ATTACK on PEARL HARBOR (Illustration) American History Disasters Famous Historical Events Film Government World History Ethics World War II

Six aircraft carriers ferried 423 Japanese planes to attack Pearl Harbor. Some of the planes were equipped with B5N2 torpedoes whose pilots flew in a shotai (three-plane flight). This image depicts the only-known closeup of B5N2s being flown to Oahu on the morning of December 7, 1941. David Aiken—who wrote “Torpedoing Pearl Harbor,” published in the December 2001 issue of Military History magazine—tells us: “The plane at right shows the wooden fins added to the aerial torpedo.”


The clouds had cleared that Sunday morning. Every pilot had an unobstructed view as 183 Japanese airplanes approached Pearl Harbor.

With strike force orders from their high command, and detailed information supplied by Takeo Yoshikawa, pilots knew their targets. In less than two hours, the U.S. Pacific Fleet would be horrendously crippled. Some of the ships - like the USS Arizona (BB 39) which had served the country for many years - would become graves.

At 7:53 a.m., Mitsuo Fuchida could not believe his eyes! He saw no evidence the Americans expected an attack.

Fuchida, and the men he led, would face no resistance on the first wave of the assault. Even before bombs were dropped and torpedoes were fired, he ecstatically transmitted a message of "success without resistance" to the fleet:

To ra! To ra! To ra!

Wanting to disable American planes before attacking the ships, Japanese pilots were astonished at another unexpected gift. As a security precaution against sabotage, U.S. pilots had been ordered to keep their planes close together and in the open.

As Japanese carrier bombers (called "Vals" by the Allies), carrier attack planes (called "Kate"), torpedo bombers and Zeros swooped over Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field, American air power on the ground was decimated. Fortunately, no U.S. aircraft carrier was in port on December 7.

Battleships, lined up without torpedo nets alongside Ford Island, were also easy targets for Japanese pilots. One of those pilots took a picture documenting final moments of the great ships. It shows the wake of torpedoes about to strike the Oklahoma, the West Virginia and the California as Hickam Field burns in the background.

With the Oklahoma crippled at 7:57 a.m., Lt. Commander Murata, who led the torpedo assault, makes his escape.

As the catastrophe of Battleship Row began, a Japanese pilot snapped the initial aftermath of a torpedo strike: a huge burst of sea spray. Within minutes, fire and smoke filled the sky.

The Shaw took a direct hit. When her on-board munitions ignited, the ship exploded. Within hours, the once-mighty Shaw was a jumbled piece of wreckage.

At 7:58 a.m., Lt. Commander Logan Ramsey realized what was happening. He dispatched an urgent message:

Air Raid on Pearl Harbor. This is not Drill.

The Arizona, and most of her crew, had only minutes to live.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: May 01, 2001

Updated Last Revision: Jan 12, 2016

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"ATTACK on PEARL HARBOR" AwesomeStories.com. May 01, 2001. Jan 26, 2020.
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