Attack on Pearl Harbor

The War in the Pacific

Australasia 1941.1208

Attack on Pearl Harbor

Australia, New Zealand and World War II in the South Pacific (8 December 1941)

Historical Map of Australia, New Zealand & the Southwest Pacific

The rise of Japanese power had worried Australia and New Zealand since before the Great War, a fear that was not assuaged when Japan joined them in the division of Germany's Pacific empire. In the 1930s Japan attacked China, then took advantage of the fall of France in 1940 to occupy French Indochina. When the United States responded with sanctions, the Japanese bombed their navy at Pearl Harbor.

Main Events

Free French New Caledonia

The Conseil General of the French colony of New Caledonia votes unanimously to support the Free French government, forcing the pro-Vichy governor to leave for French Indochina.

Japanese invasion of French Indochina

The Empire of Japan and Vichy French Indochina sign an accord granting Japan the rights to station up to 6,000 troops in Indochina, and to move troops and supplies through Indochina. Within a few hours, columns from the IJA 5th Division cross the border at three places and close in on the railhead at Lang Son, near Longzhou, contravening the new agreement. French Indochinese colonial troops and Foreign Legionaires contest the invasion until 25 September. On the 26th, Japanese forces come ashore at Dong Tac and move on Haiphong, with fighting coming to an end that day.

Tripartite Pact

Joachim von Ribbentrop of Nazi Germany, Galeazzo Ciano of the Kingdom of Italy, and Saburō Kurusu of the Empire of Japan sign the Tripartite Pact in Berlin, capital of Germany. The 10 year Pact recognizes the right of Germany and Italy to establish a new order in Europe while Japan does so in Greater East Asia; it also compels the contracting Powers to come to the aid of any one of them that is attacked by a Power not presently involved in either World War II in Europe or the Sino-Japanese War.

Operation Barbarossa

At 3:15 am the Axis Powers led by Nazi Germany launch the invasion of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, bombing cities in a broad arc from Kronstadt to Sevastopol as some three million troops advance across the border. Within hours the momentum of the Axis attacks have completely destroyed the Soviet organizational command and control, paralyzing every level of command, and it is only at 7:15 am that Soviet leader Josef Stalin announces the invasion to the Soviet Armed Forces and calls upon them to act.

Sinking of HMAS Sydney

The Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney encounters the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran, west of Dirk Hartog Island, off the coast of Western Australia. Both ships are destroyed in the half-hour engagement - the Sydney losing all 645 personnel and the Kormoran losing 82 with the remaining 317 escaping in rafts. News of the battle - a major loss to Australia - only reaches the mainland in the following week with the discovery of the German survivors.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

At 7:48 am Hawaiian Time, Imperial Japanese fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes launched from six aircraft carriers mount a surprise attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory. The attack damages all eight US battleships present, sinking four, as well as hitting three cruisers, three destroyers, and two other ships. In addition, 188 US aircraft are destroyed and 2,403 Americans are killed, with another 1,178 wounded. Japanese losses are much lighter. The following day the US declares war on Japan.

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