Written by Gordon W. Prange, this book gives great details leading up to, during, and just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Through extensive research Prange was able to give us not only firsthand experiences of the Americans, but he also gives us some from the Japanese men who carried out the attack.
During the days leading up to the attack there was lots of activity in Washington related to the Japanese, and what their intentions were. Our leaders were deep into negotiations with the Japanese trying to broker a peace deal. The U.S. fully believed Japan was preparing to strike somewhere, but Pearl Harbor was at the bottom of the list. They were instead focused on the Philippines, Thailand, the East Indies, and Malaya. This was because they believed Japan’s sights were on the Chinese. After reading the book, it seems the Japanese Diplomats in Washington and in Hawaii were unaware of the intentions to attack Pearl Harbor.
As the negotiations were still taking place on Saturday December 6th, a task force of Japanese ships was heading to the Hawaiian Islands under the command of Chuichi Nagumo. At this point he already had a telegram confirming the beginning of the war, which was dated December 3rd. It was obvious the Japanese had been planning this attack for several months.
It was just another day at Pearl Harbor. There were some readiness exercises and drills, but nothing out of the ordinary. The talk around the base was that Japan was going to strike, but few if any considered themselves to be a target.
That Saturday was also a day that found President Roosevelt still trying to avert war. He had sent a message to the Emperor of Japan that same day. At the same time this was going on, the New York Times ran a story about the U.S. Navy in which the Secretary of the Navy Knox stated how superior the U.S. Navy was. He went on to talk about how our Navy was in essence, the best in the world. There were several other stories in the papers that day with commentary about the possibilities of war with Japan. Some said we had avoided war thanks to the President and Secretary of State Hull, while others said it was inevitable.
As far as the negotiations went, the Japanese had relayed that they would respond to the latest message from the U.S. at 1300 hours on the 7th. No one knew why the specific time, but as we now know that correlates with the attack on Battleship Row.
When reading about the morning of the 7th it brings back frustrating memories of September 11th, 2001. There were warning signs that something was going to happen, but no one seemed to take them too seriously. There were multiple sightings of Japanese subs close to the harbor, and one was actually in the harbor. One of our patrol ships actually sunk a mini-sub in the harbor, reported it as an unknown, and then went on about its patrol duties. The Japanese planes were seen on the radar, but were mistaken for a group of B-17s coming in from the mainland. And finally, when the attack started, just about everyone on the island assumed it was drills being carried out by the military. Each branch assumed the others were having the drills. Even when they saw bombs being dropped, they thought one of our pilots was just being careless.
As they soon found out, these were not drills. The Japanese were in full attack. They had planned it perfectly, with some help from us due to the fact we had most of our ships lined up in the harbor like sitting ducks. They had utilized spies and reconnaissance planes to determine the best plan of attack. The harbor on the island of Oahu is where the fiercest fighting took place, around Ford Island. The Japanese came in high and low with torpedo planes and bombers. They executed their plan flawlessly during the first wave of attacks, destroying several ships and taking out planes and hangers located at the airstrips.
Prange gives great detail of what ensued during the attack. Torpedoes and bombs killed hundreds of men…