Attack on Pearl Harbor: Strategy, Combat, Myths, Deceptions


The December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor has been portrayed by historians as a dazzling success, "brilliantly conceived and meticulously planned." With most American historians concentrating on command errors and the story of participants' experiences, the Japanese attack operation has never been subjected to a comprehensive critical analysis of the military side of the operation.

This book presents a detailed evaluation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the ...

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The December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor has been portrayed by historians as a dazzling success, "brilliantly conceived and meticulously planned." With most American historians concentrating on command errors and the story of participants' experiences, the Japanese attack operation has never been subjected to a comprehensive critical analysis of the military side of the operation.

This book presents a detailed evaluation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the operational and tactical level. It examines such questions as: Was the strategy underlying the attack sound? Were there flaws in planning or execution? How did Japanese military culture influence the planning? How risky was the attack? What did the Japanese expect to achieve, balanced against what they did achieve? Were there Japanese blunders? What were their consequences? What might have been the results if the attack had not benefited from the mistakes of the American commanders?

The book also addresses the body of folklore about the attack, supporting or challenging many contentious issues such as the skill level of the Japanese aircrew, whether midget submarines torpedoed Oklahoma and Arizona, as has been recently claimed, whether the Japanese ever really considered launching a third wave attack, and the consequences of a "3rd wave" attack against the Naval Shipyard and the fuel storage tanks if it had been executed.

In addition, the analysis has detected for the first time a body of deceptions that a prominent Japanese participant in the attack placed into the historical record, most likely to conceal his blunders and enhance his reputation.

The centerpiece of the book is an analysis using modern Operations Research methods and computer simulations, as well as combat models developed between 1922 and 1946 at the U.S. Naval War College. The analysis puts a new light on the strategy and tactics employed by Yamamoto to open the Pacific War, and a dramatically different appraisal of the effectiveness of the Attack on Pearl Harbor.

Dr. Alan D. Zimm is a member of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where he heads a section in the Aviation Systems and Advanced Concepts Group. He is a former officer in the US Navy, completing his service as a Commander, and holds degrees in Physics, Operations Research, and Public Administration with a concentration on Policy Analysis and Strategic Planning.

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Editorial Reviews

Navy News
It is not often that one can say that an outstanding book transforms our knowledge of a well -known event but this can be said of Alan Zimm's Attack on Pearl Harbor....groundbreaking...sets straight the record of a key historical event...essential reading..."
Naval History Magazine
...uses modern methods of operational analysis to determine exactly how the Japanese planned and executed the great raid...a worthy, useful analysis...
Politique Etrangere
Dr. Zimm has a solid analytical and knows how to show the same time, a healthy critical distance vis-à-vis the literature (historical summaries, autobiographical accounts, official reports) put to use.
The Past in Review
An interesting analysis of the strategy and tactics involved. Instead of "the most daring and brilliant naval operations of all time", Zimm demonstrates that the Japanese carrier strike force did not plan the attack very well, nor did they train effectively for it... an interesting new "look" at this opening gambit in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
...nothing previously published has offered such a close examination of Japanese in depth study of the Japanese planning, preparation and execution of the attack with particular focus on factors not thoroughly considered by other historians, if at all...full of revelations that counter common perceptions...detailed analyses that lead to a much better understanding of what the Japanese did, why they did it and especially how the attack was very nearly an abject failure instead of a stunning success.
Warship International
Anyone with a serious interest in understanding the Pearl Harbor attack in its many aspects, both for what actually happened and for what might have happened under alternative circumstances, should read this new book for the invaluable analytical rigor and intellectual exploration that it brings to the subject.
...takes a very interesting approach…analyses the known facts and data using modern research techniques. The result is an arguably better and clearer analysis of what the Japanese did, could have done, and should have done. An amazing amount of detailed research on the part of a very fastidious individual has gone into this very valuable work.
Globe at War
"…proves an engrossing study, particularly for those considering themselves well-read on the topic…. it is even more interesting for those with ample knowledge of events in World War II's Pacific Theater of Operations leading up to, on, and following December 7, 1941. For a variety of reasons, including the provocative nature of many
of Zimm's fact-built arguments, this reviewer does not hesitate to recommend …"

“…very thorough …as an analysis of the raid from the Japanese point of reference it is very intriguing and goes far to display the old axiom “every plan changes (or falls apart) once the enemy is encountered”.
Sea Power
...examines every aspect of the attack and uses operations research techniques to critique the planning and performance of the Japanese forces and compare the results with expectations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612000107
  • Publisher: Casemate Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/6/2011
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Table of Contents


Folklore, Viewed with a Critical Eye 7

Chapter 1 Strategic and Operational Setting 15

Chapter 2 Targets, Weapons and Weapon-Target Pairings 53

Chapter 3 Wargames 71

Chapter 4 Planning the Attack 83

Chapter 5 Pre-Attack: Training, Rehearsals, Briefings and Contingency Planning 139

Chapter 6 Execution of the Attack 151

Chapter 7 Assessment of the Attack 173

Chapter 8 Battle Damage Assessment 225

Chapter 9 What Might Have Been: Alerted Pearl Harbor Defenses 267

Chapter 10 Assessing the Folklore 289

Chapter 11 The Fifth Midget Submarine: A Cautionary Tale 327

Chapter 12 Reassessing the Participants 355

Chapter 13 Summary and Conclusions 371

Appendix A Tabulation of Second-Wave Dive-Bomber Attacks 387

Appendix B Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Japanese Terms 391

Appendix C Ships in Pearl Harbor and Vicinity 394

Appendix D The Perfect Attack 401

Appendix E Acknowledgments 413

Bibliography 415

Endnotes 425

Index 454

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