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Primary Sources: America in World War II

Attack on Pearl Harbor - December 7th 1941 

On December 7th, 1941, the peaceful morning at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was shattered by a surprise attack launched by the Imperial Japanese Navy. In a meticulously coordinated assault, Japanese aircraft descended upon the American naval base, catching the sleeping Pacific Fleet by surprise.

The attack began at 7:48 a.m. local time and lasted nearly two hours. Waves of Japanese fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes targeted battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft stationed at Pearl Harbor. The devastation was immense, with the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, and USS Utah among the ships suffering catastrophic damage. In total, over 2,400 Americans were killed, and more than 1,100 were wounded. The attack also inflicted significant damage to the American naval fleet, destroying or damaging numerous vessels and aircraft.

The assault on Pearl Harbor shocked the nation and propelled the United States into World War II. The following day, December 8th, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his famous "Day of Infamy" speech before Congress, urging them to declare war on Japan. The speech galvanized public support for military action and marked the beginning of America's active involvement in the global conflict.

The attack on Pearl Harbor remains a defining moment in American history, symbolizing the country's transition from neutrality to active participation in World War II. It led to a wave of patriotism and unity as the nation rallied behind the war effort, determined to defend democracy and seek justice for the lives lost in the surprise attack.

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