Part 3: The Result
In a little more than two hours, the Japanese had sunk 21 ships and killed more than 2,000 Americans. It was a devastating blow.
However, the American aircraft carriers were not in port. They were out to sea. As later results would prove, the aircraft carrier was the dominant ship in the navy. By not sinking the American carriers, the Japanese left the American left fleet largely intact. Of the 21 ships that were sunk on December 7, 1941, all but three were eventually refitted and sailed again under the American flag during the war.
When U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan the day after the attack, the answer was a resounding yes. An American that had been deeply divided over how much aid to give the Allies was not united in a common purpose: make the Japanese pay for their attack and rid the world of Nazism and Fascism.
Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto, who had planned the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, had studied at Harvard University and knew well the temperament and capabilities of the American people. He had warned others in the Japanese government that for the Pearl Harbor attack to succeed, it must be a crushing blow.
The attack was devastating, yes, but it wasn't a crushing blow. Moreover, it gave the American soldiers and their families a rallying cry that carried them through to the end of the war: "Remember Pearl Harbor."