On this day, 76 years ago, 2,402 Americans were killed when the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, then just a territory of the U.S.
Everyone remembers President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s immortal words in response to the tragedy, booming that it’s a “date which will live in infamy”, before declaring war on the Asian island country the next day, on December 8 (Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. three days later).
But what you may not remember, or let alone know, are the following five things about the onslaught that in many ways ignited the the Second World War.
All but two of the battleships targeted on the day of the attack weren’t repaired and returned to service.
Eight battleships were attacked by the Japanese. The USS West Virginia and the USS California were sunk completely, but the U.S. Navy still raised them and somehow got them back to working order. Only the USS Utah and the USS Arizona (now the site of the memorial) were damaged beyond repair, and never returned to service.
Veterans of the attack have the option to be buried at Pearl Harbor
Military crew members who were on board the USS Arizona when it was attacked can be laid to rest along with their fellow fallen sailors. If they do, divers deposit their ashes beneath the battleship’s gun turrets.
The USS Arizona still leaks fuel
Before it was attacked, the ship took on almost 1.5 million gallons of fuel, a full load. Some of it ignited during the explosion, but some of it — to this day — still remains. It’s been reported that the vessel still spills up to 9 quarts of oil in the harbor each day.
15 Medals of Honor, 51 Navy Crosses, 53 Silver Stars, four Navy and Marine Corps Medals, one Distinguished Flying Cross, four Services Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal and three Bronze Stars were awarded for American military heroism during the attack
Years later a special military award was created for all veterans who were present — the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal.
The USS Missouri is now a museum ship moored just a 1,000 feet from the USS Arizona Memorial
The Missouri was the last U.S. Navy battleship ever built, and was the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan which ended World War II.
In total, 414 warplanes were used by the Imperial Japanese Navy to attack
They also used six aircraft carriers, two battleships, two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, nine destroyers, eight tankers, 23 fleet submarines and five midget submarines.
The Japanese decided to strike because they wanted oil and rubber
The Asian power wanted to “neutralize” the U.S. Pacific Fleet so they could advance in Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, which were rich in vital natural resources (like oil and rubber).
It was also the straw that broke the buffalo’s back. Japanese had already attacked other U.S. military assets and people, including the USS Panay while it was docked in China and a diplomat named John Moore Allison, who was struck in the face by a Japanese soldier.
While it was called a “surprise attack”, 52% of Americans (according to a Gallup poll) expected U.S. war with Japan prior to Pearl Harbor
U.S. officials, however, thought the military installations in the Philippines would be attacked first, despite having at least two Naval War games, in 1932 and 1936, delivering solid proof that the base in Hawaii was severely vulnerable to an attack from the air.