This week, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) personnel honor those who lost their lives in the surprise military strike on Pearl Harbor. The Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the naval base on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, killing more than 2,300 Americans and crippling or destroying 18 American ships and nearly 300 airplanes.
The strike was intended to keep the U.S. from sustaining economic sanctions and trade embargoes against Japan that were put into place after Japan declared war on China in 1937. Instead, it led directly to the United States’ entry into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters. Americans were shocked by the unannounced military action that involved 353 Japanese fighter planes, bombers and torpedo planes, and the U.S. declared war on Japan on Dec. 8.
Despite the damage to American battleships at Pearl Harbor, the Pacific Fleet was not crippled. None of the fleet’s aircraft carriers were at the base during the attack, and the base’s most vital onshore facilities such as oil storage depots, repair shops, shipyards and submarine docks were also intact. The Navy rebounded and ultimately the attempt to force the United States into agreeing to lift the economic sanctions against them resulted in Japan’s first occupation by a foreign power.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Dec. 7, 1941 to be a date which will live in infamy, because the attack happened without either a declaration of war or an explicit warning. The military strike lasted ninety minutes and by the time it was over, more than 2,000 sailors, over 200 soldiers and airman, nearly 110 Marines and almost 70 civilians were dead. All Americans who were killed were non-combatants, since there was no state of war during the attack. Now, NSWC Crane remembers those who lost their lives or endured wounds during that dark morning in our nation’s history.