Weather conditions saved our aircraft carriers during the attack on Pearl Harbor
Along with saving our aircraft carriers, weather conditions in Pearl Harbor may have saved the entire Pacific Theater of World War II for the United States
Weather conditions saved our aircraft carriers during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, and possibly the entire Pacific theater.
Of the many warships stationed in Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7th, the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise and USS Lexington were missing.
Both ships were coming back from missions from Midway and Wake Islands.. reports Indicate that rough seas and poor weather conditions prevented both ships from being home on time – which would have placed them in harbor for the Japanese attack.
The irony, is that battle plans of the Japanese Navy included the aircraft carriers as “targets of opportunity” rather than priority targets. Whether or not there was disagreement among the top brass on the importance of the carriers is unclear, but we do know that the Japanese military considered Pearl Harbor a major victory even without the aircraft carriers being crippled or destroyed.
There were few naïve enough in the Japanese military, save for some top politicians and top brass, to think The United States was knocked out of the war – but they did believe that the emotional and psychological toll of the attack would throw the US Navy into turmoil – enough for Japan to take advantage in the West Pacific and take positions of strength.
The only person who seemed to recognize the magnitude and clear danger of the missing US carriers was Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.
“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
To a degree, the Japanese plan was successful despite missing the carriers – given the loss of the Philippines by the US and the blitz of islands captured by the Japanese Navy.
The Lexington and Enterprise, untouched by the Pearl Harbor attacks – immediately became a problem for the Japanese, however and slowed their progress.
The Japanese Navy decided the carriers needed to be crushed…. forcing action at the Famous battle of midway. This is where the second critical mistake at Pearl Harbor comes into play.
Almost the entire fuel supply of the pacific fleet – Massive fuel depots sitting right next to the harbor, were completely untouched. If attacks were focused solely on these fuel depots rather than the big, tempting targets of battleship row… the pacific fleet could have been crippled up to 6 months without a single ship being sunk.
The irony of the sunny, clear skies in Pearl Harbor that morning is that the battleships were sitting ducks in clear blue water – but if conditions were worse towards the harbor… the big white and black fuel containers may have been much, much easier targets for planes looking for an easy Mark.
Boats, jeeps, trucks, battleships, planes, lawnmowers, everything would have ground to a halt on the island.
Though some ships were lost, others were only half sunk, damaged partially or out of action for a few months before being welded up and sent back into action thanks to the shipyards…. which were also only artificially damaged.
The Japanese picked targets that were -designed- to be attacked and torpedoed, leaving completely undefended and critical targets in full operation.
The Japanese Navy lost 4 aircraft carriers in the battle of Midway, while the US fleet lost one – the USS Yorktown. The US had the fuel supply, shipyards and logistics to replace lost material at ten times the rate of the Japanese Navy… which was crippled by oil shortages and logistical inefficiencies.
Rough seas may have *just* been enough to keep our carriers in action and the clear sunny skies at Pearl Harbor on December 7th may have drawn Japanese pilots to the big score in the clear blue waters, rather than the knockout punch Yamamoto was hoping for.
We remember those we lost at Pearl Harbor, and the resolve of those who survived.