Was Pearl Habor a well known place before the attack?

Pretty much as the title - before the Japanese attacked it, how many Americans knew about Pearl Harbor and its significance? Was it pretty obscure outside of military circles or was well known even before December 7th, '41?

Well, it was pretty well known to anyone with any connection to the Navy or Hawaii, obviously. That means most people on the West Coast had at least heard of it. Ditto anybody who had traveled across the Pacific. The average plow jockey in Kansas probably had never heard of the place. I know my mother’s family had to look up Pearl Harbor in the family atlas the morning of the attack. That was in West Texas.

Hawaii and Midway would have been known to anyone who followed airplane and airline development prior to Dec 7th.

Most people in the U.S.A., or in the world, had no idea where Pearl Harbor, or Hawaii, Midway Island, Guadalcanal, or Tarawa was until news reports of military action brought it to their attention.

There was a pretty popular film earlier in 1941 called “Dive Bomber”. It finished 6th in the box office ans starred Errol Flynn and Fred MacMurray. It dealt with Nave doctors improving equipment for carrier pilots in Hawaii so Pearl Harbor should have prominently mentioned.


No, not at all. They may have heard of Hawaii, but not Pearl. Let alone what Oahu was.

Featuring the Big E, too! I bet cinema buffs were shitting themselves that she’d gone down.

Thanks for the replies. I forget sometimes that Hawaii wasn’t even a state back then so even it would have been far more obscure.

Pearl Harbour was first made into a USA navy base back in 1875.

British people (in the UK and its territories ) were always interested in observing such as also being interested in the operation of gun boat diplomacy .

USA also frequently advertised the improvements made to Pearl Harbour to the world via the newspapers so as to ensure any potential enemy knew the dangers they faced in proceeding past Hawaii toward California. I am talking about 1909 for example, not 1939.

The Pacific Fleet, including the admiral commander in chief, had been headquartered in San Diego until June of 1940 when FDR had moved it to Pearl Harbor to let the Japanese know that we, uh, were really taking a firm stand on their aggression in China.

Up until then is was a secondary port for the fleet, same as Subic Bay and Cavite in the Philippines, and Shanghai as the HQ for the Yangtze Patrol.

Americans did know of Waikiki because of tourism. in *The Great Gatsby *, Fitzgerald mentions Tom carrying Daisy all the way down from Punchbowl after she twisted her ankle, without feeling the need to explain where or what it was.

A Cleveland fan? :smiley:

Huh? According to Wikipedia, the USS Enterprise (CV-6) was one of the few pre-WWII ships that survived the war.

Oh yeah, I know she did, I meant people might have thought that she’d been hit having heard that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.

One of the few pre-WWII carriers to survive the war, the others being the Saratoga and the Ranger. All our battleships survived except the Arizona and Oklahoma, both destroyed at Pearl.

I suppose it’s plausible that geography was more widely taught in schools then. I have no idea how you could prove or disprove it.