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An Operational Analysis of the Pearl Harbor Attack

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Final rept.

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This paper is an analysis of the Pearl Harbor attack from a operational level of war perspective. Its purpose is to provide the reader with a Japanese viewpoint of the Pearl Harbor operation, and to determine if there were weaknesses with the plan and its execution. The study is limited in scope in that it will focus primarily on a single operation of the Pacific campaign initiated by the Japanese. Much has been written about the devastation inflicted upon U.S. forces by Japan on 7 December 1941. Research initiated for this paper concludes that although the execution of the Pearl Harbor operation was successful, the operation did not achieve its strategic aim. A mismatch existed between operational and strategic objectives which was partially attributed to flaws in target selection, priority, and tactical level decision making during execution. Japans narrow objective of destroying primarily capital ships, spared important logistical facilities from destruction. These support facilities proved to be the key to a quick restoration of U.S. naval presence in the region. Likewise, Japans emphasis on placing a higher target priority for battleships versus carriers, allowed a more potent weapon system to essentially escape unscathed. This mistake had strategic implications in that aircraft carriers were the key weapons platform used to destroy the Japanese Navy in later battles in the Pacific. Finally, the tactical commanders failure to exploit Americas military forces at its most vulnerable point, minimized further damaged which could have been inflicted upon the U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor.

Subject Categories:

  • Geography
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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