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The Attack on Pearl Harbor Timeline

December 7, 1941

In the very early morning hours of December 7th Japanese forces begin to make final preparations for the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese Task Force races for the island of Oahu and the launch point of their attack aircraft. The midget subs of the Special Attack Unit are released from their mother subs and move toward Pearl Harbor. After months of planning, the Japanese attack on pearl Harbor has started.

Japanese Pilots Japanese Pilots
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At 3:32am the U.S. minesweeper Condor spots the conning tower of a partially submerged submarine 50 yards off her bow heading toward the harbor entrance. All submarines were to surface before entering the harbor or they are considered hostile. The Condor contacts the on duty destroyer USS Ward to investigate the submarine. The Ward searches the area but made no contact with the sub.


At 5:30am two float planes from Japanese cruisers are launched to conduct reconnaissance of Pearl Harbor and Lahaina Roads, Maui to insure that the US Fleet is at anchor at Pearl Harbor.


At 6:15am the Japanese Task Force turns into the wind and launches the first wave of attack planes. A total of 183 planes which consisted of Torpedo Planes, High-Level Bombers, Dive-Bombers and Fighters

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At 6:30am the USS Antares spots a submerged submarine off her starboard quarter moving toward the harbor entrance. The Antares contacts the USS Ward by light to inform them of the submarine. A PBY patrol plane on anti-sub patrol also spots the submerged sub. The USS Ward goes to general quarters and moves toward the area where the Antares reported the sub. At 6:45am the Ward makes contact and opens fire. The first shot misses but the second shot from the #3 gun hits the conning tower of the submarine and she begins to submerge. The USS Ward drops depth charges as she passes over the sub and the PBY also drops depth charges on the submerging sub. At 6:53am the USS Ward sends a message to Pearl Harbor-
We have attacked, fired upon, and dropped depth charges in defensive sea area.
Stand by for further.


Shortly after 7am the Opana mobile radar station at Kahuku Point on the northern side of Oahu began to see an echo in their radar scope from a large group of approaching planes. This echo was reported to the Information Center at Fort Shafter. The on duty officer assumed that it was the flight of B-17s from California that is due in at Hickam Field.

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At approximately 7:15am the Japanese Task Force turns into the wind again and launches the second wave of attack planes. A total of 163 planes were in this flight that consisted of High-Level Bombers, Dive-Bombers and Fighters. A total of 350 Japanese planes are now airborne and flying toward their targets.

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At 7:40am the first wave spots the Oahu coast and they begin to form up for their attacks. At approximately 7:51am, Dive-Bombers and Fighters attack Wheeler Field destroying American fighter planes parked on the flight line and the base hangars. The Japanese attackers devastate the airfield. It is also about this time that Japanese Commander Fuchida signals the now famous code "TORA-TORA-TORA".


Photos of Wheeler Field.
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At approximately 7:53am Japanese fighters begin to strafe the planes and hangars at Kaneohe Naval Air Station. PBYs in the bay were also strafed and set on fire.


Photos of Kaneohe Naval Air Station.
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At approximately 7:53am Japanese fighters begin to strafe the planes on Ewa Field. Some of the attacking Japanese planes are seen flying over Ewa on their way to Pearl Harbor.


Photos of Ewa Field.
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At approximately 7:55am Japanese Dive-bombers attack the south end of Ford Island, Hangar #6. Dive-bombers also attack the hangars and parked planes on the flight line at Hickam Field. Japanese fighter planes attack John Rodgers Field now known as Honolulu Internatonal Airport and strafe a civilian commercial plane parked on the flight line. Japanese fighters have also shot down a few small civilian aircraft flying around the skies of Oahu. At approximately 7:56am Japanese torpedo planes begin to attack targets on the northside of Ford Island and the Helena at the 1010 Dock. Japanese torpedo planes begin to attack Battleship Row about a minute later. They then focus the torpedo attacks on Battleship Row.



Photos of Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field.
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The attack is now in full swing as torpedo planes, dive-bombers and fighters attack the military bases around the island of Oahu. It is during this first wave attack that two Japanese fighters break off from attacking Kaneohe NAS and fly south to strafe planes and equipment at Bellows Field.


Photos of Bellows Field.
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Two flights of American planes are also approaching the island of Oahu. The first to arrive is the flight of B-17s from Hamilton Field, California. These B-17s attempt to land at Hickam Field and are attacked by Japanese fighters. Some of the B-17s are forced to land at other airfields around the island.


Photos of B-17s
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The second flight consisted of SBD Dauntless Dive-bombers of Scouting Six from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. These planes were sent out to scout ahead of the carrier and then land at Ford Island Naval Air Station. As they approached the Island of Oahu and the area around Barbers Point, Japanese fighters attacked the unsuspecting SBDs. Some of the SBDs were shot down and the others were forced to land at Hickam, Ewa and some did land at Ford Island during the attack.

One of the most stunning events during the first wave attack was the USS Arizona explosion at approximately 8:10am. She was first hit a approximately 8:06am near turret number 4. A specially modified naval artillery shell dropped from a Japanese high-level bomber pierced the deck just forward of the #2 turret and detonating the forward powder magazine. The force of the explosion was felt around Pearl Harbor. The high-level bombers continued to target Battleship Row and undamaged Battleships.



