The United States at War, 1941-1945

By Gary R. Hess | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE

To Pearl Harbor:
The United States
and World Crisis

December 7, 1941, was an uncommonly beautiful Sunday morning in Hawaii. The island of Oahu, with its lush green fields, sandy beaches, and white highway climbing above sleepy Honolulu into the hills, was bathed in sunlight. American military personnel went leisurely about their tasks. About one-third of naval crews had weekend shore leave. Antiaircraft installations were only partly manned, and there was no special air reconnaissance guarding the Pearl Harbor naval base. On the ships moored at Pearl Harbor, sailors were sleeping, eating, lounging on decks; in the distance they could hear the sound of church bells. No one realized that the time had come for war.

Just after 7:00 A.M. a radar operator picked up an enormous flight of planes approaching Oahu, but a lieutenant told monitoring personnel not to worry—the aircraft had to be American bombers arriving from the mainland. The planes were actually nearly two hundred Japanese bombers and fighters, which had taken off at dawn from carriers some 275 miles north of the Hawaiian Islands on a mission to attack the American Pacific fleet at

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