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See the extensive bibliography (divided into print, video/audio, and online resources) below the essay.

[1] In May of 1940, the majority of the United States Fleet that had been stationed on the west coast of the continental United States was transferred to Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian island of Oahu. President Franklin D. Roosevelt made this decision to place the fleet somewhere safe from a possible Japanese attack, and Pearl Harbor was capable of acting as a large naval base. Pearl Harbor had a Navy Yard, dry docks, an industrial plant for the upkeep of the ships, a Naval Air Station, a Naval Hospital, and a submarine base. There was room for many warships, but the layout of the bay meant the ships would all be lumped in one area (this area was know as “Battleship Row”). There was also only one opening to the sea, which represented both protection and a security threat. The island itself was not large enough to house the thousands of Navy and Army personnel present at such a large naval base, which resulted in inadequate security for the base as a whole. From 1940 to 1941, attempts were made to improve the flaws of Pearl Harbor as a naval base, such as expanding the supply depot and adding numerous dry docks, but some of the limitations of Pearl Harbor could not be changed.

[2] The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a part of the much larger World War II. The United States’ conflict with Japan was heightened by an embargo placed upon Japan in September of 1940. This embargo prohibited exportation of steel, scrap iron, and aviation fuel to Japan, which the country was desperately in need of because of their lengthy war against China. In June of 1941, after Japan occupied southern Indochina, the United States, Britain, and the Netherlands each froze Japanese assets. As a result, Japan could not buy oil, which was an enormous blow to their navy and air force. As the Soviet Union, with whom Japan had signed a neutrality agreement in April 1941, neared defeat, Japan invaded Southeast Asia in an attempt to gain access to the oil there. Despite the wishes of members of the United States government, the American people did not feel this act necessitated an American role in the war. The United States demanded that Japan withdraw from China, but they were refused. Peace negotiations between the United States and Japan failed for several months, and by November of 1941, the United States was preparing for a Japanese attack. The United States was anticipating possible attacks on the Indies, Malaya, and the Philippines, but an attack on the east, where Pearl Harbor was located, was not seriously considered a threat.

[3] On December 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made an appeal to the Emperor of Japan for peace, but he received no response. The United States was able to read the Japanese diplomatic code and knew an attack was imminent, but the attack was suspected to occur in Southeast Asia. The United States was able to decode a message about Japan’s plan to attack Pearl Harbor on December 7, but news of this message was not able to reach Pearl Harbor until four hours after the attack began.

[4] The Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, at 7:53 a.m. The attack was planned by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto of Japan. The battle cry of the first Japanese attack wave was “Tora! Tora! Tora!” which translates to “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” The attack occurred in two waves, the first striking airfields and battleships, and the second targeting other ships and shipyards. The air raids by Japan lasted until 9:45 a.m. 2,335 American servicemen were killed, with 1,104 of those men being aboard the Battleship U.S.S. Arizona. Sixty-eight civilians were killed, and 1,178 people were wounded in total. Eight U.S. battleships were damaged or sunk, along with three light cruisers, three destroyers, and three smaller vessels. 188 aircrafts were damaged or destroyed. The Japanese lost only twenty-seven planes and five midget submarines. News of the attack reached Washington, D.C., at approximately 2:30 pm (east coast time).

[5] On December 8, 1941, the United States and Britain declared war on the Empire of Japan.

