Why Did Japan Choose to Bomb Pearl Harbor

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In 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed U.S. citizens and explained the United States’ entry into World War II. “Yesterday, December 7th,- a day that will live in infamy- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan”(Chan, 2016). Pearl Harbor is a US naval base in Hawaii that was the target of a Japanese bombing at the beginning of World War II.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 is often considered the first act of terrorism that took place on American soil. This event began American involvement in World War II. This horrible act took the lives of 3,700 U.S. soldiers, 50 Japanese soldiers, and approximately 55 American citizens (Zimm, 2011). To truly understand the importance of the bombing of Pearl Harbor one needs to know why Pearl Harbor was chosen by Japan, what actually happened on December 7, 1941, and how the U.S. responded to the attack.

In 1931 Japan attacked China, one America’s allies at the time, in attempt to gain more land in the Eastern Hemisphere. As a result, America placed sanctions on Japan. These sanctions restricted American trade with Japan and limited their access to natural resources (Pruitt, 2018). Over the next 10 years, the Japanese tried to gain as much land as possible in the Eastern hemisphere, but the sanctions and lack of natural resources hurt them.

America, having control of many islands in that part of the world, was concerned when Japan tried to invade free countries searching for resources. Japan saw America as a threat and knew that if they attacked any American islands they risked bringing America into the war. Japan thought that attacking America before the Americans were really ready for war would hurt them for long enough for Japan to take control of many countries in the Eastern Hemisphere and obtain the natural resources necessary to be successful in occupying Asia.

Knowing that an attack from Japan was inevitable, in May 1940, America moved their main Pacific naval fleet from San Diego, California to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii so that the US navy would be closer to Asia with the idea that Japan was going to attack a country much closer to them (Pruitt, 2018). Instead of attacking the Philippines (a closer country that has better resources and was not actively being defended by America) Japan decided instead to attack Pearl Harbor. The thought behind this attack was that America would be so shocked and so stunned that America would not be able to defend any of its islands near Japan thus giving Japan an easier path to conquer all of Asia (“Why Did Japan Attack Pearl Harbor”, n.d.).

This plan was very close to being successful for Japan because America was not expecting an attack on Pearl Harbor. America had no worry of an attack on Pearl Harbor merely because it was too far. Japan did not have control of any islands close enough to Pearl Harbor to launch an attack on it. America also thought that Japan could not bring an aircraft carrier close enough for an attack but still remain far enough away not to be seen.

Unfortunately, the U.S. was very wrong in their thinking as the Japanese did everything America thought they couldn’t do. However, the Japanese was also wrong in their thinking that America would be taken out of the war so easily (Mawdsley, 2018).


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Why Did Japan Choose to Bomb Pearl Harbor. (2021, Jun 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/why-did-japan-choose-to-bomb-pearl-harbor/

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