Photos of Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona.
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The USS Oklahoma and USS Utah have both capsized during the first wave attacks trapping men below decks. Rescue efforts immediately begin while the attack is still in progress.


Photos of the USS Utah and USS Oklahoma.
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At approximately 8:30am the attack starts to slow in intensity as the first wave attack planes start to return to their carriers. It is also about this time that the USS Monaghan gets underway on the West Side of Ford Island. The USS Curtiss spots a midget sub in the channel and notifies the Monaghan. The Monaghan rams the sub and drops depth charges. This is the only contact with a midget sub in the harbor. The reprieve will be short lived as the second wave of Japanese planes approaches the island of Oahu.



At 8:55am the second wave of high-level bombers begins their attacks at Kaneohe NAS. The second wave of high-level bombers and fighters quickly begin to attack Bellows Field, Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, Ewa Mooring Mast Field and dive bombers continue their attack on Pearl Harbor at approximately 9:05am.. The destruction continues as both dive-bombers and high-level bombers pound targets and the fighters strafe the bases. The dive-bombers focus their attacks on ships in the harbor while the high-level bombers hit the air fields. Torpedo planes do not take part in the second wave attacks. American defenses have come to life as anti-aircraft fire fills the skies. It is during the second wave that American fighters take to the skies. George Welch and Ken Taylor are two of the best known pilots that were able to get airborne during the attack but there were several others that also were airborne. These American fighter pilots were able to shoot down several Japanese planes.




Photos of different military bases that were attacked..
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The second wave's dive bomber attack on Pearl Harbor focused on the ships around the docks. The USS Pennsylvania and the USS Cassin and USS Downs were in Dry Dock 1 and came under heavy attack. The USS Nevada makes a run for the sea at approximately 8:55am but Japanese dive-bombers attack her late in her sortie at approximately 9:20am. They attempt to sink her in the channel. The Nevada beaches on Hospital Point near the USS Shaw. Bombs rain down on the Shaw causing a massive explosion that blows the bow off the ship and sinks her in the floating dry dock. Japanese planes also attack other ships around the harbor.


Photos of USS Nevada, USS Pennsylvania, USS Cassin, USS Downs and USS Shaw.
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The air attack on the military bases around the island of Oahu will continue until just before 10:00am. Japanese Commander Fuchida, the commander of the air attack, will make a final pass over the targets to evaluate damage before he heads back to his carrier with the rest of the second wave attack force still in the area.



Photos from Japanses planes of Pearl Harbor and Wheeler Field.
Photos of Japaneses planes from the ground.
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At approximately 10:00 the USS St. Louis exits Pearl Harbor and is attacked by torpedoes fired by a midget sub still outside the harbor. At approximately 2:00pm a badly damaged Japanese fighter plane crashes on the Hawaiian Island of Niihau. On December 12, 1941 the Japanese pilot was killed by the locals after he escaped and then threatened to kill them. The attack on Pearl Harbor is over but rumors of Japanese invasion begin almost immediately after the attack. Anxiety is high as men prepare for another attack.

Photos of crashed Japanese plane on Niihau Island.
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The last tragedy of the day occurs when fighters from the USS Enterprise attempt to land at Ford Island. The flight had launched from the Enterprise earlier to search for the Japanese Fleet and was ordered to fly on to Pearl Harbor. At approximately 8:30pm the flight begins to make its final approach to Ford Island when friendly forces at Pearl Harbor attack the flight. Of the six planes only one landed at Ford Island, the rest are shot down injuring two and killing three.

Total American losses for the attack are:
Personnel Killed.............2388
Personnel Wounded......1178

Break down of casualties for each branch of service:
Navy.....................................1998
Marine Corps......................109
Army and Army Air Corps...233
Civilian...................................48

Japanese losses:
Personnel Killed.............64
Aircraft Destroyed..........29
Aircraft Damaged..........74
Midget Subs lost.............5

Pearl Harbor Casualties minus the USS Arizona casualties, list from the National Park Service, USS Arizona Memorial web site.
Pearl Harbor Casualties list

Chronology of the attack on Pearl Harbor from Deck Logs from the NavSource Naval History web site.
View Deck Logs

Information on the attack of Pearl Harbor from the Naval Historical Center web site.
The Pearl Harbor Attack


Watch for more detailed information about the attack and the USS Arizona in the Historian Section of this web site.


Videos of the Attack on Pearl Harbor



Japanese Bomber flying over Hangar 6 Ford Island
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Japanese Bomber flying past Harbor Entrance
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Japanese planes bombing Kaneohe
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Crashed Japanese planes.
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Japanese Commander Mitsuo Fuchida
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Action near the USS Detroit, USS Raleigh and USS Utah.
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More Video Clips Soon!!
Photos courtesy of the National Park Service Arizona Memorial and personal collections.
Video clips courtesy of SFR Productions "Pearl Harbor The Real Story"

 

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