Effect of Pearl Harbor Attack was Positive

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“Remember Pearl Harbor!” was an American call to arms against the Japanese, who ambushed and killed thousands of sailors and citizens on December 7, 1941. It is widely recognized among historians as a turning point in America’s involvement in the Second World War, as well as a crippling attack on US naval forces.

However, I contend that the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was a failure, as it resulted in an increase in the production of US naval ships, a shift in war sentiment, a change in Naval doctrine, and an increase in quality military leadership. It is important to evaluate and emphasize the effects of this ambush because it holds great historical-military value, as the field of history is an essential tool used strategically by today’s navies, and America’s Navy still experiences the effects of growth during that period.

Prior to that fateful day in December of 1941, America maintained a somewhat isolationist policy towards foreign involvement, caused in part by an economic downfall after World War I, as well as the bitter memory of loss and destruction associated with war. While the Second World War raged on in Europe, America maintained a reserved approach towards involving themselves in the foreign problems that were an ocean away from them.

The savage attacks on Pearl Harbor incited a rage in many Americans to fight back against the Japanese enemy. “When this war is over, the Japanese language will only be spoken in Hell.” Admiral William Halsey of the US Navy said on the day of the attacks. This attack thrust America into the war because America’s declaration of war on Japan after Pearl Harbor was attacked essentially caused the Axis powers to declare war on the US. (Pike, 1)

Between WWI and WWII, the American military was no slouch when it came to naval power, second only to the Royal Navy, America’s Navy was highly revered. Before the attacks on Pearl Harbor, where 8 were destroyed (Military Advantage, 1), the US Navy’s strategy and primary strength fell with their battleships. Battleships were a versatile naval asset as they served to perform many battle functions. “…battleships performed a number of vital tasks during World War II: from escorting convoys to providing anti-air defense to providing necessary gunfire support to troops ashore.” (Pike, 1)

That was the main goal of the Imperial Japanese Navy in its attack on Pearl Harbor, to destroy as many US battleships as possible, and to a certain degree, they were successful. 9 battleships were either sunk or severely damaged, as well as two cruisers, two destroyers, and 450 aircraft (Kotani, 42). The US Pacific Fleet was critically wounded, and would need nothing short of a miracle to stem the Japanese advances southward towards Singapore and the Philippines. In short, it could be said that America was hurting after the tragedy at Pearl Harbor. It is our reaction to this event that won us the war.

One significant flaw in the Japanese war strategy in general was overlooking America’s industrial/productive capabilities. America experienced an economic boom during the years of the war, in part as a result of former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s response to the war sentiment. In order to allow productive ability to soar, FDR deregulated American corporations, allowing for an increase of productivity and supply.

The deregulation of business lowers the cost of production and allows for business to be more productive with the same resources. In addition to increasing productivity with deregulation, FDR increased government spending. In fact, the US government bought much of the goods produced by American corporations, which obviously increased producer’s confidence in the demand for their product.

“For a time the government became the purchaser of one-half of all the goods produced by the American people.” (Goodwin, 1). FDR’s wartime leadership was unique because he formed a cooperative relationship with the business world, as opposed to implementing various taxes and regulations. This attitude is also partially responsible for success of America’s industrial force, as it created a country-wide culture that was positive and promising for all profit seeking industrialists.

In addition to productive success, FDR had an excellently executed strategy for mobilization of war assets. He had a corporatist, essentially hands-off approach to producers. Basically, FDR’s relationship with the major corporations in America was successful because the businesses experienced exorbitant, untampered profit, while the government spent wildly on American-made war goods. Businesses make money, America’s forces are strengthened. This ideology for the wartime economy is so unique because typically governments adopt a “command economy” in which federal agencies are more involved in the productivity of businesses, and taxes are raised even on producers. FDR’s approach not only made the US dominant in the war effort, but also created an economic powerhouse. (Goodwin, 1).

Japan also realty underestimated something in American’s that can’t be statistically measured. In addition to the tangible effects FDR had on business, there are some valuable intrinsic effects FDR is responsible for that allowed America to defeat Japan. The American spirit was a major catalyst in the American productive ability. Through fireside chats, FDR communicated to the public that the war would be won in the mainland, by out producing other countries, not out fighting them.

Americans took to the streets and travelled to wherever they could find work, and got to work. This is a beautiful moment in US history that was in no way was foreseen by the Japanese strategists. American’s increased productive efficiency as unemployment dropped significantly. Employment was even coming from places it hadn’t before, as American’s prioritized winning the war over social stigma’s allowing women and black people to take part in the movement. (Goodwin, 1)

American naval production proliferated greatly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese ambush gave the US Navy reason to expand and grow like it never had before. American production had been vastly underestimated by the Japanese, despite many Japanese officials warning against waging war against the economic productive powerhouse that was the United States.

