Pearl Harbor By The Numbers

A day that does indeed live in infamy

Grant Piper


USS West Virginia languishes after being struck by torpedoes (Public domain)

President Franklin Roosevelt prophetically said that December 7th, 1941 was a day that would live in infamy. And to this day, it still does. The attack at Pearl Harbor was equal parts brutal and effective. The surprise attack shocked the United States and plunged the other half of the globe into a new phase of a devastating war.

That attack took place exactly eighty years ago and it still is seared in global memory. It took nearly four years to end the war that was started on a clear day in Hawai’i all of those years ago.

The effectiveness of the carrier-based Japanese planes cannot be overstated. This was a surgical strike and it worked extremely well.

Here is exactly how fruitful the attack truly was.

Naval losses

USS Nevada on fire (Public domain)

The main target of the Japanese attack was the battleships that called Pearl Harbor home. The Japanese military planners hoped that by wiping out enough large surface ships the power balance in the Pacific would be tipped permanently in their favor. Battleships were extremely large, expensive, and took forever to build. If the Japanese could remove enough of them from the theater they would have a clear strategic advantage.

In that regard, the Japanese scored an ace.

There were eight battleships present at Pearl Harbor and all eight of them were hit.

Battleships lost: 4

Battleships damaged: 4

Battleship tonnage lost: 123,562t

At the time, the battleships were seen as the greatest prize bagged at Pearl Harbor. It would not become apparent until later that the aircraft carriers were going to be the surface ships of the day and no aircraft carriers were present during the bombing attack.

Eighteen ships in total sunk during the attack and were declared inoperable. One battleship, the Nevada, intentionally beached itself to prevent its bulk from blocking the harbor entrance after it was badly damaged.



Grant Piper

Professional writer. Amateur historian. Husband, father, Christian.