Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese fleet, devised a plan to immobilize the U.S. fleet at the outset of the war with a surprise attack.
The key elements in Yamamoto's plans were meticulous preparation, the achievement of surprise, and the use of aircraft carriers and naval aviation on an unprecedented scale. In the spring of 1941, Japanese carrier pilots began training in the special tactics called for by the Pearl Harbor attack plan.
In October 1941 the naval general staff gave final approval to Yamamoto's plan, which called for the formation of an attack force commanded by Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo. It centered around six heavy aircraft carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, Hiryū, Shōkaku, and Zuikaku) accompanied by 24 supporting vessels. A separate group of submarines was to sink any American warships which escaped the Japanese carrier force.
Nagumo's fleet assembled in the remote anchorage of Tankan Bay in the Kurile Islands and departed in strictest secrecy for Hawaii on 26 November 1941. The ships' route crossed the North Pacific and avoided normal shipping lanes. At dawn 7 December 1941, the Japanese task force had approached undetected to a point slightly more than 200 miles north of Oahu.
At 6:00 a.m. on 7 December, the six Japanese carriers launched a first wave of 181 planes composed of torpedo bombers, dive bombers, horizontal bombers and fighters.
Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku just leaving Hitokappu Bay for Pearl Harbor. Sailors were winching up the anchor on the quarter-deck. Date: 26 November 1941
These photographic images were published before December 31st 1956, or photographed before 1946 and not published for 10 years thereafter, under jurisdiction of the Government of Japan. Thus these photographic images are considered to be public domain according to article 23 of old copyright law of Japan and article 2 of supplemental provision of copyright law of Japan.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, User Suiten
Photo #: 80-G-71198 Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941
Japanese naval aircraft prepare to take off from an aircraft carrier (reportedly Shokaku) to attack Pearl Harbor during the morning of 7 December 1941. Plane in the foreground is a "Zero" Fighter.
This is probably the launch of the second attack wave. The original photograph was captured on Attu in 1943.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.
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TEXT CREDIT: Overview of The Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941