“Anyone who has seen the auto factories in Detroit and the oil fields in Texas… knows that Japan lacks the national power for a naval race with America” said by IJN Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Groom, 44). By the end of the war, the US had increased its Naval force and had become 70% of the world’s Naval tonnage (Weighing the U.S. Navy Defense & Security Analysis, 259). This growth demonstrates how the attack on Pearl Harbor opened up America to increasing its naval assets.

Another important growth and change the US Navy underwent to overcome the effects of the Japanese attack on Naval assets was a change in doctrine. Prior to the ambush, America had adopted a Mahanian doctrine of naval war strategy which stressed strength in numbers and firepower (Pike, 1). This strategy hinged on having many ships with offensive abilities, namely the battleship. Because the Japanese attacked America’s battleships, which had originally been the base of America’s naval strategy, America shifted towards a carrier heavy doctrine, effectively shifting the base of their strategy to center around assets they had.

Aircraft carriers did exactly as their name implies, they transported aircraft to enable air attacks overseas, because at the time aircraft were much more limited in range. These carriers were instrumental in the Pacific fleet’s success in battles such as the battle of Midway, where these ships played a key role in a major US victory against the Japanese military, incurring great losses for the IJN (Winston, 245). The aircraft carriers took on a much more offensive role than they had previously been used for, as more plane based attacks were utilized by this new doctrine (ETHW, 1).

One major viewpoint from the Japanese perspective which supports the claim that overall the US Navy was strengthened in the long run by the attack on Pearl Harbor is from the perspective of Admiral Yamamoto. Yamamoto was the admiral in charge of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and even he himself claims the effort was a failure. “If you insist that we really do it, you may trust us for the perfect execution of a breath-taking show of naval victories for the first half-year or full year. But if the war should be prolonged into a second or third year, I am not confident at all.” (Holmes, 1).

His belief in this is in part due to the attack’s effect on morale. While Yamamoto and his fleet were successful in destroying or damaging battleships, which was a primary goal, Yamamoto also wanted to destroy US people’s morale, and send a strong message to the rest of the United States that only destruction would come from opposing the Japanese. Instead, the American people took a different approach; American sentiment toward the war shifted and enlistment to join the war effort skyrocketed. As a result of the attack, the national rate of enlistment increased, and there were lines forming at recruiting stations due to the tragedy onset patriotism.

The increased support for war and enlistment by US citizens strengthened the Navy greatly, and allowed the US the propensity to win the war in the Pacific, as well as aiding the American war effort in Europe. This change in sentiment is truly spectacular when taking into account America’s general war sentiment at the start of WWII. Japan’s attack rallied American’s and changed many minds as to what had to be done to protect American freedom.

The other point of view that may be taken to my research question is one that focuses on short term losses of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Some historians see the event of December 7th, 1941 as being the greatest naval loss America has ever experienced, as upwards of 2000 service men and women died, as well as many citizens. (Brittanica, 1) However, this loss in assets and manpower was temporary.

By the end of the war, the US Navy had surpassed all other navies in strength and number of vessels, all in thanks to the productive powerhouse that America became under the leadership of FDR. The bloody ambush allowed America’s military to prosper, allowing our country to become a true global power, with lasting impacts to this day. Surely, the viewpoint that the ambush was successful is wrong, as it fails to see the larger picture of what became of America as a result of it.

In conclusion, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a strategic failure. The ultimate effect of the Pearl Harbor attack on America’s naval effectiveness was positive, as it spurred naval growth in power and change in doctrine. The attack may have destroyed assets and ended lives, but this had the opposite of the Japanese’s intended effect on American war sentiment, as the Japanese underestimated American patriotism.

All in all, the only way the attack on Pearl Harbor may have been a success, would have been if the Japanese absolutely crippled American war-fighting abilities in their strike. They, however, failed to break our Navy, and failed to account for American spirit. This attack simply awakened an angry giant, and allowed America to show the world what can happen when our citizens come together as one against an enemy.


Cite this paper

Effect of Pearl Harbor Attack was Positive. (2021, Jun 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/effect-of-pearl-harbor-attack-was-positive/



How did Pearl Harbor effect the world?
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a turning point in World War II. It led to the United States' entry into the war and the eventual defeat of the Axis powers.
Was the attack on Pearl Harbor a success or failure?
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a success in that it achieved its objective of crippling the U.S. Pacific Fleet. However, it was ultimately a failure for Japan as it led to America's entry into World War II.
What impact did Pearl Harbor have on US society?
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a turning point in American history. It brought the United States into World War II and changed the country forever.
What were 3 Effects of Pearl Harbor?
Impact of the Pearl Harbor Attack In all, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor crippled or destroyed nearly 20 American ships and more than 300 airplanes . Dry docks and airfields were likewise destroyed. Most important, 2,403 sailors, soldiers and civilians were killed and about 1,000 people were wounded.
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