The U.S.S. Arizona burns after being hit in the second wave of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Photograph courtesy the National Park Service, The USS Arizona Memorial Photo Collection
  • On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched an air raid on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Until September 11, 2001, the attack on Pearl Harbor was the deadliest assault launched against the United States. More than 2,400 Americans died and nearly and 1,200 more were wounded.

    The first wave of attack hit just before 8 a.m. This attack involved more than 180 aircraft, including torpedo planes, bombers, dive-bombers, and fighters. The first targets were the base’s airfields and “Battleship Row,” an area of the harbor where seven of the port’s eight battleships were moored. The bombing was successful—four battleships sunk, three more damaged, three wrecked destroyers, three damaged cruisers, and a target ship and minelayer capsized. In addition to the shipyard losses, 188 aircraft were destroyed.

    The following day, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war against Japan—and formally enter World War II. Roosevelt called December 7, 1941, a “date which will live in infamy.”

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    aircraft Noun

    vehicle able to travel and operate above the ground.

    air raid Noun

    attack, usually bombing, by aircraft.

    assault Noun

    violent attack.

    Battleship Row Noun

    (1941) series of docks at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii, holding warships at the time of the Japanese attack.

    empire Noun

    group of nations, territories or other groups of people controlled by a single, more powerful authority.

    harbor Noun

    part of a body of water deep enough for ships to dock.

    Encyclopedic Entry: harbor
    infamy Noun

    very bad reputation.

    U.S. Navy Noun

    military branch whose mission is "to maintain, train, and equip combat ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas."

    World War II Noun

    (1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)