The bombing of Pearl Harbor has always been considered a major Japanese victory. President Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 the “day that will forever live in infamy” because of the destruction following this assault. Japanese forces brutally impaired the American naval fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor and caused unimaginable horror for both the citizens of Hawaii and the United States as a whole. As a result of this attack, the United States entered World War II and four years later, was able achieve victory against the Axis Powers. However, was the bombing of Pearl Harbor truly a Japanese success? I will explore this question by studying journal entries written by Japanese officials involved in the attack, the writings of American military officials, informational texts, and an outlook by the American Department of Defense.
The Japanese did have some notable successes. They succeeded in taking out a major portion of the American fleet and hundreds of airplanes with very minimal losses. This greatly impacted the ability to immediately strike out against the Japanese. “With the US Pacific Fleet essentially neutralized, the United States was unable to play a significant role in the Pacific War for more than sis months, so Japan was free to conquer Southeast Asia and the southwest Pacific region as well as penetrate well into the Indian Ocean” (Nojeim). Also, the Japanese was able to completely surprise American forces in Pearl Harbor. The bombers attacked the fleet at the same time as the airfields to hinder the ability to fight back (Department of Defense). However, both of these two sources go on to identify the three major failures that are included in the following paragraphs.
The failure to eliminate the aircraft carriers of the Pacific Fleet (USS Enterprise, USS Lexington, and USS Saratoga) proved to be detrimental to the Japanese. Carriers are essential elements of the navy. If the Japanese had been able to destroy the carriers, then the US would not have been able to readily fight and could have ultimately lost the war in the Pacific. Albright points out that this aspect was left up to chance (374). The two carriers were within reasonable range of the convoy, since they were searching for the Japanese forces. However, the Japanese chose not pursue the carriers. “Of this unparalleled opportunity the Imperial Japanese admirals took no advantage, choosing instead the course of safety and running for home, while denying the pleas of their own airmen to seek out and destroy the American carriers” (Albright 374).
Dr. Samuel Eliot Morison points out that although the Japanese eliminated a major portion of the fleet and destroyed many aircraft, they failed to bomb the “permanent installations” at Pearl Harbor (273). These permanent installations included the repair shops, which were able to fix the less damaged ships very quickly. These ships were then sent out in the attempt of locating the task force. The Japanese also neglected to...