WHAT HAPPENED ON that morning of Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941 was the opening shot of America’s involvement in World War II. To many in the know, and even among most Americans, war with the axis powers Germany, Italy and Japan seemed inevitable. Where and when it would be precipitated was the only unanswerable question.
Then, on that day, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his speech before Congress asking for approval to wage war upon Japan, referred to the unprovoked attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as a “date that will live in infamy.” On Monday, Dec. 8, 1941, his request was granted with only one vote in the negative.
Japanese planes that numbered 350 had rained bombs and destruction on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. And with such a military strike, that was deemed authoritatively by the Japanese planners and participants as more than successful even though the American aircraft carriers were at sea, the euphoria of the Japanese could have heralded on that day as a reversal rather than a military coup.
Rather than bringing American Pacific forces to its knees it strengthened the determination of America that retribution will be the ultimate goal. Had the Japanese continued its attack on Pearl Harbor they would have made immediate footholds in Hawaii with practically no opposition, and could have inflicted even more damage.
With an invasion of Hawaii, the Japanese could have made it impossible for American forces to sustain any kind of foothold with their overpowering number of troops.
Had they so invaded, the hunt for the American carriers would have been the prime plan. And had it been the course of action the loss of America’s carriers would have been a deadly and fatal blow to the Pacific area.
Instead, the Japanese planners of the Pearl Harbor onslaught were ecstatic over the tremendous damage inflicted upon the Pearl Harbor Navy base and extremely pleased with their undeniable successful air attack, which as history records was anything but decisive in the outcome of the war.
What was originally termed as a Japanese success, the attack at Pearl Harbor was in reality their first major defeat. The Japanese failed to implement even more damage by occupying Hawaii and ruling its citizens. The failure to capitalize on the surprise attack by invading was, in the long run, the beginning of the end for the German, Italian and Japanese partners.
Japan had few natural resources and control of sorely needed raw materials became the goal of its expansion aims, especially the Dutch East Indies and its rich oil supplies. Japan had been campaigning to put together its Asian empire for 10 years starting with the occupation of Manchuria in 1931. Asia presented a formidable threat to Australia and brought its expansion goals face to face with the United States, which had already imposed an embargo in responding to the Japanese Asian expansion targets.
The collision path of American and European powers with colonies in South East Asia had expected the Japanese would strike to the south, meaning the Dutch East Indies.
This indeed became the ultimate decision of the Japanese plans for expansion. But, they already had blue-printed plans that were in place to deliver a naval coup in Hawaii by devastating the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with special attention focused on the aircraft carriers as the prime targets.