Thinking Critically About the Attack on Pearl Harbor


USS Maryland (BB-46) alongside the capsized USS Oklahoma (BB-37). USS West Virginia (BB-48) is burning in the background.

December 7, 1941, a date which [h1] will live in infamy.  On this quiet Sunday morning almost 70 years ago, six carriers of the Imperial Japanese Navy launched 353 dive bombers, torpedoes, and fighter aircraft against the American naval and military bases in Hawaii, destroying elements of the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor.  Before the day was over, four battleships were sunk, three crippled, and one was run aground.  Over 300 aircraft were damaged or destroyed.  A total of 2,402 naval and military personnel and civilians were killed.  America was stunned and immediately declared war against Japan.  Despite months of warnings and increased hostilities between the two countries, the American forces were caught completely by surprise.  How could this have happened?  Was it bad luck, incompetence, or a well-executed plan of attack as most historians have agreed, or was it more?  Some believe that President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew of the impending attack and did nothing to stop it in order to force America into war. 

Curator Robert van der Linden from the National Air and Space Museum and Sarandis (“Randy”) Papadopoulos, Secretariat Historian at the Department of the Navy, discuss the events of Pearl Harbor and the role of conspiracies in the heart of American culture through the use of objective analysis of primary sources and critical thinking.

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[h1] If you are quoting FDR, it should be “which.” If you are being grammatically correct, it should be “that.”