Bloomberg News

Pearl Harbor Misses Led to U.S. Victory: Lewis Lapham

June 16, 2012

The Pearl Harbor losses inflicted by Japan were staggering.

More than 3,500 were killed or injured. Eight battleships, three light cruisers, three destroyers and four auxiliary craft were sunk or heavily damaged. The Navy lost 92 planes, while the Army saw 77 destroyed and 128 damaged.

(To listen to the podcast, click here.)

When Chester W. Nimitz flew into Pearl Harbor on Christmas Day 1941 to take control of the Pacific fleet, he saw that the attack could have been much worse.

Aircraft carriers and submarines, which would dominate in the coming Pacific battles, were left intact.

The dry docks and maintenance facilities were pretty much unscathed. Most important, the surviving oil tanks held 4.5 million barrels of fuel, which meant that the fleet need not head back to the West Coast.

These strategic blunders cost Japan victory in the Pacific.

I spoke with Walter Borneman, author of “The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy and King -- The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea,” on the following topics:

1. Annapolis

2. Subs and Carriers

3. Pearl Harbor

4. Midway

5. U.S. Industrial Might

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

Muse highlights include movie and theater reviews.

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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