Print Resources

Clarke, Thurston. Pearl Harbor Ghosts: The Legacy of December 7, 1941. New York: Ballantine Publishing Group, 2001.
By interviewing survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack, Clarke is able to recreate Pearl Harbor in a way that allows readers to feel as if they were there that day. Clarke tells the story of the attack, but he also gives a detailed background into those who lived on the back ground and those stationed at the Pearl Harbor base. Clarke tells the stories of everyone involved in the attack, even the Japanese. He also focuses on the effect the attack had on Japanese-Americans, which is very relevant because of the enormous discrimination faced by this group after the attack. Because Clarke tells his story from many different perspectives, you feel as though you are reading a truly unbiased account of Pearl Harbor.
Clausen, Henry C., and Bruce Lee. Pearl Harbor: Final Judgment. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1992.
In 1944 Clausen was chosen by the government as the lawyer to perform an independent investigation as to why the Pearl Harbor attack occurred. Clausen publishes the top-secret report he submitted to the Secretary of War listing the "criminal neglect of duty" by military and government officials. Clausen says that the military and government ignored many warnings about the potential for a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, thus making them partially responsible for the casualties of the attack. Clausen was given access to materials seen by only the highest-ranking officials, which is why his account is so thorough and filled with countless instances in which the government and military slipped up.
Collier, Richard. The Road to Pearl Harbor. 1941. New York: Bonanza Books, 1981.
Collier's is one of the few books that gives the entire background of World War II that led up to Pearl Harbor. While most books list the circumstances between Japan and America that resulted in Pearl Harbor, Collier discusses what was going on in the world as a whole. He gives a strong historical account of both the early part of World War II and why the attack on Pearl Harbor happened. He lists the ongoing communications between Japan and America before Pearl Harbor and the many attempts at agreement. He then gives a descriptive account of the attack on Pearl Harbor itself and the reaction by the U.S. government.
Costello, John. Days of Infamy: MacArthur, Roosevelt, Churchill -- The Shocking Truth Revealed: How Their Secret Deals and Strategic Blunders Caused Disasters at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. New York: Pocket Books, 1994.
The lengthy title of Costello's book gives the best description of the book itself. Costello explains that Pearl Harbor was not a secretive attack by Japan but rather a deliberately prompted event meant to bring the United States into the war. Costello writes about the deliberate actions of Roosevelt and Churchill that resulted in the Japanese attack, and he lists the information that the American government deliberately withheld from the leaders of the Pacific fleet, which was the reason for their unpreparedness when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Costello also describes the huge mistake made by General MacArthur in not striking against the Japanese airbases when he was ordered to. This was part of the reason why the Philippines were so poorly defended when the Japanese attacked in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor.
Glines, Carroll V. Doolittle's Tokyo Raiders. Salem: Ayer Company, Publishers, Inc., 1987.
Glines tells the story of the Doolittle Raid by describing history but, more importantly, by including first-person narratives from survivors of the raid. He also includes diary entries of members of Doolittle's crew that show the reader what a brief overview of the raid was really shown in the film Pearl Harbor. One of the book's most interesting sources is the transcript from the War Crimes Trial for the Doolittle Raid. The man being questioned, Chase J. Nielsen, tells exactly what the raiders were instructed to do and the results of their attack. It is particularly notable for revealing the small amount of information members of the military are given about their missions, except for where they will attack and how.
Goldstein, Donald M., and Katherine V. Dillon, eds. The Pearl Harbor Papers: Inside the Japanese Plans. New York: Brassey's, 1993.
This book includes a wealth of primary source materials used by the Japanese in planning the attack on Pearl Harbor. Numerous writings from Admiral Yamamoto are included, as well as diaries from members of the Japanese navy, which allow the reader to compare the Japanese fighters to their American counterparts portrayed in Pearl Harbor. Papers are also included listing the Japanese use of radio to communicate as well as their code-breaking abilities in regards to American radio communication. This collection of papers is remarkable because it purely presents the Japanese side of the attack -- a side little seen in Pearl Harbor, the film.
Honan, William H. Visions of Infamy: The Untold Story of How Journalist Hector C. Bywater Devised the Plans that Led to Pearl Harbor. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.
This book discusses the logistics of how the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. What is most shocking about Honon's thesis is that he argues that Japanese Admiral Yamamoto may not have been as militarily inventive as he appears in most historical records. Honon presents the work of British naval correspondent Hector Bywater as the real source of the ingenuity behind the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. While the film merely brushed over the many challenges the Japanese overcame to attack the secluded Pearl Harbor, Honon gives a detailed description of what exactly happened there and why it was able to happen. His presentation of Bywater's military tactics is fascinating, particularly because of the great intelligence Yamamoto was credited with after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Also fascinating is the interaction that occurred between FDR and Bywater because the President did not believe Bywater's argument about the great vulnerability of the Pacific to be true.
Landy, Marcia. "'America under Attack': Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and History in the Media." Film and Television after 9/11. Ed. Wheeler Winston Dixon. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2003.
