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By the year 1941, WWII was in full effect. Germany seemed to be the victor, gaining control of France and Poland as well as successfully bombing England. Many people believe that Germany would have indeed won the war if not for the intervention of the United States. Because of the horror Americans had witnessed in WWI, the United States did not originally want to get involved in the conflict. In the early morning of December 7th, 1941 all that changed when the Japanese air fleet scattered in the Pacific Ocean bombed Pearl Harbor.
In September of 1940 Japan entered in alliance with Germany and Italy. The Japanese were in need of natural resources found in Southeast Asian countries newly conquered by Germany. Around the same time in the United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to halt German and Japanese expansion but was urged by other government officials to leave the situation as it was. Japan feared America?s reaction to their plans to seize Southeast Asia, yet did not let that fear get in their way.
Japan completed their control of Indochina by seizing the southern half. The American government answered back by placing an embargo on oil shipments heading for Japan. The Japanese viewed this as an act of war, for they knew their military and industrial forces would not last long with out oil. The United States tried to resolve their differences with Japan, throughout 1941. Demands on each side were quite simple. The Japanese wanted the embargo lifted and permission to attempt an attack on China. The U.S. exclaimed they would only lift the embargo if Japan ceased its aggression towards China. The two powers refused to compromise and a war seemed inevitable.
America realized Japan would not budge and strategically place military forces in the Pacific Ocean in preparation for a pending war. In fact, the most crucial element of American defense was the U.S. Pacific Fleet. With war looming the Pacific Fleet was moved to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on April 2nd , 1940. Pearl Harbor seemed to be the perfect place to rest the fleet. Situated between the Marshall Islands, where the Japanese fleet gathered and the west coast of America. The fleet wasn?t supposed to stay in the harbor very long yet because of events in Europe, President Roosevelt felt if the fleet was left in the harbor it would diminish the possibility of a Japanese attack on the U.S. the exact opposite proved to be true.
On February 1st , 1941, Admiral James O. Richardson was officially replaced by Admiral Husband E. Kimmel. Richardson was supposedly removed because he strongly voiced his disagreement with the U.S. Pacific Fleet spending any more time in Pearl Harbor then they already had. Kimmel shared that view, and also wanted to keep his office, so he simply kept his opinion to himself. The fleet?s main objective while staying in their new location, was to distract the Japan from South Asia by, capturing the Caroline and Marshall Islands, disturbing Japanese trade routes and defending Guam and Hawaii as well as the United States. Admiral Isoroku Yamado, commander-in-chief of Japan?s Combined Fleet devised a plan that would protect the Japanese mainland from European invasion as well as launch offensive maneuvers. He decided to attack Pearl Harbor and Allied forces in Southeast Asia simultaneously, in an effort to demoralize American forces. Yamado felt this was the closet way to get a peace settlement. The attack was carefully planned out and guidelines were established, surprise was crucial, aircraft carriers were the primary targets to avoid opposition, all types of bombing were to be used, it would be necessary to refuel at sea and a daylight attack would be most affective. There was much opposition from Japanese Naval General Staff yet the attack went on as planned.
After the bombing, out of 100 U.S. Naval ships in the harbor thirteen battleships and eleven smaller ships were damaged or destroyed. The bombing also claimed the lives of 2,335 men and 68 civilians as well as wounding over 1000.
News of the attack traveled quickly and shocked the entire Nation. War was soon declared on Japan and America wanted revenge for the lives of the men who died in the early morning of December 7th. Germany and Italy then declared war on the U.S. , truly making this a global conflict.
The U.S. would later drop two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing Japan to complete surrender in 1945.
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