On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japan launched a sneak attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, as part of a plan to eliminate any potential challenge to Japanese conquests in Asia.
The attack compelled the United States to enter World War II as a combatant, and to wage a costly, bloody struggle to defeat the Japanese empire.
The Japanese attack force—which included six aircraft carriers and 420 planes—sailed on a 3,500 mile voyage to a staging area 230 miles off the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
The Japanese sailed without radar or reconnaissance planes overhead, in an effort to avoid detection.
The attack lasted nearly two hours, and killed just over 2,400 service members, including more than 1100 on the U.S.S. Arizona, which exploded in flames as it sank.
Nearly 1200 more were injured.
Despite inflicting heavy casualties, the Japanese attackers failed to achieve their objective of disabling the U.S. fleet. No U.S. aircraft carriers were at Pearl Harbor that day, and the Japanese were unable to destroy vital infrastructure such as repair shops and fuel tanks.
The events set in motion by the attack on December 7, 1941 also led to the United States becoming a global superpower.