Burly Japanese admiral Chuichi ‘King Kong’ Hara said of Pearl Harbour, ‘we won a great tactical victory… and thereby lost the war’. The air strike on the US Pacific Fleet was entirely unexpected, delivered without warning and devastating in its impact. Conducted in two waves spanning just 90 minutes, the attack left 2,400 dead, 18 ships destroyed or grounded (including five battleships), and nearly 350 aircraft damaged or destroyed. However, critically, the three US aircraft carriers were out of port, and thus unaffected, and neither the port facilities or oil depots were significantly impaired. A more prolonged assault – or an actual invasion of Hawaii – might have significantly impeded US retaliation. Instead, the day of ‘infamy’ would be followed by a massive US mobilization and, in less than six months, by the Battle of Midway, in which Japan would suffer ‘the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare’.
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