wwII - pearl harbor attack results

besides picking a fight with the US. what good did the attack on pearl harbor do? how many battleships were destroyed? I think only 2. air planes were destroyed but they were out of date anyway. leaving them intact might have just resulted in the few experience US pilots getting killed more easily. assuming that the carrier question was not relevant because nobody saw the importance of them at the time. I guess what I am asking is that the attack was such a success and surprise… then it sure didnt have much net effect .

Pearl Harbor was a preemptive strike that could have cripped the ability of the US to fight against Japan. I think about seven battleships were sunk, along with a lot of planes parked on the runways.

Since the importance of aircraft carriers wasn’t understood at that point, this was a big plus for Japan. I think their attitude was that now that we crippled the navy, the US would give up and let them have what they wanted. But they didn’t count on the fact that America would get pissed off at them and go into action (like most generals, they thought the enemy would crawl away after one decisive defeat).

I know 7 battleships were damaged/sunk but sinking a battle ship in 30 ft of water is not that big a deal. I think 2 battleships were destroyed (Arizona and West Virginia). I wonder how long it was before the other BBs were back in action? I agree that is was crippling if Japan was planning on following up the attack and needed to get the battle ships away from her carrier fleets. but they didnt plan that so again my question. Was it a complete failure as military strategy?

I don’t think you can really say that raising a sunk battleship is “not that big a deal”! How do you raise it and repair both the external and internal damage? Those ships were in no fit state to go to war in the near future.

I’m not sure it was a failure of strategy; the Japanese didn’t know that the carriers were elsewhere, and I’m sure they would have liked to take them down too. It was bad luck or bad timing from a Japanese point of view, I suppose. And while a battleship may be a fearsome weapon against other ships or in ground bombardment, I don’t know how much the US Navy relied on them for the air defence of carriers.

I seem to be responding to a lot of WWII threads lately.

Primary Japanese strategy was to attack the U.S. carriers at Pearl Harbor. They were disappointed to find none at home.

Many of the ships bombed at Pearl Harbor were indeed raised and contributed to the war effort – but it took a long, long time. I think 18 months was the quickest any of them got back into action.

The Japanese wanted a quick, decisive strike against the U.S., to force a peace treaty on their terms. With the carriers gone, they lost that opportunity.

Pearl Harbor was just one strike in an overall strategic plan so massive in scope and so unexpectedly successful that even the Japanese were somewhat amazed.

The strike at Pearl was designed to take out the main body of the American fleet in order to allow them to pursue their other ends. Some of them were:

  • The invasion of the forward American base in the North Pacific, Wake Island;

  • The invasion of the forward American base in the Phillipines;

  • The capture of the American naval base at Guam as well as Saipan;

  • The consolidation of defenses in the Marshall, Caroline, and Gilbert archipelagoes;

  • The isolation of the Dutch East Indies via attacks on the Malay Peninsula (and Singapore) and in the Admiralty Islands, as well as New Guinea;

  • The capture of the oil- and mineral-producing areas of the Dutch East Indies themselves.

The plan was a result of the American oil embargo on Japan. Japan desperately needed oil and minerals, and could not produce enough within their empire as it stood before December, 1941. The overall plan is a strategic masterpiece of sorts, as it cuts off virually every line of attack on the East Indies, the supply line from there to Japan, and Japan itself.

Even more astounding, virtually every effort was successful, and by March of 1942 Japan was beginning to realize the return on its ultra-risky smash-and-grab operation. America was reduced to hit-and-run raids and nipping at the perimiter of the new Empire for almost a year, which was as far as the Japanese plan foresaw. After that, Yamamoto’s prediction that he could raise havoc for awhile but could guarantee nothing afterwards came to fruition.

