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Monday, December 5, 2011

Why Did Japan Attack U.S. On Pearl Harbor?

The USS Shaw explodes after being hit by bombs during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in this Dec. 7, 1941 photo. (AP)

Seventy years ago this week, the surprise Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, forced President Franklin Roosevelt to ask Congress to declare war on Japan.

But all these years later the question is still asked, why did Japan do it? Jeffrey Record says the war was inevitable, because of Japanese ambition, and their dependence on the U.S. for oil and other goods. Record’s book is “A War It Was Always Going To Lose: Why Japan Attacked America in 1941.” Record says, “Japan felt entitled to an empire in East Asia and it pointed to the United States and Britain as models.”


  • Jeffrey Record, professor of strategy at the Air War College

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  • phbb

    Robin, Roosevelt did not declare war on Japan. Congress declared war.

    • Aashlock

      Thanks phbb. That was my mistake as the producer. I should have written that he asked Congress to declare war on Japan. 
      Alex Ashlock, Here and Now.  

  • Dick Hartley

    I was a little boy of 9 living in Hilo, Hawaii and on the way home from Church with my parents and sister when we first heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor the morning of Dec. 7th.  The radio announcer kept saying “this is not a drill, this is not a drill” and my father kept saying “it’s a maneuvering exercise”.  It wasn’t until later that day when we finally got the picture.  From that moment on the island was in blackout in fear of further attacks and even an invasion.  It was a surreal moment in my life.  Sometime later, we were invaded, only this time by thousands of Marines and Army troops who were stationed all over the island and were in training to invade the many Pacific islands such as Tarawa.  My father was in charge of the purchasing for the local railroad and as such had to oversee the offloading of bunker C oil used to fuel the trains.  He was allowed access to the docks and ships there and I often accompanied him to those ships.  My mother was a social worker and we often entertained soldiers, marines and seabees who were stationed nearby or were working in the outposts on the beach where we lived.  All the schools were closed for a period in order to avoid clustering children together in one place so as a result I went to school next door with all the neighborhood kids of all the grades in elementary school.  It was a blast!  I remember gas rationing, and food and clothing rationing with all the attendant techniques for getting around the shortages.  We made our own butter, cooked a lot over outdoor fires, and since I was always barefoot anyhow, never were in need of shoes.  I have a lot of very fond memories of the time.  People often ask me whether I was afraid of the local Japanese people.  My mother worked amongst them and they were all very loyal Americans.  I think the day of Pearl Harbor, the local FBI rounded up about 7 alien Japanese agents who were clustered on the local docks waiting for the invading force.  The reality was we ended up sending a large number of Nisei boys to the 101st battalion who fought in Europe and were highly decorated.  

  • Rtaylorm

    I do not have a personal account of the day, but my grandfather has told me his story multiple times.  He was 9 years old playing in the field behind his house in Bluefield, WV. The field was a common ground for kids in the neighborhood(mostly boys) from age 7 up to 18. It was dark when the news arrived and a boy ran from his house shouting, “the Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor!” Around the camp fire in the field that night an older boy stood up and addressed the group. He went around pointing at 16-18 year old boys. “This time next year you, and you, and you, and me are not going to be here.It’s interesting to hear the calmness in his voice. My grandfather later had to take his first and only standardized test while in college to stay out of the Korean War.

  • Mattinglyjs

    The US sailed to an isolationist Japan in 1854 with war
    ships to “negotiate” a trade treaty?  Your
    expert claims that in 1941 that the U.S. was isolationist and the Japanese
    bombed Pearl Harbor because they were expansionist under the thumb of U.S. trade
    sanctions? That is severe revisionist history in action.  I question your expert’s theory.

    • Homer Adams

      What is your theory? 

  • Rod Miranne

    As someone who has been fascinated by the attack since I was a small boy, it was great to hear your program. As far as what the Japanese hoped to accomplish, Admiral Yamamoto, who planned the attack, has been known to say that he wanted to deliver a blow to the USA that would cripple the US fleet and us for about a year and allow Japan to expand into Southeast Asia. After that he could not promise anything else.Their biggest mistake was that the US carriers were not in port and that they did not send a third wave to destroy repair/dry docks and fuel storage tanks, that would have put Pearl Harbor out of business and pushed the fleet back to the west coast.
    In retrospect we were very lucky.

  • mollory kates

    i love this website it teachs you so much and i just lone learning about new things so this is the best wedsitenyou can use never stop posting stuff  and always know to post good things because i am a teacher and i will come jack youre ass up so better watch your back  cause you dont know shit about me

  • Cmgm919

    Phbb, Your right not just that but its bullshit what it says on here. Alot well some is so incorrect that i’d rather search this on a different page.

  • Crp


  • Quinn Samuels

    wuts up griff

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