Attack on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor

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On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The surprise attack by the 350 Japanese aircraft either sank or severely damaged nineteen US naval vessels, including eight battleships, and destroyed 300 US aircraft. The attack by Japan killed 2,403 Americans who were neither notified nor prepared for an attack. Americans were left shocked, angered, and devastated after the attack; Japan offered them no explanation. The people of the United States turned to their president, Theodore Roosevelt. On December 8, President Roosevelt addressed his people with the speech, “A Day Which Will Live in Infamy”.

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There were many events that led up to Japan attacking Pearl Harbor. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because they were tired of negotiating with the United States, desired to expand their powers across the Pacific, and needed natural resources.

Japan was tired of negotiating with the United States. Japan aspired to be economically powerful and to expand their resources; however, the United States was interfering with these plans. Both Isoroku Yamamoto and Franklin Roosevelt endeavored to negotiate their differences. According to the National Park Service (2016), “Although both governments continued to negotiate their differences, Japan had already decided on war. The attack on Pearl Harbor was part of a grand strategy of conquest in the western Pacific.” Japan wasn’t interested in the United States; they only wished to expand their powers. According to (2009), “American officials responded to this aggression with a battery of economic sanctions and trade embargoes”. The United States also placed several restrictions on Japan, infuriating them because they were unable to interfere with China and Asia’s affairs. This event led to Japan’s desire to expand their powers across the Pacific.

Although the Japanese wished to expand their power across the Pacific, they needed to get the United States out of the way. The United States had their Pacific Fleet in the Pacific and, for Japan to expand, they had to attack this fleet. Japan desired to access the resources of neighbouring countries like China and Asia. According to (2009), “The Japanese government believed that the only way to solve its economic and demographic problems was to expand into its neighbor’s territory and take over its import market.” This demonstrates Japan’s desire to expand overseas to access more natural resources.

In comparison, Japan relied on imports of raw materials and natural resources for its survival. According to Tharoor (2016), “Here was a resource-hungry island nation eager to assert itself on the world stage in the same way European powers had done in centuries prior.” This reflects Japan’s increased need for resources such as oil, minerals, and steel to fuel their machinery. This demand was the primary reason for Japan’s drive to expand into Asia and the Pacific. Japan’s economy was largely reliant on silk exports.

In conclusion, Japan’s desire for natural resources, expansion in the Pacific, and frustration with negotiations with the United States culminated in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The aftereffects of the attack left America reeling, as it had lost so many lives in just eight minutes. This attack prompted America to enter WWII. I believe Japan should never have attacked Pearl Harbor; they should have pursued negotiations further. This approach could’ve potentially saved a significant number of lives that day.

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Attack On the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. (2020, Feb 11). Retrieved from