World War II: Pearl Harbor


On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the United States, bombing warships and military targets in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. More than 350 Japanese aircraft attacked the naval base in two waves, strafing targets, dropping armor-piercing bombs, and launching torpedoes toward U.S. battleships and cruisers. The U.S. forces were unprepared, waking to the sounds of explosions and scrambling to defend themselves. The entire preemptive attack lasted only 90 minutes, and in that time, the Japanese sunk four battleships and two destroyers, pummeled 188 aircraft, and damaged even more buildings, ships and airplanes. (Two of the battleships were later raised and returned to service.) Some 2,400 Americans were killed in the attack; another 1,250 were injured, and a huge shock was dealt to United States. After the attack, Japan officially declared war on the United States. The next day President Roosevelt delivered his famous "infamy" speech, and signed a formal declaration of war against the Empire of Japan. Within days, Nazi Germany and the Kingdom of Italy also declared war on the United States, and the U.S. reciprocated soon after. (This entry is Part 7 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)
Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Thierry Bornier / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

    2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

    The Travel Photographer of the Year Contest is now underway at National Geographic, and entries will be accepted until the end of the month, May 27, 2016.

  • Kirill Kudryavtsev / Reuters

    Russia's New Spaceport: The Vostochny Cosmodrome

    For the past five years, Russia has been building a new spaceport in its Far East, about 3,500 miles (5,500 kilometers) away from Moscow, called the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

  • Renaud Philippe

    Rebuilding Nepal by Hand

    The photographer Renaud Philippe returned to the epicenter of last year’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake to document what progress has been made in some of the hardest-to-reach villages.

  • Christian Charisius / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: 4/23-4/29

    A shepherd pulls a lamb into the sea in Gaza City, President Obama meets Prince George in London, the aftermath of Ecuador’s earthquake, and much more.

Join the Discussion