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Pearl Harbor: What happened?

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Pearl Harbor: What happened?

It was at 7:55 am local time on December 7, 1941 that Japanese planes launched a surprise and devastating attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

The bombing of the American Pacific Fleet catapulted the United States into World War Two.

The following day President Roosevelt told Congress that December 7, 1941 was “a date which will live in infamy”.

He said: “The United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan. As Commander in Chief of the army and navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defence.”

The loss of life from Pearl Harbor was colossal. Some 2,400 Americans were killed as the Pacific Fleet was pounded. The US was utterly unprepared and unable to put up meaningful resistance.

Besides the Americans who perished, 1,178 were wounded. A dozen US warships were sunk or heavily damaged in the attack.

Having declared war on Tokyo on December 8, 1941, the United States threw itself into efforts to defeat the enemy.

Some of the fiercest fighting was seen in the Guadalcanal campaign of 1942 and 1943 in the Solomon Islands, seen as a significant strategic victory for the Americans and allies over the Japanese.

At the end of the war, in 1945, US atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and marked the final chapter in the confrontation between the United States and imperial Japan.

On December 7, 2016, exactly 75 years on, US veterans honoured fallen comrades who had perished in Pearl Harbor – an attack that marked a turning point in US and global history.

Some returned to the scene of the bloodbath, where a special memorial honours the battleship USS Arizona. It sank with 1,177 officers and crew on board and lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor.