10 Facts About Pearl Harbor and the Pacific War

On 8 December 1941 United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered a speech referring to the previous day as ‘a date that will live in infamy’. The speech was followed by a formal US declaration of war against the Japanese Empire, launching the US into the Second World War.┬áMuch of America’s involvement would be against Japanese forces in the Pacific theatre.

What follows are 10 facts relating to the Pacific portion of the war.

1. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 signalled the start of what is commonly referred to as the Pacific War.

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2. Over 400 seamen died as the USS Oklahoma sank. Over 1,000 perished aboard the USS Arizona. In total the Americans sustained around 3,500 casualties in the attacks, with 2,335 dying.

Landscape

3. 2 American destroyer ships and 188 aircraft were destroyed at Pearl Harbor, whilst 6 battleships were beached or damaged and 159 aircraft damaged.

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The Japanese lost 29 aircraft, an ocean-going submarine and 5 midget subs.

4. Singapore was surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February 1942, with General Percival then abandoning his troops by escaping to Sumatra, and by May the Japanese had forced Allied withdrawal from Burma.

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5. Four Japanese aircraft carriers and a cruiser were sunk and 250 aircraft destroyed in the Battle of Midway, 4-7 June 1942, a decisive turning point in the Pacific War, at the expense of one American carrier and 150 aircraft.

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The Japanese suffered just over 3,000 deaths, around ten times more than the Americans.

6. Between July 1942 and January 1943 the Japanese were driven from Guadalcanal and eastern Papua New Guinea, having ultimately resorted to scavenge for roots to survive.

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7. An estimated 60 per cent of the 1,750,000 Japanese troops who died in World War Two were lost to malnutrition and disease.

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8. The first kamikaze attacks occurred on 25 October 1944 against the American fleet at Luzon as the fighting intensified in the Philippines.

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9. The island of Iwo Jima was bombed for 76 days before the arrival of the American assault fleet, which included 30,000 marines.

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10. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945, together with Soviet intervention in Manchuria, forced the Japanese into surrender. This was officially signed on 2 September.

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History graduate (and enthusiast) with postgraduate degrees in environmental history and heritage science.