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Archival footage of the attack on Pearl Harbor
The tragedy changed the face of World War II and got the U.S. involved. Photo: Pixabay.

Ten facts about Pearl Harbor 80 years after the attack

Three major U.S. aircraft carriers were spared in the attack, having set sail for practice maneuvers three days earlier.

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While the United States sought to remain neutral during World War II, Japan, which was backing the Nazis, planned a massive air attack against U.S. forces located in the Pacific. The attack materialized on Dec. 7, 1941, and today, history remembers it as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, where 19 American warships, as well as 169 aircraft were destroyed or seriously damaged, while 2,532 people died, including 68 civilians and 129 Japanese soldiers.

In addition to these numbers, which account for the tragedy that took place 80 years ago in the port on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, here are 10 relevant facts about the first major attack by a foreign country on U.S. soil.

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  • 353 Japanese warplanes took part in the attack that lasted one hour and 15 minutes — 131 dive bombers, 103 bombers, 79 fighters and 40 torpedo bombers.
  • The bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese army was joined by a series of invasions that were carried out on Dec. 8 in Thailand, the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Netherlands East Indies. Added to this war crusade was the expulsion of the British from Borneo on Dec. 16.
  • Without an official declaration of war, as the document reached Washington after the attack, Japan sought to prevent a United States intervention in Southeast Asia — an area of the world especially rich in resources.
  • In 1904, the Japanese launched a similar surprise attack against Russia, at Port Author, which left the Asians victorious. They were also inspired by an attack carried out by the United Kingdom against Italy in 1940.
  • The Japanese military operation was carried out with a sequence of two attacks separated by 55 minutes, each with about 180 aircraft that were supported by two battleships, two heavy cruisers, 35 submarines, two light cruisers and 11 destroyers.

Lugar de homenaje a las víctimas de Pearl Harbor

  • In addition to a message decrypted the day before, which was not taken as urgent, a radar operator on Oahu detected planes heading for Pearl Harbor, but the officers in charge thought it was a group of American B-17s bombers flying at the time.
  • Six months after the attack, in June 1942, the Japanese empire suffered a major defeat to the U.S. fleets around Midway Island — a battle that preceded the atomic bomb attacks and the ultimate defeat of Japan.
  • Thanks to the technology on the USS Oklahoma Project (the namesake of one of the attacked vessels), as well as the medical records of the time, 355 victims of the Japanese attack in Hawaii could be identified. Many of the Pearl Harbor deceased could not be identified and their remains were interred in mass graves at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. At the time, only 35 bodies were identified, while another six were able be claimed at the beginning of the new millennium.
  • Some historians consider that despite the defeat of Japan, one of the objectives of the attacks on Dec. 7 and 8 was to break with the European influence in Asia. It was achieved, as the British, the French and Dutch had to abandon their interests in the Pacific.
  • In 1947, six years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the defeated Empire of Japan drew up a new constitution amid the occupation. It is estimated that at the end of the war, more than 3 million Japanese lost their lives, including 800,000 civilians.

Lugar de homenaje a las víctimas de Pearl Harbor

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