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Sunday, 15 January 2017

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu.

The United States was granted exclusive rights to enter Pearl Harbor and to maintain a repair and coaling station for ships there on January 20, 1887.

Following the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the United States Navy established a base on the island in 1899 and Pearl Harbor was refitted to allow for more navy ships.

Pearl Harbor on October 30, 1941, looking southwest

In the early 1940s, many Western countries reacted to the Japanese occupation of French Indochina by banning oil trading with the country. Japan reacted by planning to take over European colonies in Asia to create a great defensive area in the Pacific which would let it free to get resources. However, before any future invasion, it first had to destroy the American Pacific Fleet. On September 24, 1941, the Japanese consul in Hawaii was instructed to calculate the number of battleships at Pearl Harbor and report the findings to Japan.

Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan in a surprise attack on December 7, 1941. The Japanese aircraft struck the US Pacific Fleet as it lay in port in Pearl Harbor.

Shortly before the attack, the Japanese government sent its declaration of war to its embassy in America. However, the message was so long and confusingly worded that by the time the embassy had it decoded and translated, the attack had already finished.

The USS Arizona was struck several times before a bomb blew up the forward ammunition magazines, causing a cataclysmic explosion. The ship's destruction killed 1,177 of the 1,512 crewmen on board at the time, representing almost half of the American fatalities in the attack. The USS Arizona's crew included 37 pairs or trios of brothers. Of these, 23 sets of brothers died and only one full set survived.

Arizona during the attack

Annie Fox was the first woman to receive the US Purple Heart Medal. She was wounded while serving at Hickam Field during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941.

The Pearl Harbor attack was carried out by 353 Japanese warplanes. After just two hours of bombing, 2,403 Americans were dead, 21 ships were either been sunk or damaged, and more than 188 US aircraft destroyed.

The Japanese also launched five midget submarines, which were approximately 78 and a half feet long and six feet wide and held only a two man crew. The plan was for them to sneak into Pearl Harbor and aid in the attack against the battleships. However, all five of these midget subs were sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The United States promptly declared war on Japan whose allies, Italy and Germany, in turn declared war on the United States.

The United Kingdom declared war on Japan nine hours before the US did, partially due to Japanese attacks on the British colonies of  Hong Kong and British Malaya; and partially due to Winston Churchill's promise to declare war "within the hour" of a Japanese attack on the United States.

The US Senate voted for war against Japan by 82 to 0, and the House of Representatives approved the resolution by a vote of 388 to 1. The sole dissenter was Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a devout pacifist who had also cast a dissenting vote against the US. entrance into World War I.

After Japan surrendered to the United States in 1945, former Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo was the butt of a prank. While awaiting trial for war crimes in Tokyo prison, an American dentist drilled "Remember Pearl Harbour" into his top set of false teeth, right at the tip of his tongue.

The Michael Bay film Pearl Harbor cost $140 million to produce, as much as the actual rebuilding of Pearl Harbor, and lasts a full hour longer than the actual attack.

Decades after Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona continues to leak up to 9 quarts of oil each day.

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