Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor, land-locked harbor, on the southern coast of Oahu island, Hawaii, W of Honolulu; one of the largest and best natural harbors in the E Pacific Ocean. In the vicinity are many U.S. military installations, including the chief U.S. Pacific naval base, Hickam Air Force Base, Pearl Harbor Naval Air Station, and Camp H. M. Smith, headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Command.

The United States first gained rights there in 1887, when the Hawaiian monarchy permitted a coaling and repair station. After the United States annexed Hawaii in 1900, Pearl Harbor was made a naval base. Harbor improvements and fortifications were later added, especially after the signing of the Berlin Pact in 1940 by the Axis nations.

On Dec. 7, 1941, while negotiations were going on with Japanese representatives in Washington, Japanese carrier-based planes swept in without warning over Oahu and attacked (7:55 descr='[AM]' local time) the bulk of the U.S. Pacific fleet, moored in Pearl Harbor. Nineteen naval vessels, including eight battleships, were sunk or severely damaged; 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed. Military casualties were 2,280 killed and 1,109 wounded; 68 civilians also died. On Dec. 8, the United States declared war on Japan.

There were many charges of negligence against those responsible for Pearl Harbor's defense. A special commission appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt accused the army and navy commanders at Hawaii of dereliction of duty in a report on Jan. 24, 1942. Later army and navy investigations concluded that no valid grounds existed for court-martial. A congressional committee, formed in Sept., 1945, absolved the army and navy commanders in a formal report on July 16, 1946, but censured the War Dept. and the Dept. of the Navy.

Pearl Harbor is now a national historic landmark; a memorial has been built over the sunken hulk of the USS Arizona. The battleship Missouri, site of Japan's surrender, is also preserved there as a memorial.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Day the War Began
Archie Satterfield.
Praeger, 1992
Pearl Harbor Reexamined: Prologue to the Pacific War
Hilary Conroy; Harry Wray.
University of Hawaii Press, 1990
Reflections of Pearl Harbor: An Oral History of December 7, 1941
K. D. Richardson.
Praeger, 2005
Target--Pearl Harbor
Michael Slackman.
University of Hawaii Press, 1990
"CATCHING THE FOX UNAWARE": Japanese Radio Denial and Deception and the Attack on Pearl Harbor
Hanyok, Robert J.
Naval War College Review, Vol. 61, No. 4, Autumn 2008
Deja Vu? Comparing Pearl Harbor and September 11. (Intelligence)
Wirtz, James J.
Harvard International Review, Vol. 24, No. 3, Fall 2002
The War in the Pacific: From Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay
Harry A. Gailey.
Presidio Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "The Day of Infamy"
The Pacific War: Japan versus the Allies
Alan J. Levine.
Praeger, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "The 'Day of Infamy' and After: Japanese Victories, 1941-1942"
Hitler Attacks Pearl Harbor: Why the United States Declared War on Germany
Richard F. Hill.
Lynne Rienner, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Actual Collaboration: German Guilt for Pearl Harbor"
What Happened at Pearl Harbor? Documents Pertaining to the Japanese Attack of December 7, 1941, and Its Background
Hans Louis Trefousse.
Twayne, 1958
Hirohito and War: Imperial Tradition and Military Decision Making in Prewar Japan
Peter Wetzler.
University of Hawaii Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Pearl Harbor and Decision Making"
Descent into Darkness: Pearl Harbor, 1941: a Navy Diver's Memoir
Edward C. Raymer.
Presidio Press, 1996
The Last Kamikaze: The Story of Admiral Matome Ugaki
Edwin P. Hoyt.
Praeger Publishers, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The Attack on Pearl Harbor"
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