Effect Of The Bombing Of Pearl Harbor On Hawaii

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Section 1: Identification and Evaluation of Sources

“Why and to What Extent Did the Bombing of Pearl Harbor Affect Hawaii?” To explore this topic, there are many primary and secondary resources to answer the question fully and give evidence about the topic of Pearl Harbor. The primary source that was used was a book titled the Resurrection, Salvaging the Battle Fleet at Pearl Harbor, and this was written by Danial Madsen. Another essential resource was titled Attack on Pearl Harbor – 1941. There was no specific author for this article, it was published by the Atomic Heritage Foundation.

The primary resource, Resurrection, Salvaging the Battle Fleet at Pearl Harbor, was written by Danial Madsen. The purpose of this source was to provide to the public about the tragic day of horror. It is also used to state the overall effects of Hawaii after the attack and shows the efforts that the people of the island went through to clean and restore the base and items belonging to the base. The context of this gives many first-hand witnesses and states what the island appeared to look like during and after the attack. The book gives examples of how people worked to clean up the base and what was needed to be done. This has a significant historical value, it shows the importance of the attack and the effect that it had on the United States. The book also delivers detailed information. The depth of this book and its content also limits its impact because it was written from an American point of view. Daniel Madsen mentions the reaction of the people involved and their experience. 

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The Attack on Pearl Harbor – 1941 is a useful and quality source for the research topic. It was published and written by The Atomic Heritage Foundation. The purpose of this source is to inform the public about the disastrous event. It provides strong evidence for a research investigation. The context of this document gives the background, information about how it was a surprise attack, the aftermath, and the legacy that was left. The context had vivid details of the bombard. The text gives the number of deaths, japan bombers, japan navy ships, what was being bombed, and the times of certain actions that were done. The article is very specific about the incident. The source is valuable because of the details that were written about. It lets the reader picture what the island looked like and what it would have been like to restore the island from what was left. The text limits some information of why the island actually looked like after the bombing had occurred. 

Section 2: Identification

“Yesterday”, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” This was said by President  Franklin D Roosevelt, who was the president during the attack. The bombing and the attack was a tragic event for the United States and will always be remembered to this day. The attack by the Japans was on December 7, 1941, at 7:55 a.m. on Oahu island in Hawaii. The bombing of Pearl Harbor had a major effect on Hawaii. This attack had interrupted the ways of the people in Hawaii and wiped out many things that had been on the island, such as naval ships, combat planes, and buildings. Many lives of those who served and innocent civilians were lost as well. This attack brought out the leadership of those in the United States. The bombing of Pearl Harbor had a major effect on the island of Hawaii and will always be remembered for what had occurred on this day.

The Japanese knew that the only way to attack the United States was by the element of surprise and destroy the navy as quickly as possible. “As Japan had limited natural resources, 55.4% of its imports at the time came from the United States (Rhodes 39). Beginning in 1937, the U.S. began to embargo supplies of oil, steel, and scrap iron.” 55.4% of Japan’s exports had come from the United States, but America began to embargo its oil supplies, steel, and scrap iron. The goal of the empire was to cut off America’s oil exports and take over the import market. They had relied on the resources of the U.S. to fuel their war and when the supplies were being cut off the country knew it would ruin their chance of winning the war. There had been some signs of the attack before it had happened. Japan had been 3,500 miles away from America so Pearl Harbor seemed like and unlike attack. The first major sign was at 7:00 a.m. when there was a disturbance on the mobile radar station of about fifty B-17 planes coming towards the island. Originally the men on the island thought it was an incoming fleet of american planes. “Japanese battleships and destroyers had escorted 43 fighters, 51 dive-bombers, 49 high-level bombers, and 40 torpedo planes from six carriers that floated 200 miles north of Pearl Harbor.” These ships had traveled in complete radio silence so that no one would know that they were coming. Once the Japanese had reached the island the bombing and attack had occurred. 

The island of Hawaii suffered greatly from this surprise attack. The brutal attack had lasted a total of one hour and fifteen minutes. The empire had damaged 19 U.S. naval ships and 8 of those damaged ships were battleships. The USS California was the largest ship that had been destroyed and sunk on the day of the attack. The West Virginia battleship had been torn open by torpedos and hit 7 times. There were 2,335 people who were serving for the United States that were killed and 1,143 people were injured, so in total 2,403 were killed overall and 1,178 were wounded or injured. Almost half of the dead were soldiers on the USS Arizona. This ship had been the resting place for 1,102 soldiers who were killed because it had exploded and later sunk with men still alive inside.  After the second day, the ships were still continuing to lower more and more into the water. The extremely large number of deaths from the attack had destroyed many people’s hearts and left them speechless. It was hard to fathom the occurrence that had happened on December 7, 1941. 

It took a lot of effort to repair the damaged island known as Pearl harbor. The ruins of the attack was so gruesome. The fires from the ships lasted nearly 24 hours, which had prevented darkness in the night. It took about fifteen hundred hours to repair some of the instruments that had been on the USS California and West Virginia. The USS Arizona had been irreparably damaged, and it still lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor to this day. The people had taken nearly two months to repair the damage of certain vessels and planes. It was hard work done by the bare hands of men. Most of the ships had scraped against rocks at the bottom of the bay, so engineers had to repair the base of the ship. The sight of the island had people speechless. The thought that comes to mind when people think of the day of Pearl Harbor is horror. “Raymond Spruance, commander of Cruiser Division 5, was stunned and badly shaken by what he saw.” “Pearl was not the intact base he had left on 28 November but a smokey, oil-soaked disarray of crippled ships and dead, dying, angry, and frightened men.” The sight was like a bad dream. The aftermath of the bombing left everyone at a loss of words. America was stunned, shocked, and surprised.

