December 7, 1941, began like any other Sunday at Pearl Harbour, the US’s most important Pacific base. Sailors and airmen slowly roused themselves from sleep as the might of the US fleet sat at anchor across the waterfront.
No one had an inkling of the devastating Japanese attack that would commence at 7:48 a.m. and leave 2,402 Americans dead.
“The Japanese bombs did tremendous damage to the immediate strength of America’s Pacific airpower, as well as her Pacific sea power, which was based upon Pearl Harbour,” a British Movietone narrator says over footage taken just hours after the onslaught, which you can see below.
In addition to leaving thousands dead, the attack destroyed aircraft and airfields and sank four battleships, among them the USS Arizona, where a bomb struck an ammunition magazine at the front of the ship, sending it up in a mighty conflagration that burned for days.
At the same time Pearl Harbour was struck, Japan attacked the Philippines as well as Wake and Guam, two US islands in the Pacific.
“Yet even on the day of disaster, American sea power began the process of recovery,” the Movietone narrator continues. “An undamaged cruiser, putting to sea, steams past the burning Arizona – a symbol of America’s resolve to take complete revenge.”
The following day, the US declared war on Japan, and three days later Germany and Italy declared war on the US.
Two months later, the war in the Pacific took a decisive turn when the US repelled the Japanese at Midway, a US base in the middle of the Pacific.
US carrier-based planes sent four Japanese carriers to the bottom of the sea, while the US lost just one carrier.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.