Landy discusses the many comparisons made by the public and the media between Pearl Harbor and 9/11 after the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Landy also gives a synopsis of the film Pearl Harbor as well as summarizing the opinions of most critics toward it, which were largely negative. Landy says that these reviews should be reexamined because they do not ask the questions: "What is it that these narratives of Pearl Harbor expose about the persistence of history and its usefulness to contend with the present? On what historical resources does the film draw?"
Layton, Rear Admiral Edwin T. Layton, U.S.N., and Captain Roger Pineau, U.S.N.R., and John Costello. And I was There: Pearl Harbor and Midway—Breaking the Secrets. New York: William Morrow and Company Inc., 1985.
Admiral Layton was the intelligence officer for the Pacific Fleet during World War II, and he reveals the military secrets of why the Japanese were able to attack the United States with such an element of surprise. He reveals that several important military and government officials knew of the Japanese intentions but did not share them for various reasons. Admiral Layton shows how high ranking officials misuse their power, particularly how they did not have America's best interests at heart in regards to information about a potential Japanese attack. Admiral Layton also discusses Japan's motivations for the attack -- another subject which is glossed over in the film Pearl Harbor.
Melosi, Martin V. The Shadow of Pearl Harbor: Political Controversy over the Surprise Attack, 1941-1946. College Station: Texas A&M UP, 1977.
This book highlights the political controversy in the United States after Japan's deafening victory at Pearl Harbor. Melosi discusses how the Roosevelt administration worked to downplay its faults in failing to anticipate such a great attack. Melosi says that the Roosevelt administration did so by focusing their attention, and the country's, on World War II itself, while trying to prevent the public and their Republican critics from blaming the presidential administration for the attack. Melosi lists the different ways they did this, one of which was blaming the military commanders at Pearl Harbor, General Short and Admiral Kimmel. This book is particularly interesting in light of the great American pride shown immediately after the attack, with President Roosevelt triumphantly standing from his wheelchair to declare that the United States would not be defeated. The political uproar that was felt in America after the attack, detailed by Melosi, is barely hinted at in Pearl Harbor the film.
Prange, Gordon W. At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981.
Prange presents a virtual anthology of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He discusses every aspect of the attack, particularly focusing on the American intelligence failure in not recognizing the attack. Prange suggests that some of these mistakes may have been deliberate attempts by the U.S. government, particularly FDR, to provide an excuse for the United States to enter World War II. The only way to describe Prange's book is to say that he provides a nearly scientific examination of every part of the attack, both before, during, and after.
Slackman, Michael. Target: Pearl Harbor. Honolulu: U of Hawaii P, 1990.
Slackman's book provides one of the most descriptive, minute-by-minute account of the attack of Pearl Harbor available in print. He also lists Japanese motivations for the attack, as well as why the United States was not better prepared. His historical account of the attack itself is by far the best part of this book because his writing about the period before the attack is rather broad. He also dedicates the last portion of his book to how America reacted to the attack, which is an important part of the history of Pearl Harbor that Pearl Harbor, the film, leaves out.
Stinnett, Robert B. Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor. New York: Free Press, 2000.
Stinnett argues that Roosevelt had ample evidence of a planned attack by the Japanese to suspect an attack on Pearl Harbor. In fact, Stinnett says that FDR wanted the attack to happen in order to provide instigation for the United States to enter World War II. Stinnett uses government documents, as well as contact between the government and the military to prove that FDR had a distinct plan for provoking a Japanese attack. Because of the ample evidence Stinnett provides, it is almost impossible to deny at least the possibility that the government knew about Pearl Harbor and could have prevented it. Stinnett places the bulk of the blame on FDR, who was determined to enter the war and needed an excuse that would rally Americans behind him. Learning about Stinnett's compelling argument causes one to see FDR's speeches in Pearl Harbor in an entirely new light.
White, Geoffrey M. "Disney's 'Pearl Harbor': National Memory at the Movies." Public Historian 24.4 (2002): 97-115.
White discusses the issues of historical accuracy in Pearl Harbor but does not condemn its makers for these inaccuracies. He says that whether history is meant to be critical education or entertainment is an intense issue in American culture today. He credits the film for filming on site at Pearl Harbor despite the difficulties there. White says that scrutiny for Pearl Harbor's historical accuracy was particularly heavy, which deflects attention from more important matters – "what kind of story is being told and how it relates to the (contested) repertoire of cultural forms and images that contribute to historical consciousness."
Wohlstetter, Roberta. Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision. Standford: Stanford UP, 1962.
The author gives a detailed account of the many mistakes made by the United States government and military that resulted in the great unpreparedness of the Pacific Fleet for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Wohlsetter believes the government and military ignored warning signs from the Japanese that suggested an attack on the Pacific Fleet because they believed their stronghold at Pearl Harbor to be invincible. Wohlsetter does not specifically blame FDR or suggest that he may have played a role in provoking the attack, but, rather, she lists why the U.S. Intelligence Department failed.