The people that were currently living at Pearl Harbor lived in constant fear due to the attack. It affected the ways of the civilians and caused struggle for the place that they call home. There had been 49 civilian casualties and 35 wounded on the attack of Oahu.  The ages between these people who had been killed was any age. There were babies and elderly who had lost their lives. The bombing had affected the entire economy in a major way. “The war interrupted regular commercial shipping, and all government operations were turned over to the military.” The people were worried about the supplies and what other countries had wanted them. There was fear that there was going to be another attack on the survivors and the carriers that were missed on the day of the attack. No one knew what was next for them. A 12 year old named Chick Takara had been a witness of Pearl Harbor. She had been working at a restaurant at the time of the attack. “The Navy is using live ammo for their drills today. The boys climbed a ladder to the roof and looked toward Pearl Harbor. “Sure enough,” Takara now recalls, “we see hundreds and hundreds of gray and white powder puffs all over the sky.” This is only one example of what the people of Hawaii had witnessed. To this day Pearl Harbor is known for the number of tourists that visit the island. The sight of scene left people in shock and in disbelief.

The U.S. navy was able to bounce back quickly from the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The attack made America join together as a whole to remember those who lost their lives on this tragic day. 

Section 3: Reflection

This historical investigation taught me what it takes to be a historian. It was both challenging and interesting. I knew little background information about why the bombing of Pearl Harbor had happened. I also did not know what the damage was from the attack. After looking through many sources, including website articles and books, I found the information to answer my research question. Through this experience I learned the methods that historians use to answer certain research questions. The first difficulty that I had faced was determining which information was correct or incorrect. Many sources had a different number of casualties and wounded that had happened on December 7, 1941. It is important to find credibility to sources based on reliability. 

Another difficulty that I had faced was lengthening the research investigation. I had to find out why and the overall effect on Hawaii from the attack. An investigation of an historical event requires formatting that I have never experienced before. I had to find ten different sources, which was challenging. I needed to continue working hard to find information about why the Japans had atttacked Oahu, how the attack affected the naval base of Hawaii, its overall effect on civilians, and its effect on the economy. The book written by Daniel Madsen, Resurrection, Salvaging the Battle Fleet at Pearl Harbor was one source that helped me answer my question to fullest potential. It gave me facts about the bombing and he expressed what the island had looked like during and after the attack. All of the sources I used throughout this investigation gave evidence to support the question and made me become a historian. I learned that historians need to take risks in investigating a historical event that they may not be able to initially answer.

The part that was shocking to me was that it was a total surprise to Hawaii but not to the United States. I thought this research was very interesting. The sources I found had shown that this day was a tragedy and will always be remembered. It is a date that will always live in infamy forever. Many people were heartbroken because of the tragedy that America faced in 1941. It makes me think about how I would react if I was there to witness it. Throughout this research project, I developed skills to keep my interest in my topic while still answering my research question. 


  1. Alison. “Cleaning Up After the Pearl Harbor Attack.” Visit Pearl Harbor, July 1, 2016. https://visitpearlharbor.org/cleaning-up-after-the-pearl-harbor-attack/
  2. Alison. “The Hawaiian Economy After Pearl Harbor.” Visit Pearl Harbor, March 23, 2016. https://visitpearlharbor.org/the-hawaiian-economy-after-pearl-harbor/.
  3. “Attack on Pearl Harbor – 1941.” Atomic Heritage Foundation, June 18, 2014. https://www.atomicheritage.org/history/attack-pearl-harbor-1941.
  4. “Battleship Row.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior. Accessed October 27, 2019. https://www.nps.gov/valr/learn/historyculture/battleship-row.htm. 
  5. “Civilian Casualties.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior. Accessed October 25, 2019. https://www.nps.gov/valr/learn/historyculture/civilian-casualties.htm.
  6. Madsen, Daniel. RESURRECTION: Salvaging the Battle Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2013.
  7. “Pearl Harbor.” Khan Academy. Khan Academy. Accessed October 25, 2019. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/rise-to-world-power/us-wwii/a/pearl-harbor
  8. “Plan Your Visit.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior. Accessed October 27, 2019. https://www.nps.gov/valr/planyourvisit/index.htm. 
  9. “Remembering Pearl Harbor- A Pearl Harbor Fact Sheet.” cencus.gov. Accessed October 20, 2019. https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/pearl-harbor-fact-sheet-1.pdf. 
  10. Rothman, Lily. “Pearl Harbor at 75: Stories of Children Who Witnessed Dec. 7.” Time. Time, December 6, 2016. https://time.com/4589051/pearl-harbor-children/.
  11. “Speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt, New York (Transcript).” The Library of Congress. Accessed October 15, 2019. https://www.loc.gov/resource/afc1986022.afc1986022_ms2201/?st=text.


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