Abridged from Stuff Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure.
I go through the seven Cascade Events that led to Pearl Harbor in detail in the book, but here they are listed:
- Political misunderstanding and maneuvers that backfired. Both sides misunderstood the objectives of the other.
- Military strategic planners in both countries seriously miscalculated each other. The Japanese over-estimated the United States’ Plan Orange. The United States under-estimated the Japanese potential for attack.
- Warnings were ignored and/or not given to those who needed to get the warnings.
- Tactical considerations worked both ways. The Japanese focused on destroying battleships while using their aircraft carriers which showed a serious blind spot in their tactics. Ultimately the war in the Pacific was a carrier war. The Americans though Pearl Harbor was too shallow for effective torpedo attack by plane.
- New technology was not used correctly. The United States failed to properly utilize radar.
- Timing is everything.
- At 7:48 am on December 7th, 1941, the Japanese Empire conducted a surprise assault on the island of Oahu, primarily focused on the American Pacific Fleet in the harbor, with a secondary objective of destroying military aircraft at outlying bases.
The final tally was:
Navy: 2,009 KIA; 710 wounded.
Army: 218 KIA; 364 wounded.
Marines: 109 KIA; 69 wounded.
Civilians: 68 killed; 35 wounded.
Navy: 92 destroyed; 31 damaged.
Army Air Corps (there was no separate Air Force branch at the time): 77 destroyed; 128 damaged.
Battleships: 2 destroyed; 6 damaged.
Cruisers: 0 destroyed; 3 damaged.
Destroyers: 0 destroyed, 3 damaged.
Auxiliaries: 1 destroyed, 4 damaged.
The United States came back from the devastation of the Pearl Harbor attack even faster than Admiral Yamamoto had feared. At the Battle of the Coral Sea, 7-8 May 1942, the Navy stopped the Japanese from advancing (although the Lexington was sunk). On at the Battle of Midway, 4-7 June 1942, the U.S. Navy delivered a devastating blow, sinking four Japanese carriers and turning the tide of the war.