Why Did Japan Attack Pearl Harbor

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Introduction

Japan was in a state of war with China. Although Japan was a military superpower, the war with China was depleting their resources. At that moment, the majority of resources, particularly oil, were supplied by the US. The United States did not condone Japanese invasion of China and imposed an embargo on Japan. This implied that they would no longer provide Japan with raw materials. The state had to look for a way out of this challenging situation.

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Japan’s Need for Resources for the War with China

The Japanese High Command thoroughly deliberated this issue and concluded that the Dutch East Indies would be the exact place to obtain resources. However, they were aware that an invasion of the Dutch East Indies would likely draw the United States into the war. Therefore, they needed to figure out a method to prevent the United States from going to war with them until they conquered the Dutch East Indies. At that point they came up with the idea of Pearl Harbor. The purpose of Pearl Harbor was to put the American Navy out of action for a couple of months to allow them enough time to occupy the Dutch East Indies and devour its resources to fund their war against China and the United States after the American Navy was reconstructed.

Critical bilateral relations with the United States and preparation of the attack on Pearl Harbor

The Japanese were fed up with negotiations with the United States. They desired to pursue their expansion in Asia, but the United States had imposed an enormously limiting embargo on Japan with the hope of deterring Japanese attack. The negotiations to handle their disagreements were unsuccessful. Instead of conceding to U.S. requirements, the Japanese chose to conduct a sudden attack on the United States, in an effort to annihilate U.S. naval power even before a formal declaration of war. The Japanese thoroughly trained and readied themselves for the attack on Pearl Harbor. They were completely aware that their idea was incredibly desperate.

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Preparation of the plan of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

The chances of a successful outcome of this military operation hinged heavily on the contributing factor of complete unexpectedness. On November 26, 1941, the Japanese strike fleet, headed by Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo departed the island of Etorofu in the Kuriles (situated in the northeast of Japan) and embarked on its 3000-mile crossing of the Pacific Ocean. Carrying six aircraft carriers, nine destroyers, two battleships, two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser and three submarines through the Pacific Ocean was an extremely challenging mission. Fearing that they would be noticed by another ship, the Japanese strike group constantly moved in zigzags, thus evading the main navigation routes. After a week and a half at sea, the strike group managed to safely reach its destination, about 230 miles north of the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

The attack on Pearl Harbor begins

On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was launched. At 6:00 am, Japanese aircraft carriers started to lift their planes into the air amidst the choppy sea. Overall, 183 Japanese aircraft were taken into the air during the first wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor. At 7:15 a.m., the Japanese aircraft carriers, in even more rough seas, took off 167 more planes to engage in the second wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The first wave of Japanese planes arrived at the American naval station in Pearl Harbor (situated on the south side of the Hawaiian island of Oahu) at 7:55 am on December 7, 1941. Directly before the initial bombs were released on Pearl Harbor, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, who was in charge of the air attack, shouted “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (“Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!”), a secret code message that alerted the entire Japanese fleet that they had taken the Americans by surprise.

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