Japan became an aggressor nation near the turn of the 20th century by attacking and winning two wars with China (1894-95 and the Russo-Japanese War 1904-05). Its successful participation in World War I (1914-18) and other military successes helped to fuel its aggressive ambitions. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Japan invaded Manchuria and, after withdrawing from the League of Nations, held the territory until 1945. In December 1937, Japan captured Nanjing (the capital of China’s Nationalist Party) and carried out six weeks of mass killings.
Because of the atrocities, the U.S. began economic sanctions and trade embargoes on Japanese key goods. In September 1940, Japan signed the Tripartite Pact (mutual assistance) with Germany and Italy, fascist nations then at war with the Allies. Negotiations between Tokyo and Washington D.C. were unsuccessful and perceived Western influence into Asian affairs ultimately led to war.
Japan felt that the U.S. military at Hawaii was a threat to its dominance in the Pacific. Since Japan and Hawaii were separated by 4,000 miles of Pacific Ocean, Pearl Harbor was not well defended, making it an easy target. World War II officially began when Germany invaded Poland Sept. 1, 1939, but in the Pacific theater the war began with a surprise attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. Additionally, Japan attacked the British colonies of Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong; U.S. military bases on Wake Is., Guam; and the Philippines. On Dec. 8, President Roosevelt asked for and received from Congress a Declaration of War against Japan.
The surprise attack at Pearl Harbor would drive the U.S. out of its isolationist posture and forcefully into World War II. For four years, battles continued at numerous locations across the Pacific that ultimately culminated with the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, August 1945. Japan ultimately surrendered unconditionally aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay Sept. 2, 1945.
The destruction at Pearl Harbor was substantial: Battleships (6 damaged, 2 destroyed); cruisers (3 damaged); destroyers (3 damaged); auxiliaries (4 damaged, 1 destroyed); aircraft (159 damaged, 169 destroyed); military personnel (2,335 killed, 1,143 wounded); civilians (68 killed, 35 wounded). The grave site for 1,177 sailors and marines, the USS Arizona, is now a national memorial and remains on the bottom of Pearl Harbor. Ultimately, the human carnage of WWII would be staggering, claiming between 70 and 85 million lives.
It is important to remember the atrocities of the past as an aide toward avoiding similar atrocities in the future. It is also important to honor those who selflessly gave their lives to protect this nation. It is with grateful hearts that Support Our Troops — Arizona places 300 U.S. flags along the primary roads in Robson Ranch in remembrance of the 2,403 who, on Dec. 7, 1941, made the ultimate sacrifice at Pearl Harbor to protect our freedoms. The black ribbon flying at the top of the flag represents the flag at half-staff. God bless the USA.