Many describe the event as a complete

Many of those who
survived the attack describe the event as a complete surprise. In his book At
Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor, Gordon Prange captures how
surprised the Americans were incorporating details from survivors’ retelling
their experiences that day. Prange wrote about men who were just waking up and following
their morning routine when they were alerted to the Japanese attack. One man
even ran out of his house in just his pajamas exclaiming “I knew the little
sons of bitches would do it on a Sunday! I knew it!”1
There are many other references to the day of the week the attack took place in
Pearl Harbor literature. Sunday is generally accepted as a day of rest in
American culture. In the military, this means that Sundays are usually more
leisurely days. There are not usually as many officers on duty on Sundays as
there would be on a weekday. Thus, it would not be too far-fetched to argue
that the Japanese knew this and intentionally attacked on a day of rest. By
planning it for a Sunday, the Japanese were able to maximize their element of
surprise. On the other hand, the fact that it was a Sunday would also
contribute to why the Americans were so surprised by the attack. Needless to
say, the attack was not anticipated and this was reflected in the amount of
damage the Japanese were able to do in such a short span of time.

The surprise assault on
Pearl Harbor resulted in the death of 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178
Americans.2 In
less than two hours, a total of eighteen vessels had been either destroyed or
damaged—eight battleships, three destroyers, three light cruisers and four
auxiliary craft. Additionally, naval aviation and the Hawaiian Air Force lost
thirteen fighters, forty-six patrol bombers, four B-17s, twenty-one scout
bombers, twelve B-18s, thirty-two P40s, three utility craft, two A-20s, two transports,
one training craft, one observation scout, twenty p-36s, two OA-9s, four P-26s
and one 0-49. In comparison, the Japanese planned the attack with a total of
353 aircraft and six aircraft carriers and only lost twenty-nine planes.3 Even
though the United States was eventually able to salvage some of their ships and
planes, the damage was severe and it cost the United States a significant
amount of money to fix. Jim DeWitt, Pearl Harbor survivor, summarized the
Japanese intent and success by simply saying, “The Japanese had everything
planned. They were after the battleships and the aircrafts, and that’s what
they got.”4
Indeed, Japan did succeed in damaging the United States Navy but it would
eventually pay the price because, even though Americans consider Pearl Harbor a
military failure, the American counterattacks made up for it.

On the morning of
December 8, United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a joint
session of Congress and called for a declaration of war on Japan because of the
events that had taken place in Hawaii the day before. 5 In
his famous speech, Roosevelt stated:

December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of
America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the
Empire of Japan. . . The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused
severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that
very many American lives have been lost. . . Japan has, therefore, undertaken a
surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. . . I ask that the
Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on
Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United
States and the Japanese empire.6

Even though the speech was only six and
a half minutes long, it conveyed to the American public that the attack was a
surprise because the United States was trying to negotiate peace with Japan a
few days prior to the attack. Roosevelt’s language was meant to stir the
emotions of his listeners so he can gain public support for war with Japan.
However, his careful wording also explained how and why the Americans were
surprised by the Japanese. The United States knew war with Japan was on the
horizon but military and government officials didn’t anticipate the attack when
and where happened. Consequently, Pearl Harbor was huge miscalculation for the
Americans. In contrast, Pearl Harbor was a well-calculated risk that temporarily
gained Japan the upper hand due to the fact that it knocked Pearl Harbor out of
commission for a little over six months.

            The decisions that were made by
Japanese officials like Yamamoto and Hirohito in the months prior to Pearl
Harbor allowed the Japanese to gain the element of surprise on the day of the
attack. American leadership lacked the imagination to prepare for such an attack.
Consequently, the attack on Pearl Harbor was a successful operation for Japan.
Due to the fact that the United States eventually won the war against Japan,
Historians question whether Japan’s decision to initiate the war a wise one.
However, one cannot deny the Japanese their success on December 7, 1941; their
careful planning had paid off. In the United States, Pearl Harbor is forever
remembered as a day that will live in infamy because that attack caught
Americans by surprise. Overall, the events at Pearl Harbor had set the tone of
the war between Japan and the United States.