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December 7th, 1941

“a date which will live in infamy…”

The official US Navy site on the Pearl Harbor attack.

There will be a memorial service aboard NAS Pensacola that normally features local survivors of the attack.

They have their own license plates:

Pearl Harbor Survivors Plate

3 comments

1 Bryan { 12.07.09 at 11:20 pm }

The loss of the carriers would have delayed the final result in Asia by about a year at most. The US didn’t import a whole lot at the time, and once the switch was made, gear was pouring out of factories.

We would have probably retaken the Aleutian islands sooner, and moved more naval vessels from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but the outcome was never seriously in question.

Bringing the US into the war was a serious mistake, as it freed up the ability to increase shipping to the UK and the Soviet Union, which had been limited by official neutrality.

2 Badtux { 12.08.09 at 1:46 am }

I once did the math and the U.S. would have built over 40 aircraft carriers by the end of 1946 if the final carriers of the Essex class had not been cancelled. And that’s not including the “pocket carriers”. Each of those 40 carriers could put around 80 aircraft into the skies. When 20 aircraft carriers were operating in the Pacific, they could put 1600 aircraft into the sky, far more than could fit on any island airstrip. In short, unless the Japanese could have found some way to destroy the U.S’s shipyards — and remember, the biggest U.S. shipyards were on the East and Gulf coasts (Newport News of course being *the* biggest, but there were big shipyards pretty much everywhere, New Orleans, Mobile, Baltimore, you name it, if there was plenty of room to put a shipyard, there was a shipyard there) so the Japanese would have had a really hard time getting to them to destroy them even if they’d had free rein. And the disaster that became the Japanese Merchant Marine, which was utterly unable to cope with U.S. submarine predation (the Japanese apparently never developed sonar or effective depth charges and never created an effective convoy system to protect their shipping) meant that the Japanese would have never been able to build many more carriers than they started with even if none of their carriers had been sunk by U.S. action.

In short, if the carriers had been in Pearl Harbor on December 7, the outcome of the war would have been delayed by maybe two years at best — and that’s if the Japanese had gone on to destroy the big shipyards on the West Coast, which would have been a hard row to hoe given the massive defensive depth available and the fact that, unlike with island airstrips, it’s easy to concentrate air power on large landmasses on an as-needed basis. But the carriers pouring off the ways on the East and Gulf coast would have eventually overwhelmed the Japanese regardless of the early victories.

What freed up support for the UK and Soviet Union, BTW, was Germany’s declaration of war against the USA. Roosevelt had been trying to figure a way to get Congress to declare war against Germany (that being an era when Presidents actually respected the Constitution enough to not go to war unless there was a Congressional declaration of war, unlike today, where Presidents do what they want regardless of the Constitution). It is unclear he could have gotten a declaration of war against Germany, there was still a major isolationist vein in American culture that viewed the war in Europe as a European war and no business of Americans. Hitler declaring war against the USA was almost as big a disaster as Hitler declaring war against the USSR. I.e., you could just shake your head and think, “what was he thinking?”

The U.S. was blessed by its enemies in WWII. Hitler’s leadership after the early victories of the war was disastrous, and Japan’s industrial and scientific infrastructure was in no way ready to conduct modern warfare. They had no counter to the submarine warfare that the U.S. swiftly waged against them, which crippled their shipping and brought their industrial machine to a standstill (remember, everything had to be imported), meaning construction on aircraft carriers and battleships that could have changed the situation came to a halt. Their educational infrastructure was also incapable of handling the rapid loss of pilots at the beginning of the war — they had no large airline industry from which to recruit pilot trainers the way the U.S. did, not to mention no large general aviation industry to produce trainer aircraft, and their small aviation training industry was unable to train pilots fast enough to re-equip aircraft carriers with new planes and pilots after battles. Unfortunately the USA learned the wrong lesson from the relatively swift and overwhelming victories in Europe and Asia during WWII — the lesson being, “we can beat the heck out of anybody”. The bloody stalemate in Korea, the disaster of Vietnam, and the ongoing bloodletting in Iraq and Afghanistan should tell the lie of that — we won against Hitler and Japan because they made horrible decisions that doomed their chances of winning, not because the U.S. was inherently fated to defeat anybody and everybody. Given an intransigent enemy willing to fade into the general population, the U.S. ability to bring overwhelming power to bear suddenly is no longer relevant…

– Badtux the War Penguin

3 Badtux { 12.08.09 at 1:55 pm }

It is likely Hawaii would have been conquered by the Japanese if no carriers had been available to defend Midway. But Hawaii was not particularly important in the greater scheme of things. The Japanese would have eventually been overwhelmed by the sheer tonnage of aircraft carriers and aircraft coming out of U.S. shipyards and factories. And the disaster that became the Japanese merchant marine would have been utterly unaffected by a Japanese conquest of Hawaii, U.S. submarines basically shut down Japanese warship construction after 1942.

There simply was no way for Japan to counter the 40 aircraft carriers that the U.S. could have fielded by 1946. And let’s not forget the Soviets. After the defeat of Germany, they swiftly overwhelmed Japanese forces in Manchuria and Korea, Japan’s ill-equipped forces might have sufficed against the even more poorly equipped Chinese but were utterly hopeless against the fighting force that had inflicted 3/4ths of the casualties suffered by the Wehrmacht during the war. Japan was, bluntly, f*cked from the moment they decided to go to war against the U.S., and all that sinking the U.S. carriers at Pearl Harbor would have accomplished would have been delaying the inevitable for a year or two. (And let us not forget that most of the ships sunk at Pearl Harbor that day were eventually re-floated and made battle-ready again, only three of the battleships sunk at Pearl Harbor were not eventually re-floated and repaired… even if the carriers had been sunk that day, probably at least two of them would have been re-floated and made battle-ready again).