In the year 1941, the world was in the grip by the worst war in human history. Germany and the Axis powers were pushing east and west, and the Allied strength was wavering. Paris had fallen, and the future of Europe looked increasingly bleak.
Until this point, America had stayed back from the conflict. Support had been provided to the Allies through subtle and indirect routes, but the vast majority of the public did not favor military intervention overseas. After the First World War, the American people weren’t ready to throw themselves and their troops into another European bloodbath.
Then, 75 years ago today, everything changed.
In an unprecedented and unprovoked act of aggression, the Empire of Japan launched a full-scale assault on American soil. Their target was the US naval base at Pearl Harbour, and the attack came without any warning. There was no formal declaration of war and no prior signal that hostilities were about to break out. On a morning when America still believed that it was at peace, it was attacked by more than 400 Japanese aircraft, backed up by numerous ships and submarines.
More than 2000 American lives were lost that day, and the course of history was altered forever.
In the aftermath of the attack, public opinion in the US changed dramatically in favor of direct overseas intervention. America joined the war to work alongside the Allied forces in Europe and entered the South Pacific Theater to fight the Japanese. Ultimately the tide began to turn and, in 1945, the Axis powers were defeated.
Now, 75 years later, the modern era has been irreversibly shaped by the outcome of the Second World War, and by the events of December 7, 1941, that drew America into the bloodiest conflict in recorded history.
Today America and the world will remember the tragedy of that infamous day, and commemorate the sacrifice of all those who fell at Pearl Harbour. A number of events will be held to mark the 75th anniversary, in the spirit of “honoring the past, inspiring the future” – you can find out more details here on the official website for the commemoration.
This video, produced exclusively for War History Online, explores the attack itself and the context surrounding it. Offering an accessible and respectful insight into this pivotal moment in history, it draws upon striking footage and imagery from the attack, while also examining its aftermath and historical implications.
We remember them.