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History >> World War 2 for Kids

World War II

Attack on Pearl Harbor

The Attack on Pearl Harbor happened on December 7th, 1941. Japanese airplanes made a surprise attack on the US Navy in Pearl Harbor. They destroyed many ships and killed many soldiers. It was this attack that forced the United States to enter World War II.

Pearl Harbor Japanese Fighter plane
Japanese fighter plane attacking


Where is Pearl Harbor?

Pearl Harbor is located in Hawaii on the island of O'ahu. Hawaii is located in the Pacific Ocean between California and Japan. During the time of World War II, Hawaii was not a state, but a US territory.

Before the Attack

World War II had been raging in Europe and Asia for two years, but the United States had not entered the war. The Empire of Japan was trying to take over much of Asia and was worried about the US Navy in Hawaii. They decided to strike in order to prevent the United States from attacking them.

The Japanese thought that if they took out the war ships in Pearl Harbor, then the United States Navy would be crippled and would never attack. However, they were mistaken and the attack on Pearl Harbor had just the opposite result. The US declared war the next day.

The Attack

The attack on Pearl Harbor came as a complete surprise. Hundreds of Japanese fighter planes and bombers flew to Pearl Harbor and attacked. The bombers dropped bombs and torpedoes on the war ships, while the fighter planes attacked the US fighter planes on the ground so they could not take off and fight back. There were two waves of attacks and by the end of the second wave a number of US ships were destroyed.

USS Arizona sinking
The USS Arizona sinking


The Numbers

Here are the casualties from both sides during the attack. Although the Japanese inflicted considerable damage to the US Navy, they did not cripple it. They damaged many ships including warships, destroyers, and cruisers. They also destroyed a lot of the fighter planes and aircraft at the base. However, all of the US ships but three (the Arizona, the Utah, and the Oklahoma) were able to be recovered and were used later during the war.

The biggest US loss was the sinking of the USS Arizona. Over 1,100 US military personnel died when the Arizona sunk.

United States
Japan
People Killed
2,390
Navy
2,341
64
Civilian
49
People Wounded
1,178
unknown
Armed forces
1,143
Civilian
35
Ships
Sunk or Beached
12
5
Damaged
9
Aircraft
Destroyed
164
29
Damaged
159
74
(information in this table from www.nps.gov)

After the Attack

The citizens of the United States were in shock. They had tried to avoid the war, but they could not ignore this attack. The Japanese had hoped to break the Americans by attacking Pearl Harbor, instead they united them. The next day, December 8th, 1941, the US declared war on Japan. Three days later Japan's allies, Germany and Italy, declared war on the United States. The United States was now a major part of World War II.

The US Navy was able to recover from the attack on Pearl Harbor fairly quickly. The Japanese had not damaged a number of important facilities on the Hawaiian Islands, including oil storage depots and repair yards. Also, no aircraft carriers were in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. Aircraft carriers would soon become the most important type of navy vessels in the war.

Memorial

Today there is a memorial to the US soldiers who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is called the USS Arizona memorial and is built on the water above the wreckage of the USS Arizona. The wreckage is considered a US National Historic Landmark.

Interesting Facts

Take a ten question quiz at the Pearl Harbor Attack questions page.

Learn More about World War II:

Overview:
World War II Timeline
Allied Powers and Leaders
Axis Powers and Leaders
Causes of WW2
War in Europe
War in the Pacific
After the War

Battles:
Battle of Britain
Battle of the Atlantic
Pearl Harbor
Battle of Stalingrad
D-Day (Invasion of Normandy)
Battle of the Bulge
Battle of Berlin
Battle of Midway
Battle of Guadalcanal
Battle of Iwo Jima

Events:
The Holocaust
Japanese Internment Camps
Bataan Death March
Fireside Chats
Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Atomic Bomb)
War Crimes Trials
Recovery and the Marshall Plan
Leaders:
Winston Churchill
Charles de Gaulle
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Douglas MacArthur
George Patton
Adolf Hilter
Joseph Stalin
Benito Mussolini
Hirohito
Anne Frank
Eleanor Roosevelt

Other:
The US Home Front
Women of World War II
African Americans in WW2
Spies and Secret Agents
Aircraft
Aircraft Carriers
Technology
World War II Glossary and Terms

History >> World War 2 for Kids






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