On This Day: Japan declares war on Britain and US after bombing Pearl Harbor

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Sailors in a motor launch rescue a survivor from the water alongside the sunken battleship USS West Virginia during or shortly after the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, U.S. December 7, 1941. Picture taken December 7, 1941.  U.S. Navy/National Archives/Handout via Reuters   ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Sailors in a motor launch rescue a survivor from the water alongside the sunken battleship USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor. (Reuters)

This article is part of Yahoo's 'On This Day' series

It began at 7.55am local time, and it came without warning.

On this day 80 years ago, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

The US naval base in Honolulu, Hawaii, was besieged by two waves of Japanese aircraft, some 353 in all.

The surprise attack led to the deaths of 2,403 Americans, while 1,178 were wounded.

The USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941.    U.S. National Archives/via REUTERS   ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY
The USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on 7 December 1941. (Reuters)

Fighters and bombers from the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service launched from six aircraft carriers, and destroyed 188 US aircraft.

Read more: Pearl Harbor survivors share their stories

The following day, US president Franklin D Roosevelt said 7 December 1941 was “a date which will live in infamy”.

Watch: Arizona ceremony honoring lives lost during Pearl Harbor attacks

He told Congress: “The United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

That day, the US, which had previously been neutral, formally entered the Second World War.

U.S. President Frankin Delano Roosevelt signs the declaration of war on Japan in Washington, DC, U.S. December 8, 1941. The 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, which brought the United States into World War Two, is marked on December 7, 2016. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Handout via REUTERS   ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
US president Frankin Delano Roosevelt signs the declaration of war against Japan in Washington, DC, the day after the Pearl Harbor attack. (Reuters)

The two countries had been in the midst of peace negotiations, and the attack took place with no warning and without a declaration of war.

For these reasons, it was later judged to be a war crime.

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Japan carried out the attack along with co-ordinated strikes on US-held Philippines, Guam and Wake Island, as well as the British Empire’s Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong over the course of seven hours.

The attack on Pearl Harbor, referred to by the Japanese as Hawaii Operation, Operation AI or Operation Z, was intended to prevent the US Pacific Fleet from interfering with attacks on British territories in Southeast Asia.

U.S. Navy battleship USS West Virginia burns and sinks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii December 7, 1941. December 7, 2011 marks the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack in which over 2,400 members of the United States military were killed. Picture taken December 7, 1941. REUTERS/U.S. Navy Photograph/Newscom (UNITED STATES - Tags: ANNIVERSARY CONFLICT MILITARY POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
The Navy battleship USS West Virginia burns and sinks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (Reuters)

Japan lost 29 aircraft and five midget submarines at Pearl Harbor - and 64 of its servicemen were killed.

Pearl Harbor set in motion a chain of events that would alter the course of history.

After the attack, Japan declared war on the US and Britain, who both returned the gesture, declaring war on Japan.

Four days after Pearl Harbor, Germany and Italy each declared war on the US, which responded with its own declaration against those two European nations.

The UK had already been at war with Germany since September 1939 and with Italy since June 1940.

British prime minister Winston Churchill had previously promised to declare war “within the hour” of a Japanese attack on the US.

He said later: “In all the war I never received a more direct shock.

“As I turned and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in upon me.

“There were no British or American capital ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl Harbor who were hastening back to California. Over this vast expanse of waters, Japan was supreme and we everywhere were weak and naked.”

The battleship USS ARIZONA sinking after being hit by a Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941. The U.S. National Archives/Handout via Reuters  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The battleship USS Arizona sinking after being hit by a Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (Reuters)

Japan had planned Pearl Harbor from the beginning of 1941, and even though it came without warning, it wasn’t entirely unexpected - a poll of Americans before the bombing found that 52% predicted war with Japan.

The attack on Pearl Harbor lasted just 90 minutes.

Watch: Portsmouth WWII veteran reflects on Pearl Harbor attack

When it was over, 2,008 US sailors were dead and 710 were wounded. Another 218 soldiers and airmen were killed and 364 injured, while 109 Marines died and 69 were wounded. Another 68 US civilians were killed and 35 wounded.

All of the Americans killed or wounded that day were legally non-combatants, as there had been no state of war when the attack was carried out.

Sailors stand outside the USS Arizona Memorial at daybreak in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 2004. At the 63rd Annual Memorial Service which took place at 7:55 am Tuesday morning, the exact time the Japanese attack began in 1941, a moment of silence was observed throughout the pacific naval base, as the Hawaii Air national guard F-15's flew overhead in the missing man formation. The service included prayers and a rifle salute, along with 40 wreaths presented by Pearl Harbor survivors, military, diplomatic and government officials. REUTERS/Lucy Pemoni  LP/MR
The USS Arizona Memorial at daybreak in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (Reuters)

Almost half of the US deaths were caused by an explosion on the USS Arizona battleship, after a bomb blew up its forward gunpowder magazine.

All eight of the US battleships in the area were damaged, and four were sunk.

Read more: What happened on 7 December 1941 at Pearl Harbor?

Among the civilian deaths were nine firefighters from the Honolulu Fire Department who responded to the bombings.

Visitors walk near former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor speech, chiselled on the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, in Washington, December 7, 2005. [The December 7, 1941, Japanese aerial attack on the U.S. fleet in Hawaii, killed 2,390 and damaged 21 ships, bringing the United States fully into] World War II.
Visitors walk near former US president Franklin D Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor speech, chiselled on the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, in Washington, DC. (Reuters)

Of the US aircraft at Pearl Harbor, 188 were destroyed and 159 damaged, 155 of them on the ground. Only eight Army Air Forces pilots managed to get into the air during the attack.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US interned some 120,000 Japanese Americans in detention camps, most of whom lived on the West Coast.

Today, Naval Station Pearl Harbor remains a US base - it was merged in 2010 with the Hickam Air Force Base to to form Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam.

Watch: US Navy veteran, 101, recalls Pearl Harbor attack

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