See Also

Brokaw, Tom. The Greatest Generation. New York: Random House, 1998.

Conroy, Hilary, and Harry Wray, eds. Pearl Harbor Reexamined: Prologue to the Pacific War. Honolulu: U of Hawaii P, 1990.

Dyer, George C., Vice Admiral, USN. On the Treadmill to Pearl Harbor: The Memoirs of Admiral James O. Richardson, USN. Washington: Naval History Division, 1973.

Feis, Herbert. The Road to Pearl Harbor: The Coming of the War Between the United States and Japan. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1950.

Gailey, Harry A. The War in the Pacific: From Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay. Novato: Presidio Press, 1995.

Lord, Walter. Day of Infamy. New York: Holt, 1957.

Rich, Frank. "The Best Years of Our Lives." New York Times 26 May 2001: 13.

Thompson, Robert Smith. A Time for War: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Path to Pearl Harbor. New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1991.

Trefousse, Hans L . Pearl Harbor: The Continuing Controversy. Malabar: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1982.

Waller, George M., ed. Pearl Harbor: Roosevelt and the Coming of the War. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1953.

Video/Audio Resources

Attack on Pearl Harbor.
Documentary film.
Codebreakers. Brian Johnson, dir. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 1994.
Features story of U.S. codebreaking before and after Pearl Harbor, with discussion of how they failed to uncover the Japanese plans to attack Pearl Harbor.
FDR Pearl Harbor Conspiracy. History Channel.
"The film investigates theories on Pearl Harbor and possible conspiracies. There has been much debate as to how and why the United States had been caught unaware, and how much and when American officials knew of Japanese plans and related topics. Some argue that various parties knew of the attack in advance and may even have let it happen or encouraged it in order to force America into war."
Pearl Harbor: Beyond the Movie. National Geographic Video: Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2001.
"Just how true-to-life are the stories of the movie Pearl Harbor? Through riveting archival footage this documentation will help you explore why the Japanese attached, why the U.S. was caught off guard, and how Americans responded. From the air battles over Europe to the attack on Pearl Harbor and Doolittle's raid on Tokyo, this exciting program parallels the movie story to the real-life terror, tragedy and heroism."
Pearl Harbor Day Attack.
Documentary film.
Pearl Harbor: Legacy of Attack. Warner Home Video, 2001.
"An exploration of the still unsolved mysteries and startling true stories from behind the 'day of infamy' that plunged the United States into World War II; a search for a sunken Japanese midget submarine; eyewitness accounts by both American and Japanese survivors; images captured inside the sunken hull of the battleship Arizona."
Pearl Harbor: Two Hours That Changed the World. ABC News: MPI Home Video, 1991.
"ABC News and NHK, Japan's oldest and largest television network, combined their resources to produce this program about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Includes rare archival stills and footage as well as interviews with American and Japanese survivors and prominent persons."
Perilous Fight: America's World War II in color. Greg Palmer, Scott Pearson, prod. Alexandria: PBS Home Video, 2003.
Video features a full re-enactment of Pearl Harbor, as well as excerpts from original documentaries about Pearl Harbor.
