The Pearl Harbor Attack at Eighty Years

On December 7, 2021, it will be eighty years since the “surprise” attack on Pearl Harbor. In all of those years, many books have been written about the attack and its significance. In the aftermath of the attack, there were also a lot of congressional hearings to discover why such a devastating attack could have been possible. What caused the combined strength and power of the Army and Naval forces in the Pacific to be seemingly caught so unprepared for the event?

On December 7th of this year, I will be doing a presentation based on my own research for the past several years. The resources I have been using are the archives from the State Department, the War Department, previously classified documents from the scattered intelligience organizations and extensive material from world press archives that include non-American sources. As much as it is possible, notes from Japanese sources are included as a backdrop to the events leading up to the attack.

The title of the presentation is: The Road to Pearl Harbor. It will be presented at the McKeesport Heritage Center at 6:30 PM and published on line after the event. If you are local and want to join us.

Just a quick preview of one of the resources I used.



Prior to 1940 certain subdivisions of the Pacific Fleet and, beginning in May, 1940, the entire Fleet operated in the Hawaiian area with Pearl Harbor as a base. In May, 1941, three battleships, one aircraft carrier, four cruisers, and nine destroyers were detached from the Pacific Fleet and transferred to the Atlantic.

For the purpose of conducting exercises and maneuvers at sea designed to increase efficiency and readiness for war, the remaining major vessels of the Pacific Fleet were organized in three main Task Forces. The operating schedule was so arranged that there was always at least one of these Task Forces, and usually two, at sea. Frequently, during Fleet maneuvers, the entire available Fleet was at sea.

The vessels and the Fleet planes thus rotated their scheduled periods in port, periods essential to the mobility of the Fleet for purposes impossible of achievement at sea. At no time during 1941 were all the vessels of the Fleet in Pearl Harbor.

The operating schedule in effect on 7 December, 1941, was issued in September, 1941. In accordance with its provisions Task Force One, under the command of Vice Admiral W. S. Pye, U. S. N., and part of Task Force

Two were in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. Task Force Three, under the command of Vice Admiral Wilson Brown, U. S. N., was at sea, engaged chiefly in escorting the aircraft carrier LEXINGTON to Midway to which point planes were being ferried.

Part of Task Force Two, under the command of Vice Admiral W. F. Halsey, Jr., U. S. N., and including the aircraft carrier ENTERPRISE, was returning from ferrying planes to Wake.

Task Force One included the preponderance of the battleship strength of the Fleet. The three battleships of Task Force Two had been left behind in Pearl Harbor because their slow speed did not permit them to accompany the ENTERPRISE to Wake. It was purely a coincidence that all battleships of the Pacific Fleet, except one undergoing overhaul at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, were in Pearl Harbor on 7 December.

Or was it? Stay Tuned…

Mister Mac


2 thoughts on “The Pearl Harbor Attack at Eighty Years

  1. I really wish I could see this presentation in person! I guess I’ll just have to settle for reading it online.

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