The attack on Pearl Harbor

Introduction

On the morning of December 7th, 1941, the Japanese made an attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was an unprovoked attack which caught them by surprise. This attack is known to have been a major cause of America’s entry into World War II. Following this attack, America declared war on Japan. This attack is considered to have been highly unethical. It was an uninformed attack without any formal warning by Japan. It was conducted while negotiations between the two countries were still under discussion.

This attack resulted in a lot of damage and significant loss of life. Statistics report that 2,402 men were killed and 1,282 were wounded (USSWestVirginia 2000). The Japanese carried out a series of simultaneous attacks. “They hit the American ships, military installations, military airfields, the fleet at Pearl Harbor and many others” (Navy.mil 1991).

Through these sudden and simultaneous attacks the Japanese aimed to destroy the US planes before they could fight back or defend themselves. The immense damage that the Americans suffered included the destruction of approximately 200 aircrafts and four navy battleships were sunk. On the other hand, Japan’s losses were much lighter with only around 65 fatalities.

Ethical Issue

This attack was also unethical in the context that Japan did not attack the US pacific fleet with the aim of a direct war with them. This was only a preventative measure they took to make sure that the Japanese could carry out their plans against East Asia, China, and United Kingdom without military interference from the US. Hence, all this destruction and loss of life was merely collateral damage. This uninformed attack identified Japan as treacherous and deceitful.

Outcome

The outcome of this attack was that the very next day America declared war on Japan. All Americans united with their allies and just one attack changed the course of the war. It led to the internment of the Japanese in the western United States. This was the exclusion and detention of people with Japanese descent.

This gave rise to strong anti-Japanese sentiments and hostility towards them. The most important and drastic outcome of this event was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by America (History.com 2011). These unimaginable bombings marked the beginning of the nuclear age.

On the 6th of August, 1945 America conducted its first nuclear bombing on the city of Hiroshima. The bomb named “little boy” was dropped on the city. Within seconds of this bombing, “around 30% of the total population of the city was killed instantly and around 70,000 were injured severely” (Truman 1945).

All that was left of the city was just a scar in the ground and monstrous grey clouds of smoke emitting from it. “Practically all living things, human and animal, were literally burnt to death,” (Truman 1945). By the end of the year, deaths resulting from the after effects of this explosion reached up to around 166,000.

While Japan was still awestruck by this explosion, on the morning of August 9th, a second bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. This bomb resulted in instant causalities ranging from 40,000 to 75,000 people. It also released large amounts of deadly radiation that spread all across the city and its surrounding areas.

This was the outcome of the attack on Pearl Harbor. These bombings initiated the nuclear age; it was the first time the world had witnessed this. After the bombing the American president Harry S Truman stated in his press release “The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor, They have been repaid many folds” (Truman 1945).

This statement of the president clearly implied that he believed the bombings were the correct way of avenging the attack at Pearl Harbor. He was in fact proud of it. If one considered the loss of life and destruction caused by Pearl Harbor to be brutal then it is obvious that the devastation caused by these bombings was far worse. Not only were there numerous immediate deaths but the radiation also caused a lot of diseases like cancer, birth retardations and other abnormalities.

Japan chose to surrender after the second bombing. If this decision hadn’t been made there were more bombings planned against them. This attack was conducted at a much greater scale than that made by the Japanese. Many innocent civilians were killed. Generations suffered because of the after effects of radiation from the bombs. While, Japan had targeted American security forces and equipment in their attacks, these bombings targeted the cities as a whole killing blameless people.

Innocent women and children lost their lives. Countless buildings including hospitals and schools were destroyed. This event was historically the most unethical and immoral ending to a war. The intensity and horror of it was so great that no other nuclear attack ever took place after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings (Crane 2005). Till date these are the only nuclear activities to have taken place.

Alternate Outcome

An alternate outcome to this could have been that the American government could have planned humanely. They might have targeted the security forces like Japan had done, and kept innocent civilians out of this. The bombs were used on too large a scale which was not necessary.

However, if bombing felt like the correct thing to do based on the circumstances at the time, the Japanese could have been given some kind of warning for resident evacuation from the areas. The nation was unaware of the intensity of these bombs since it was the first time they had been used. The Americans themselves were not certain of the outcome, yet they still carried out the operation.

It was stated that these bombings were carried out to put an end to World War II. If that was the case then other less destructive means could have been considered (Seligmann 2008). Most importantly, if the US was trying to highlight its hegemonic power in this war, the bombing at Hiroshima had caused enough devastation to prove it, a second bombing at Nagasaki was not necessary.

This could have saved hundreds and thousands of lives, it could have prevented the numerous diseases that resulted as a consequence of the deadly radiation. And it was after witnessing the supremacy of these nuclear attacks that other countries started investing in nuclear technology and now numerous nations’ posses it.

Sustainability

In both these incidents, sustainability of the target nation was not considered as it should have been. In the case of Pearl Harbor, an unannounced series of simultaneous attacks from the Japanese caused passionate feelings of dislike to arise against them. This resulted in incarceration of the Japanese Americans living in the West Coast.

The anti-Japanese sentiments resulted in mass removal and imprisonment of them. There was no criterion as to who should be exiled. All Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes and were sent to camps. Even the loyal and patriotic Japanese-Americans were not given any partiality. In some instances they were deported (Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum 1999).

Those Japanese descents that had been American natives for a long time and were dedicated to the country deserved to have been shown respect and tolerance. The deporting of American national Japanese community highlighted the aspect of racism.

Some were so disturbed by the behavioral changes in the society due to Pearl Harbor that they left the country by choice. However, in 1944 a number of Japanese Americans were selected to serve in the military and intelligence services. The selection was based on merit and those who met the requirements were given positions.

List of references

Crane, Conrad C. 2005. The Atomic Bomb [online] available from [Accessed on 24 May 2011]

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. 1999. The Spirit of Hiroshima: An Introduction to the Atomic Bomb Tragedy. Hiroshima: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

History.com. 2011. Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki [Online] Available from [Accessed on 24 May 2011]

Navy.mil .1991. Overview of the Pearl Harbor attack, 7 December 1941. [Online] Available from [Accessed on 24 May 2011]

Patel, D. 2007. Hibakush [Online] Available from [Accessed on 24 May 2011]

Seligmann, M. 2008. The alternatives to bombing Hiroshima were not morally superior. [Online] Available from [Accessed on 24 May 2011]

Truman, H. August 1945. Atomic bombings of Hiroshima press release [Online] Available from [Accessed on 24 May 2011]

USS West Virginia. 2000. Pearl Harbor causality list [Online] Available from [Accessed on 24 May 2011]