Remember Pearl Harbor. New York: CBS; Los Angeles: Fox Video , 1991.
"This 50th anniversary tribute features commentary by survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack, Japanese film footage, and readings of letters, diaries, and documents."
Victory at Sea. 1952. New York: New Video, 2003.
"The most famous historical war series ever made. A sweeping record of the naval battles of World War II."

Online Resources

After the Day of Infamy: "Man-on-the-Street" Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor. American Memory, Library of Congress.
"Presents approximately twelve hours of opinions recorded in the days and months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor from more than two hundred individuals in cities and towns across the United States."
Air Raid Pearl Harbor This Is No Drill !!!
Photo essay.
The Attack on Pearl Harbor.
Time photo essay also has several pertinent links.
The Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor, 1941. EyeWitness to
"Captured Japanese footage, taken from the attacking planes, show the devastation below."
Oral Histories of the Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941
Contains four histories.
The Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941. Department of the Navy.
This site provides links to more information about Pearl Harbor as a base, as well as more information about the Pearl Harbor attack itself.
Pearl Harbor Raid, December 7, 1941. Department of the Navy.
The Naval Historical Center site features an overview of the attack on Pearl Harbor, as well as images from the attack. It is a great resource to get specific information about the ships that were hit, the number of casualties, and precise times for the waves of the attack.
Pearl Harbor Remembered.
Gateway-type site, containing many links.
Pearl Harbor Speech
FDR's "Day that will live in infamy" speech.
"Pearl Harbor": Based on a True Story. Smoking
"Using primary sources, this web site contains a rich collection of firsthand U.S. government records documenting the 1941 Japanese attack."
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Sunday, December 7, 1941. The History Place.
Photos and timeline.
Pearl Harbor. Scholastic.
Scholastic magazine educational site.
The most comprehensive site about Pearl Harbor. Features videos of original news reports and FDR's speech.
Pearl Harbor: Mother of All Conspiracies.
"President Roosevelt (FDR) provoked the attack, knew about it in advance and covered up his failure to warn the Hawaiian commanders. FDR needed the attack to sucker Hitler to declare war, since the public and Congress were overwhelmingly against entering the war in Europe. It was his backdoor to war."
Sullivan, Robert. Pearl Harbor Timeline.,8599,127924,00.html
From 3:42 AM to 10:04 AM.
Time covers Pearl Harbor,8599,127876,00.html
Has the Time magazine cover photo of the bombing.
USS Arizona -- "that terrible day."
"The purpose of this Web exhibit is to present the papers, photographs, and memorabilia of the USS Arizona held by the University of Arizona Library Special Collections."
Wiley, Mark. Pearl Harbor: Mother of All Conspiracies.
A website that summarizes parts of Wiley's book about FDR's role in failing to prevent Pearl Harbor. The site provides the evidence in favor of the argument that FDR could have prevented the attack.
"World War II." History Now 14 (December 2007).
Teaching resource from the Gilder Lehrman Institute. Sections on war posters, FDR and Hitler, African Americans, the Japanese internment, and the home front.