Why Pearl Harbor? ​Study Guide

Vol. 1 Why Pearl Harbor?

Vol 1 examines the economic and political factors that led to Japan’s  aggression in Asia and eventually to its alliance with Axis Powers  Germany and Italy in pursuit of world domination. The program discusses  America’s debate over isolationism versus intervention and traces its  preparations for the possibility of war, including Roosevelt’s signing  of the first peacetime draft. The video then explores the Japan’s  strategy in planning the attack on Pearl Harbor, the stunning precision  and secrecy with which the bombing was carried out, and the errors and  misjudgments by American military that contributed to the attack’s  disastrous impact. Finally, the program explains how Japan’s strategy  backfired by forcing an outraged America – “a sleeping giant,” in the  words of  Pearl Harbor strategist Admiral Yamamoto -- into the war,  determined to avenge the devastating attack. 

Learning Objectives

 ∙ Analyze the economic factors that motivated Japan’s attempts at conquest in Asia.
 . Explain the reasons the United States was divided over isolationism or intervention in  conflicts in Europe and Asia.
∙  Analyze the reasons for growing   tensions between the United States and Japan that culminated with the bombing  of Pearl Harbor.
∙  Evaluate why Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was successful.
∙  Explain the impact of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on the United States. 


 1. Armistice – The cease-fire agreement signed by warring nations on November 11, 1918, that ended World War I.
 2. League of Nations – Proposed by President Woodrow Wilson at the end of World War One, the League of Nations was the first international association of countries formed to help prevent war. The Treaty of Versailles included the League Covenant, but Wilson could not persuade the U.S. Senate to ratify the Covenant. Consequently, the 
United States was not a member of the League, which dissolved in 1946.
3. Axis Powers – A 1936 military alliance formed by Italy and Germany; Japan joined in 1940.
4. Fireside Chats – Informal weekly radio broadcasts made that President Franklin D. Roosevelt made to the nation.
5. Lend-Lease Act – An act passed by Congress in 1941 authorizing the president to lend or lease war matériel to nations whose defense was considered necessary for maintaining the national security of  the United States.
6. Neutrality Acts – A series of laws passed during the late 1930’s intended to keep the United States neutral in foreign affairs and out of wars.
7. embargo – Prohibition or restraint of commerce. 

Viewing Questions

  1.Why did Japan invade Manchuria in  1931? (Japan’s economy was hard hit by the effects of the stock market  crash in 1929, and the country has no mineral resources; Manchuria is a mineral-rich country.)

 2. Why didn’t President Roosevelt  withdraw from Asia after the Japanese invaded Nanking? (Because  withdrawal would mean abandoning the Philippines, the only American  military base in the region.)

 3. Why did President Roosevelt  deploy the U.S. fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor in 1940? (So the  fleet would be closer to America’s strategic bases in the Philippines,  Wake Island, and Guam.)

 4. What impact does Roosevelt’s signing  of the first peacetime draft have on America? (It focuses the country’s  attention on the fact that isolationism may not be possible.)

 5. What is the Tripartite Pact? (An economic and military alliance among Italy, Germany, and Japan.)

 6. After Roosevelt wins re-election in 1940, what issue divides our country and causes debate? (Isolationism vs. intervention.)

 7.  Why does Admiral Yamamoto oppose war with the United States? (Because  he knows Japan cannot match America’s industrial might.)

 8. What  is the strategy behind Yamamoto’s plan to cripple America’s Pacific  fleet at Pearl Harbor? (He hopes it will give Japan time to overrun  Southeast Asia to acquire the raw materials they need.)

 9. Why  did General Short and Admiral Kimmel have an inadequate military base?  (Because most of America’s resources are committed to a potential  campaign in Europe.)

 10. Why did Roosevelt send arms to Great Britain, China, and Russia? (To support our Allies without formally entering the war.)

 11.  What was Japan’s ultimatum to the United States? How did America  respond? (That the United States officially recognize Japan’s  territorial gains in Asia, that normal trade relations be restored  between the two countries, and that the United States cease all support  for China. America responded with an oil embargo against Japan.)

 12.  What three errors by American military on the morning of December 7,  1941, contribute to the success of the Japanese attack? (The destroyer  commander’s report on the sighting of the Japanese midget submarine is  dismissed as erroneous by naval headquarters; General George Marshall’s  warning that war is imminent is not marked “urgent” and is therefore  received too late by General Short; Lieutenant Kermit Tyler assumes the  large number of planes approaching Oahu picked up by a radar station are  American planes returning from the mainland.)

 13. What is the  extent of the damage sustained by the United States during the bombing  of Pearl Harbor? (Twenty-one ships are sunk or destroyed; half the  Pacific fleet is knocked out; 2,381 men are killed.)

 14. What  impact does the attack on Pearl Harbor have on Americans? (It shocks and  then unifies them and begins a wave of patriotism; men volunteer for  military duty; women leave their homes to join the war effort; and  Americans want to avenge Pearl Harbor.) 

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Internet Resource

 Additional information about the bombing of Pearl Harbor is available  from the website below.



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