On a bright, sunny morning 75 years ago this Wednesday, 181 warplanes of the Imperial Japanese Navy swept down out of the sky from the north over the blue-green hills of Kahuku Point on the island of Oahu, and attacked the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, as well as a cluster of military air fields in the vicinity. Japanese pilots, trained to a razor’s edge of proficiency for this one operation over many months, sank or severely damaged eight battleships, three light cruisers, three destroyers, and a number of other support vessels.
At the airfields, where planes had been positioned wing tip to wing tip to minimize the chance of sabotage, defensive measures against aerial attack were every bit as lax as they were at the naval base. Bombers and strafing fighters destroyed 164 planes outright, and damaged another 127. In the most destructive surprise attack on U.S. forces in history, 2,403 Americans lost their lives, and another 1,178 were wounded.
It was all over in about an hour and a half.