On the morning of December 7, 1945, Pearl Harbor, a US Navy base on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, was serene. Then, just before 08:00am, an arsenal of Japanese fighter jets and bombers descended upon the base, destroying a whole fleet of US Navy ships and countless lives.
In total, some 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft let rip at the base, arriving in two separate waves.
The result for the US was devastating.
In all, 2,335 US military personnel were killed – mainly those who were aboard the targeted ships.
In terms of fleet damage, 4 battleships were sunk, a further 4 damaged, and 188 aircraft were destroyed.
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Pearl Harbor: Countless battleships and lives were lost as a result of the attack
A separate tragedy came in the civilians on the island who were killed, around 68 innocent people not involved in the efforts.
By targeting the island, Japan intended to prevent the US from interfering with its planned military actions in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the UK, the Netherlands, and the US, and to pursue its programme of expansionism.
This was wildly miscalculated, however, as the US officially declared war on Japan shortly after the attack.
Since, many ideas and theories have floated about how either side could have avoided war – or at least the number of casualties that transpired.
Us Navy: Husband Kimmel has been regarded as having acted irresponsibly in light of the attack
One such idea was explored in 2019 series “Greatest Events of WWII in Colour: Pearl Harbor”.
Here, several US military authors and professors recall the story of Husband E. Kimmel, a US Navy Officer and commander in chief of the United States Fleet and the Pacific Fleet as one of the most decisive factors of the US’ failure to act.
Steve Twomey, author of the book ‘Countdown to Pearl Harbor’ began the story: “Kimmel was slated to play golf with Walter Short (lieutenant general).
“Kimmel was up when he got the phone call the planes were now attacking Pearl Harbor.
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“He put on his uniform, had it only partially buttoned and walked out on to the lawn of his house, and from there, looked out at history unfolding in front of him.”
It was quickly learned that, on the morning of the attack, Kimmel had been informed of an enemy submarine having been destroyed just outside Pearl Harbor.
Yet, despite the warning, Kimmel failed to prepare for an enemy attack.
On this, Geoffrey Wawro, professor of Military History at the University of North Texas explained: “So the great irony here is that America fires the first shot in the Pacific war.
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“Because we fling all these depth charges at this Japanese midget submarine.
“So we fire the first shot, and then we stand down and allow ourselves to be attacked.”
Laura Lawfer Orr, author of the book ‘Never Call Me a Hero’ explained: “Kimmel has heard so many war warnings at this point that, even when USS Ward says, ‘I depth-charged this submarine and sank it,’ he just doesn’t believe it could possibly be true.
“That’s one of the failings of that morning.”
Husband Kimmel: Kimmel pictured at the Pearl Harbor hearing in the aftermath of the event
It was at this point that Kimmel knew his days as fleet commander were over.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the Roberts Commission to investigate the attack.
It concluded that Kimmel and his counterpart Short were guilty of errors of judgment and dereliction of duty in the events leading up to the attack.
He was reduced from a four-star to a two-star rank of rear admiral.
Craig Symonds, Professor of Maritime History at the US Naval War College: “And, of course, he later famously said: ‘If only one of those bombs had killed me, how much better it would have been’.”