Pearl Harbor Attack

Contributor: Sarah Lerdal. Lesson ID: 11394

Known as the day that will live in infamy, the attack on Pearl Harbor changed WWII. Not until 9/11 would America suffer as great an attack. Discover what happened and what it meant.


United States, World

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Take a close look at the pictures below.

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  • What is each of the pictures portraying?
  • Based on the photos, what guesses can you make about what happened?

The top two pictures show a battleship being attacked and sinking.

The bottom one shows the same ship immersed underwater years after the attack.

  • Do you happen to know the name of the battleship?
  • Do you know where it is located?
  • Can you estimate the time period of the first photo?

All these photos were taken just off the Pearl Harbor naval base in Oahu, Hawaii.

Japan attacked the Oahu Naval Base and the Hickam Air Force Base on 7 December 1941. Although Hawaii would not become a state until 1959, the United States used the strategic location in the Pacific for several military bases.

The ship sunk in the 1941 attack was the USS Arizona, shown in the first two photos. The bottom photo shows a memorial built over the sunken ship.

This lesson explores some of the questions surrounding this surprise offensive.

Create a note-taking chart using the header below and record the causes and effects of the attack on Pearl Harbor as you learn.

Causes ⇒ Attack on Pearl ⇒ Harbor Effects

Begin by watching the following video.

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Continue taking notes as you explore the following resources.

Now, read or listen to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's address to Congress on 8 December 1941. While digesting the content, use the context to interpret the meaning of the following words.

  infamy commenced deceived
  solicitation deliberately premeditated


Speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt, New York (Transcript)

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Some of the words listed above have more than one meaning, but here are the correct definitions in the context of the speech.

  infamy known throughout time for being notoriously evil
  solicitation an appeal to, or a plea
  commenced began or started
  deliberately purposefully or intentionally
  deceived lied to or tricked
  premeditated planned


  • Were you able to define most of the words in the context of FDR's speech?
  • How do you think most Americans felt when they learned of the attack?
  • Do you think the speech helped to assuage fears or add to them?

Many Americans were hesitant to get involved in another world war, but after the attack on Pearl Harbor, public opinion turned in favor of joining the war on the side of the Allies (Britain, Soviet Union, France, China).

Italy, Germany, and Japan made up the Axis Powers.

Move on to the Got It? section to review what you have taken away from your study of this pivotal military offensive by the Japanese.

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