December 7, 1941: The Day That Changed the World


The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 started a chain of world changing events.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941 the world was changed and it would be three and a half years before World War II would come to an end. In a few days we will commemorate the 68th anniversary of the attack.

Brother Born 57 Days Before Pearl Harbor

My older brother was born 57 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. My father was too young to serve in World War I and too old to serve in World War II but would have served if the war in the Pacific hadn’t ended when it did because they were calling up older citizens at that time.

The attack gave the United States a reason to declare war on Japan and Germany and led to the ultimate defeat of both powerful countries in World War II.

418,500 Americans Died in World War II

418,500 Americans died in World War II either as members of the military or as civilians. The population of Miami, Florida was estimated at 413,000 in 2008. 5,000 more were killed in World War II than the population of Miami.

German deaths have been estimated at between 6.5 and 8.4 million while 2.7 million Japanese died with 220,000 Japanese civilians dying in the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Russia Had 23 Million Deaths in World War II

Russia was hit the hardest by World War II with 23 million Russians dying representing 14 percent of the population.

The loss of life in World War II has been estimated at between 62.8 million and 78.4 million. The United Kingdom today has a population of 61 million which is one million less than the lower number of reported deaths while Egypt has a population of 77 million which is one million less than the higher estimate of World War II deaths.

It would be three and a half years before the United States became involved in the European theater when U.S. invaded Normandy on June 6, 1944 which was four months and eight days before I was born.

2,499 American Soldiers Reportedly Killed at Normandy

There have been estimates of 2,499 American deaths during the Battle of Normandy which was a part of Operation Overlord. This probably was one of the deadliest battles in history with the Germans entrenched with the Siegfried Line of defense.

If not for the delay of General Erwin Rommel arriving at Normandy late there would have been many more American casualties. Rommel refused to deport Jews from France as ordered by Hitler and when he was found to have particpated in the planning of the July 20, 1944 bombing attack that failed to kill Hitler and Rommel was permitted to commit suicide rather than be excecuted on October 14, 1944 the same day I was born in Indiana.

Another way Pearl Harbor attacks affected the world was when the allied forces in Germany split up the country with the Russians taking over East Germany and would remain in power there until the Berlin Wall was demolished by demonstrators during the 1989 protests that culminated in East and West Germany being unified.

Mr. Gorbachev: Tear Down This Wall

In 1987 President Ronald Reagan had said in a statement: “Mr. Gorbachev tell down this wall” two years later the wall was down.

Because of the Pearl Harbor attack Americans volunteered to join the armed forces wanting to do their part in the war effort. Ladies were working in defense factories building military equipment for the soldiers overseas.

Rationed Lard To Make Nitroglycerine

The American people were asked to ration products like lard which was used during the war to make nitroglycerine.

To save fuel the national speed limit was set at 35 MPH. That was just a few of the sacrifices Americans back home made so that the American war effort would be successful.

The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 was the beginning of three and a half years of war in which so many families lost loved ones in the war.

The war ended with President Truman ordering the atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombings may have ended the war but it brought with it a huge loss in Japanese lives.


Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

4 thoughts on “December 7, 1941: The Day That Changed the World”

  1. Did you feel the irony of President Obama making his speech the other night from the Eisenhower room? I know Ike never let the Germans know how many troops he was sending, when they were coming or when they would leave. Not a very good Commander In Chief.

  2. I agree…There is such a thing as too much information. It is also ironic that Obama promised during the the campaign that he would have the troops out of both countries soon after taking office. Once he got in office he realized it wasn’t that easy to abandon two countries. The Dixie Chicks are not happy campers right now seeing their hero is not going to end the war anytime soon.

    The other day Obama was talking about keeping troops there till after he left office in 2017. However there is still the little matter of the 2012 presidential election.

  3. Remember Pearl Harbor — Keep America Alert!

    America’s oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, living his 101st year is former enlisted Chief Petty Officer, Aviation Chief Ordnanceman (ACOM), later wartime commissioned Lieutenant John W. Finn, U. S. Navy (Ret.). He is also the last surviving Medal of Honor, “The Day of Infamy”, Japanese Attack on the Hawaiian Islands, Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December 1941.

    (Now deceased) ‘Navy Centenarian Sailor’, 103 year old, former enlisted Chief Petty Officer, Aviation Chief Radioman (ACRM, Combat Aircrewman), later wartime commissioned Chief Warrant Officer Julio ‘Jay’ Ereneta, U. S. Navy (Ret.), is a thirty year career veteran of World War One and World War Two. He first flew aircrewman in August 1922; flew rearseat Radioman/Gunner (1920s/1930s) in the tactical air squadrons of the Navy’s first aircraft carriers, USS LANGLEY (CV-1) and USS LEXINGTON (CV-2).

    Visit my photo album tribute to these centenarian veteran shipmates:

    San Diego, California

    1. Thanks TetVet for posting about the Pearl Harbor veterans. We owe them a debt of gratitude for what they did. When stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii in the 60’s one of the highlights was my visit to the Arizona Memorial and reading the list of those who had died that day 68 years ago knowing they had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

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