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Japanese surrender
Japanese surrender, Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945
Photograph courtesy U.S. National Archives, photo no. 80-G-332701


The three U.S. aircraft carriers in the Pacific were not in or near Pearl Harbor on December 7. Those carriers would soon go on the offensive.

In May 1942 code breakers predicted that a Japanese invasion force, including four Japanese aircraft carriers, was headed toward the Midway Islands, a key base for the defense of Hawaii.

In the Battle of Midway, the turning point of the Pacific War, U.S. carrier aircraft found the Japanese fleet that was heading for the islands and sank all four of its carriers. Each of those four carriers was among the six that had attacked Pearl Harbor.

Before the war ended in August 1945, the U.S. Navy would also sink the other two Japanese aircraft carriers that launched planes against Pearl Harbor.

Except for the battleships Arizona, Utah, and Oklahoma, every ship that had been sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor on December 7 returned to sea. None of the ships rehabilitated at Pearl Harbor, however, saw action until 1943; by then they had missed the crucial battles of 1942 and early 1943--Coral Sea, Midway, Solomons, and Santa Cruz. The restored battleships were used almost exclusively to bombard shorelines during amphibious operations.

When Japan signed the papers of surrender on September 2, 1945, the West Virginia, a symbol of the resurrection of the Pearl Harbor fleet, was among the U.S. warships in Tokyo Bay.


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