At 8:00 AM on Sunday 7 December 1941 Japan attacked the United States naval installations and fleet resting at anchor in Pearl Harbor. American aircraft carriers were out to sea, a lucky break for the US.
Thus began the involvement of the United States in World War II which resulted in a resounding defeat of Japan, the Nazis, and the Axis Powers. All of them surrendered unconditionally. The United States would stand up a military force of more than 13,000,000 men and women under the leadership of VMI graduate General of the Army George Catlett Marshal. It would take 3.5 years to destroy the Axis powers in a global contest of arms.
This effort also brought us the atomic bomb that was unleashed on Japan at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
That evening, the following ships were lying in the depths of Pearl Harbor sunk by Jap torpedoes and bombs.
USS Arizona (BB-39) — 1,177 KIA — still on the bottom in Pearl Harbor today
USS Oklahoma (BB-37) — 429 KIA — recovered, but sunk while being towed from Hawaii to San Francisco Bay in 1947. The USS Oklahoma was stripped of armaments and the superstructure before being sold for scrap.
USS Nevada (BB-36) — Nevada was the only battleship to get underway during the attack, but was run aground at Hospital Point. She would return to duty and escort convoys in the North Atlantic and provide shore fire support for five amphibious landings: Attu, Normandy, Southern France, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.
The Nevada was used as the target for the first atomic bomb test, Able, leaving her heavily damaged and radioactive. She was then sunk in a naval gunfire exercise in July 1948.
USS Utah (BB-31/AG-16) — 58 KIA, thought to be the first ship sunk right at 8:00 AM by two torpedoes. The Utah rolled and sank, but most of the crew (461 survivors) was able to escape. The Utah is still on the bottom at Pearl Harbor. Chief Watertender Peter Tomich received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his efforts in ensuring that vital equipment worked and that sailors evacuated. The Utah, like the Arizona, is a war grave because the bodies of the dead have never been recovered.
USS California (BB-44) — 100 KIA — returned to battle and served with distinction
USS Cassin (DD-372) — destroyed at drydock. Its guts were saved and built into ships of the same name.
USS Downes (DD-375) — destroyed at drydock. Its guts were saved and built into ships of the same name.
USS Oglala (ID-1255/CM-4/ARG-1) — flagship of the Pacific Fleet Mine Force, refloated, repaired, served until 1965
In all, the Americans would lose 2,400 KIA as a result of the unprovoked attack.
The US would also rise from that bloody attack and become the Arsenal of Victory, produce 90 divisions, 300,000 airplanes (in the last full year of the war, the US would produce 100,000 aircraft), and 110,000 tanks and self-propelled guns on a tank chassis. The US would produce 2,679,000 machines guns.
The war for the US would last three and a half years during which the Americans fought two enemies as part of an allied effort that combined the forces of the British Empire, Russia (USSR), and the USA.
The Allies would produce 270,000 tanks and self-propelled guns v 68,000 Axis weapons. [It is worth noting that the war against Japan didn’t use a lot of armored forces.]
More than 11,200,000 men and women would serve in the US Army/Marines while another 2,000,000 would serve in the Army Air Corps.
All in, the war would find 55,000,000 Brits, Yanks, and Russians against 17,000,000 Germans. The Japs had an army of 2,000,000.
Total war dead — soldiers, sailors, airmen, and civilians were horrific:
Russia — 25,000,000
China — 15,000,000
Germany — 8,000,000
Poland — 5,700,000
Dutch East Indies — 3,500,000
Japan — 2,870,000
British India — 2,100,000
French Indochina — 1,600,000
France — 550,000
Italy — 450,000
England/United Kingdom — 451,000
United States — 419,000
Total deaths of all nations were 72,500,000.
Tonight, just before you lay down your head, take a moment to reflect on this horrific event. Know that the DNA of the men and women who defeated this evil races through your veins and mine. Take a second to reflect. This — the most powerful bulwark of good against evil, demonstrated again and again — is who we are as a nation.
God bless America. God bless the Americans who rose to the challenge. A grateful Nation mourns our losses and honors that sacrifice. America.