Pearl Harbour - America Enters the War

When war broke out in Europe in 1939 Japan decided to start expanding its territory to the Asian mainland. The Japanese occupied parts of China and conquered Indochina as well. The United States was against the Japanese invasion of Asia. They thought they could stop them by halting the sales of petroleum and other raw materials which the Japanese desperately needed. Japanese generals realized that only the United States had the power to stop them. The American navy was so strong that it had to be destroyed.

On the morning of December 7, 1941 Japanese warplanes attacked U.S. warships at Pearl Harbour naval base in Hawaii. It came as a complete surprise to the Americans. Within hours, bombs and torpedoes sank six American ships and killed more than 2,000 Americans. The Japanese had destroyed the heart of the American fleet.

American battleship USS West Virginia destroyed during the attack on Pearl Harbour


The next day, the United States declared war on Japan and a few days later on the other Axis powers, Italy and Germany.

The attack on Pearl Harbour was the beginning of the war in the Pacific. On the same day, the Japanese also invaded the Philippines and attacked Hong Kong. In the first few months the Japanese were very successful and captured many important islands, but in June 1942 the tide turned . A strong fleet of Japanese warships wanted to take control of Midway Island. American warplanes attacked from aircraft carriers and destroyed much of the Japanese fleet.

  • aircraft carrier = ship that planes can fly from and land on
  • attack = an act of using weapons against an enemy in a war
  • capture = to take control of
  • conquer = to take control of a country by fighting
  • declare war = when a government officially says that it is at war
  • desperately = badly, very much
  • destroy = to damage completely
  • expand = to grow, get bigger
  • fleet = a group of ships that belongs to the navy of a country
  • halt = stop
  • invasion, invade = when an army of a country enters another country and takes control of it
  • mainland = the main area of a country, not the islands
  • naval base = a place where military people work and where many ships are kept
  • navy = part of a country's army that fights at sea
  • raw materials = very important products that a country needs, like wood, oil, coal etc..
  • realize = to begin to understand something
  • successful = to be good at something
  • territory = land