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Why Did The Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor

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When Japanese bombers appeared in the skies over Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, the U.S. military was unprepared for this horrible and surprising attack. The attack strongly altered the course of World War II. However, there were several key reasons why this attack happened.

The Beginning

The tension between Japan and the States was raging for almost a decade. The tension was so strong that seemed inevitable. This tension began during the Great Depression. At the time, Japan started making its place on the world map.

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For centuries Japan was isolated and the island nation of Japan was far away from the much of the world’s history. However, that changed in the 20th century when Japan started aggressive expansion. This ambition was supported by two successful wars: Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05, the war against China, and the successful participation in World War I.

Japan wanted to solve its problems during the Great Depression of the 1930s by forcing its way into China. Furthermore, they started with an invasion of Manchuria. This sudden action was condemned by the League of Nations and Japan withdrew from the international organization. This move will occupy Manchuria until 1945.

However, in July 1937, a clash at Beijing’s Marco Polo Bridge began another Sino-Japanese war. That same year in December, Japanese forces captured Nanjing (Nanking) the capital of the Chinese Nationalist Party, or Guomindang (Kuomintang), where they proceeded to carry out six weeks of mass rapes and killing, known as the Nanjing Massacre.

The States Wanted To Stop Japan’s Global Expansion

Japan was on a mission to conquer the world and the U.S decided to stop Japan by passing economic sanctions, including trade embargoes on oil, scrap metal, and even aircraft exports, and give economic support to Guomindang forces. For the following months, Tokyo and Washington negotiated but without success. The States hoped that the embargo will push Japans to halt its expansionism, but all the penalties and sanctions convinced Japan to hold its ground. Moreover, this embargo only stirred up the anger of its people against continued Western interference in Asian affairs.

From that moment on to Japan, the war with the States seemed inevitable. After all, Japan wanted to hold its status as a major power. So, the odds were stacked against them, and their only chance was the element of surprise.

Japan Wanted To Control The Pacific

Americans didn’t expect any kind of attack, especially Japanese so they walked and moved normally in Hawaii, around 4,000 miles away from the Japanese mainland. The base at Pearl Harbor was relatively undefended, making it an easy target.

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At the same time, Yamamoto Isoroku, an admiral, spent months planning the attack. His master plan was to destroy the Pacific Fleet and morale of the U.S. Navy. The logic behind this was: if you destroy the morale of the soldiers, they won’t have the strength to move across targets across the South Pacific.

However, this sudden attack pushed the States out of the isolation and directly into World War II, a conflict that would end with Japan’s surrender after the devastating nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

The Pearl Harbor Attack

At first glance, the Pearl Harbor attack looked like a success for Japan. Their bombers hit all eight U.S. battleships, damaging four others, and sinking additional four. Furthermore, Japan damaged more than 300 aircraft and killed some 2,400 sailors at Pearl Harbor.

Japanese forces went on to capture a line of current and former Western colonial possessions including Burma (now Myanmar), the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), and the British Malaya (Malaysia and Singapore) and the Philippines. However, Pearl Harbor failed in its objective to destroy the Pacific Fleet.

Overall, the Japanese bombers missed oil tanks, repair facilities and U.S. carrier were not in place. In June 1942, this failure came to haunt the Japanese, as U.S. forces scored a major victory in the Battle of Midway, turning the tide of war in the Pacific.

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