The True Story of Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, the attack of the Japanese army on the American naval base of Pearl Harbor marked the Second World War. A look back at the events.

Pearl Harbor: a strategic American military base

Pearl Harbor was an American military base located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on the island of Oahu, near Honolulu, in the Hawaiian archipelago. In French, its name translates as “port de la Perle” (pearl harbor), because this island was previously known for the production of pearl oysters.

But since 1887, Pearl Harbor has been an annex of the United States and home to one of the largest U.S. Army naval bases. With its strategic location halfway between the American west coast and Japanese waters, it took on particular importance in the context of the Second World War.

In 1941, as the conflict took a global turn, the United States was committed to the Allies against the threat of the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and the Empire of Japan) and their supporters. The control of the Pacific Ocean became a major issue. The Japanese wished to extend their influence to the south and threatened certain American positions. To weaken the enemy and destabilize it economically, the United States established a trade blockade. The Empire was quick to retaliate.

The revenge of the Japanese Empire

In response, General Tojo studied the option of a destructive raid on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor and mobilized extraordinary resources.

On December 7, 1941, to the great surprise of the American soldiers at the base who had not received any warning, the Japanese went on the attack. Stationed off the Hawaiian coast, their planes torpedoed the American ships based in Pearl Harbor.

In just two hours, the Japanese army destroyed all the American planes and ships, except for the three aircraft carriers that were patrolling the coast. The island of Oahu was destroyed.

What were the consequences of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor?

In addition to significant material losses, the human toll was heavy on the American side with more than 2,400 dead and nearly 1,200 wounded. The attack on Pearl Harbor immediately plunged the United States into the Second World War.