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Why Did Japan Attack Pearl Harbor

Written by sudarshangk

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The attack of Japan on Pearl Harbor is considered to be one of the main events that led to the active involvement of the United States of America in the Second World War and consequent bombing of Japan. It was in the early hours of December 7, 1941 that Japan launched an unexpected attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The day was referred to as a ‘day that will live in infarny’ by the US President, Franklin D Roosevelt. The attack resulted in the death of 2402 American soldiers and 1282 soldiers were wounded.


Though the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came as a shock to the United States of America, the increasing influence that America had in the World War 2 scenario was the main reason as to why the Japanese forces planned this surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. The expansion policies of Japan and its activities in Manchuria and French Indochina were a major threat to the western powers, as they feared the growth of Japan as a superpower. This was the main reason as to why the United States of America and United Kingdom joined hands to provide financial assistance to Republic of China in their fight against Japanese intrusion. This can be termed as the first reason as to why Japan wished to weaken the morale of the Americans with a naval attack.

Since the sanctions imposed by the US led to shortage of oil and other natural resources in Japan, the Japanese eyed the Dutch East Indies and Malaya. However, they feared that the main threat to their expedition in South East Asia was the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. Thus, Japan felt that the only method to get her way in South Asia was to suppress the influence of the United States and then march into Malaya.

The immediate reason for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was the motive to completely destroy the US naval base so that Japan earned enough time to strengthen her position in South East Asia before America recovered from the attack. Also, since the US Battleships were the main strength of the Pacific fleet, ruining them completely would deliver severe blow to the US naval strength and morale, thereby, keeping them away from any intervention into Japanese conquest in Southeast Asia. However, though Japan succeeded in damaging the Pacific fleet considerably and caused many casualties in US Navy, the intended result was not achieved completely. The attack on Pearl Harbor triggered newer problems for Japan, as it led to America’s direct involvement in the war and destruction of Japan with nuclear weapons.

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