the United States. Having twice held naval attache positions within the Japanese embassy in the U. S. Capitol, he knew well the industrial strength, material wealth and temperament of the United States. Overruled by his superiors, he dedicated his efforts as Commander in Chief of the Imperial Combined Fleet to a successful attack. Upon completion of the attack he is quoted as saying "We have awakened a sleeping giant and have instilled in him a terrible resolve".

Airfields, port facilities, and warships were attacked and severely damaged. Of the nine Pacific Fleet battleships at Pearl that day, Utah and Arizona were completely destroyed and the Oklahoma was salvaged but considered obsolete and designated for scrap. All other battleships were returned to service

The Arizona was struck by a converted sixteen inch armor penetrating naval shell that was dropped from a high level horizontal bomber. The bomb penetrated between the number one and two turrets, proceeded aft and downward through several decks, and exploded in one of the Arizona's aircraft catapult gunpowder magazines. The resulting fire ignited the main gun magazines where great quantities of gunpowder were stored. The explosion blew out all forward transverse bulkheads and caused the ship to sink to the harbor bottom in a few minutes. The explosion and sinking resulted in the death of over 1100 crew members.

Arizona Memorial

The Arizona has been preserved as a tomb for most of the crew and as a memorial to the events of this day. The observation structure in the picture spans the ship's hulk, with Ford island in the background. The memorial is accessed by boats from the naval base at Pearl Harbor. Within the memorial, the first object seen is the ship's bell. In the middle, viewing ports overlook the Arizona. At the far end, a marble wall is inset with bronze letters naming the deceased crew members.

I had the privilege of visiting Pearl Harbor and walking through the Arizona Memorial. It was a sobering and spiritual experience. Looking over the sides into the deep water, I thought of all those people, men and women , who gave their lives on that terrible day, and the families they left behind.  And so,  I think it's fitting on each December 7th that we remember and honor the memory of those people. We learned a valuable lesson at a great and horrible cost that day. Let's hope America is never caught "sleeping" again.

Information taken from the Pearl Harbor Memorial Page

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