The Japanese (and Americans) felt that the real threat was the battleship. So they were the primary targets. And they were quite successful. Our aircraft carriers were away, I believe delivering fighters to Wake Island, and actually arrived the night after the attack. A prevailing perception was that aircraft carriers were great for scouting, but not much else.(Scouting was a tremendously important function in the days before satellites and radar). they would have been bombed had they been there. I don’t think that Yamamoto at first appreciated the obvious - that his carriers that destroyed our battleship fleet - and always kept his flag on a battleship. We fought with carriers for one main reason - they were the only thing we had left - the surviving battleships were withdrawn to protect the West Coast (and so the West Coast could protect the battleships). We learned in time how valuable carriers could be, but developed an integrated strategy - aircraft carriers and battleships together. Aircraft carriers could be easy victims to the speed and big guns of a battleship, so we had battleships assigned to protect them. And the battleship needed protection from aircraft carriers.

the other element of Japenese thinking was the us decadent westerners would be so discouraged by defeat, we would want to concede. The Japanese leaders felt that only the Japanese had the strength of will to prevail. They never really got over this idea, right up to (and even after) the A bombs.

if the original mission was to take out the carriers then it must be a complete failure. thats my point. I would be interested in finding when the other BBs were back online. Oklahoma, maryland,tennesee (what were the others). this brings up the question of prior knowledge by the US military. Where were the carriers?

No, it doesn’t. That particular issue has been raised on several occasions on this MB, most recently on Did FDR know about the attack on Pearl Harbor beforehand?

The Pearl Harbor cannot be called a military failure. It can be called an overall strategic failure because it invoked the resolve of the U.S. people to pursue the war to a complete victory while the Japanses hped that the U.S. would sue for peace after their initial victories.

Besides effectively eliminating the Seventh Fleet as a military force for many months, it guaranteed that the U.S. could provide no effective defense or re-supply of the Philipines and put the U.S. on a decidedly defensive footing until Midway. Had the U.S. not been lucky enough to win at Midway (and a whole lot of luck was involved), the entire war would have progressed much differently. Pearl was still a brilliant initial strike.

Here is rough breakdown (from memory) of the U.S. losses at Pearl Harbor:

Of the 8 U.S. battleships present:

Arizona - total loss

Oklahoma - capsized, later scrapped

West Virginia, California - torpedoed, sunk upright in shallow water, raised and refitted.

Nevada- torpedoed after getting underway, beached, raised and refitted.

Pennsylvania, Tennesee, Maryland - moderate bomb damage, refitted.

1 destroyer destroyed, 2 others and a light cruiser damamged, and the target ship, ex-battleship Utah a total loss.

Around 200 aircraft destroyed (nearly all on the ground).

About 2300 Americans killed, nearly half on the Arizona.
The Japanese lost 29 planes and several midget (I’m sorry, ‘little person’:D) submarines.

Not exactly, justinh. Many of the fighters wrecked were P-40s, which the Army continued to rely heavily on well into 1943.


From sqweels:

Oklahoma was sunk at Pearl, raised, then sold for scrap, but she sank on May 17, 1947 while being towed to San Fransisco.

The righting and raising of Oklahoma was an incredible undertaking. There were a bunch of derricks (I think there were 18 for some reason) erected on the hull (which was upside-down in the water) and connected to winches on shore. Over a lenghty period of time, the winches pulled the ship upright. A marvel of marine salvage.

*Originally posted by jwg *
the other element of Japenese thinking was the us decadent westerners would be so discouraged by defeat, we would want to concede. The Japanese leaders felt that only the Japanese had the strength of will to prevail. They never really got over this idea, right up to (and even after) the A bombs. **

I have heard that some in Japanese military hoped that America’s heterogeneous mixture of national and racial backgrounds would keep us from ever presenting a united front.

I don’t know about the fate of most of the battleships, but the USS Nevada survived the war, earned 7 battle stars, and was later sunk after surviving an atomic (or hydrogen) test blast and 4 days of target practice.

Note that the above link is pretty flexible; change the little 2 to a 3 and you’ll go from Lexington to Saratoga, etc.

On December 7th, 1941:

Lexington (CV-2) was en route from Pearl Harbor to Midway Island.

Saratoga (CV-3) was just entering San Diego.

