The day the attack on Pearl Harbor started – level 3


It’s December 1941. For 11 days, Japanese warships have been secretly sailing the Pacific Ocean towards Hawaii, which is 6,000 km away. There is a US naval base in Hawaii.

It’s called Pearl Harbor and it’s a popular place for American Marines as there are nice weather and beautiful beaches there. Americans think they are in a safe place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

On December 7, 1941, at 6 a.m., the Japanese aircraft carriers are only 400 km north of Hawaii, and they are ready for the attack.

At 7:55 a.m. the attack begins. The Japanese send 350 planes in two waves. They are surprised that there is no strong resistance from the Americans. All US airports around the base are destroyed. The Japanese also attack American warships with torpedoes. The ships are all sunk or damaged.

The whole attack takes only 90 minutes. The Japanese destroy 16 ships and over 350 American planes. Nearly 2,500 Americans are dead. The Japanese celebrate a victory. Immediately after the attack, the United States declare war on Japan and soon after also on Germany. The war that has been until that time a European war becomes a world war.

Difficult words: naval (related to the sea army), Marine (a soldier who serves on a ship), as (because), aircraft carrier (a warship that carries planes), wave (a large group or an amount of time), declare (to say something publicly).

What strategies do you think the US should have taken to protect Pearl Harbor from the Japanese attack?


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