Ranger (CV-4) was sailing to Norfolk from Trinidad.

Yorktown (CV-5) was in Norfolk (where she remained until the 16th)

Enterprise (CV-6) was en route to Hawaii from Wake Island.

Wasp (CV-7) was in Grassy Bay, which I think is in Bermuda

Hornet (CV-8) had been commissioned six weeks earlier, and was in Norfolk

Essex (CV-9) was launched seven months later and commissioned New Year’s Eve, 1942 (I mention her as a sort of “bookend”; I think the other bookend, Langley (CV-1) had been decommissioned or relegated to training by this point).

So only three of our CVs were in the Pacific at that point. Four were in the Atlantic, but three were moved quickly to the Pacific, leaving only Ranger (which missed the incredible carrier battles of the Pacific but supported Operation Torch in North Africa). It is interesting to speculate what would have happened had all Lexington, Enterprise, and Saratoga all been in Pearl Harbor that morning.

Interesting fact: where were four of these carriers (CV-2 through CV-8) on December 7, 1942? The bottom of the ocean. Only two carriers remained afloat in the Pacific (Saratoga and Enterprise, which had been damaged in the battles for Guadalcanal) until Essex arrived, and she didn’t see action until long after the battle of Guadalcanal was over.

Trivia: CV-10 was also called Yorktown. She was laid down six days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but before she was completed her namesake was sunk doffs hat at the Battle of Midway before she was commissioned.

I didn’t realize this, but we actually had several escort carriers in the water by the end of 1942. Long Island (CVE-1) was actually commissioned before Pearl Harbor. Eleven small escort carriers joined the U.S. Navy in 1942, (many other were sold to the U.K.) So a lot of my statements about carriers really only apply to large fleet carriers. Because the little jeep carriers were so much quicker to build than the fleet carriers (Essex and Independence classes), the joined the effort faster, even though they were a much later idea.

Also, Langley was sunk in the Pacific in February 1942, which jacks up the total of 1942 carrier losses to five. CV-1 started the war off the Phillipines and joined Australians reinforce Indonesia. With her 15 knot speed and hazardous location, it’s not such a surprise she survived less than three months.

isnt it incredible how tough a battleship is? carriers sink like rocks. it seems it takes a battleship to sink another battleship. except the YAMATO and it was just disabled and later scuttled. the ARIZONA blew up when the magazine exploded but besides that they are just too stout and fast to beat.

Except the ones that were sunk by submarines :slight_smile:

Could the japanese have followed up the Pearl Harbor raid with an invasion? As I understand it, General Short had almost a complete Army division on Oahue-but what about the other islands? Seems to me yamamote should have told Tojo to plan a limited invasion of the Hawaiain Islands. That would have kept the US Navy in San Diego for most of the war!

Weren’t Prince of Wales and Repulse sunk by Japanese bombers? Though I’m not sure if Repulse was technically a battleship or a battle cruiser (the distinction has always struck me as nebulous), Prince of Wales was an honest-to-God King George V-class battleship.

not to nitpick, but I don’t know if I’d put “whole” in italics here. There was some luck, but much more work on the part of American code breakers. The Japanese coding machines had just been deciphered weeks before. All correspondence between the Japenese Embassy and Japan had been monitored and was now being translated. It was known by the US Gov. that Japan was about to launch a major strike on a very important island in the Pacific, but it was not known which one, due to code names for the islands.

Eventually, (about 3 weeks before?) the attack, the US had it narrowed down to two islands. They had the Midway base send a message to Washington claiming that their desalinization plant was down and that they were without fresh water. A subsequent message from Japan to the embassy mentioned that the target base was without fresh water. Now, the US knew the target and rushed much of the available fleet to Midway to engage the enemy.

Sure there was some luck, but breaking Purple was the result of lots of hard work.

And now here I am to nitpick the nitpick :wink:

Purple was the Japanese diplomatic code, and was broken before the war started. The Japanese naval code was, I believe, called JN-25, and I believe this is the code you are referring to.