Tora! Tora! Tora!

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Tora! Tora! Tora!

The surprise attack from the Japanese forces on December 7, otherwise known as ‘The Day of Infamy’, brought the United States into World War Two. A film that shows the moments leading up towards the attack is shown in the film, ‘TORA! TORA! TORA!’. In this essay, I will use the film as my historical source to reconstruct the events leading to the attack on the Pearl Harbour and the attack itself.

‘Tora Tora Tora’ shows quite frequently the attempts to form diplomacy with the U.S., so that both nations can have peace. In the beginning, the film shows the German, Italian and Japanese governments signing the Tripartite Treaty. The film then continues to depict senior military commanders and admirals discussing a preventive strike on the U.S. in order to protect their advance into Malaya and the Dutch East Indies to obtain natural resources; oil and rubber. Knowing that if they further advanced into South-East Asia and unfriendly relationships continued, the U.S. would retaliate (the U.S. had already placed sanctions and embargoes upon the Japanese for their invasion into Manchuria), therefore the Japanese Navy reluctantly agreed to execute a preventive strike on the U.S. Pacific Fleet based in Pearl Harbour. We learn that between the Army and the Navy, there was a dispute over they key to victory on the modern battlefield – One who believed in the infallibility of naval and power and the others who believed in the dominance of air power.

On the other hand, the story of why the losses at Pearl Harbour were so catastrophic unfolds as why the failure of people, communication and technology allowed this to happen [Tora! Tora! Tora! 1970]. We learn that although the U.S. anticipated an escalation of military aggression in the Pacific, senior figures within the Navy believed that an attack on Hawaii would be extremely unlikely due to the shallow waters and the likelihood of being able to sight any Japanese carrier movement would be spotted well before attacks progressed. In essence, the U.S. believed that the other nations in the Pacific would be targeted such as the Philippines, Thailand and Borneo. It was this mindset that allowed the scarcity of aircraft to properly scout which allowed the Japanese to sail in without being detected.

On the day before the attack, the U.S. President, President Roosevelt made a final appeal to the Japanese Emperor for peace. Although this letter is ignored, we learn that the Foreign Minister says that the request came too late as combat operations were due to begin early next morning.

The 14th Part of the message; the ultimatum was intercepted but due to the ineffective communications and because it was a Sunday, the message of caution for an imminent attack came too late as well as the ultimatum which caused Admiral Yamamoto say, “I fear we have woken a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve”.

The Emperor at first wanted to go into war as a last resort and during the delivery of the fourteenth part message, the ambassador to the United Sates for Japan, Kichikisaburo Nomura said that the war he tried to prevent may finally have arrived.

The element of surprise was known by all to be vital to the success of the operation. However, in the film, we see that Mitsuo Fuchida was aggrieved at the fact the third wave would not be launched due to the uncertainty of whether the U.S. had sufficient power to defend against the third wave and also because the element of surprise had been lost. Had the third wave been launched, the third wave’s target would have been the facilities which may have altered the war. In the bridge of the carrier flagship Akagi, we see the admirals’ reluctance to leave without the launch of the third wave.

It should also be noted that whilst the Admirals of the Combined Carrier Group were elated when they heard news of the successful outcome, Chuichi Nagumo kept a solemn face [Tora! Tora! Tora! 1970] and during his debrief, stated that the primary targets for his operation, Admiral William Halsey and the USS Enterprise, Rear Admiral Newton and the USS Lexington and the USS Saratoga were in various locations and therefore were not damaged from the impending strike. Some admirals wanted to stay and search for the carriers whilst others wanted to head back home as low supplies would force then to abandon destroyers on the way back and the fact that even if searches were carried out, the aircraft would have to do night landings which at the time, no navy had a standard operating procedure.

The film depicted the War department as people working non-stop and even throughout the night and also during Saturday. At Pearl, on a Saturday (the day before the strike), the admiral called back everybody into their offices and a few officers had worked during the early hours of Sunday morning trying to figure out what was happening. Therefore, I would come to the conclusion that the film was trying to show that the Americans were trying to effectively make use of the information and make realistic decisions. However, the assumption that the Americans that an attack was imminent was when the message, “HOSTILE ACTION AT ANY MOMENT…IF HOSTILITIES CANNOT. REPEAT CANNOT. BE AVOIDED. THE UNITED STATES DESIRES THAT JAPAN COMMIT THE FIRST OVERT ACT. THIS POLICY SHOULD NOT. REPEAT NOT. BE CONSTRUED AS RESTRICTING YOU TO A COURSE OF ACTION THAT MIGHT JEOPARDI[S]E YOUR DEFENCE” was sent out and on two occasions, the commanding officer issued out two twenty-four hour alerts. In the hour of attack, Fuchida was surprised at the lack of resistance of anti-aircraft fire which shows that they were not prepared for an attack on Pearl Harbour. It should be further noted that Admiral Kimmel was portrayed as taken defensive measures. This meant the storing of ammunition for peace time regulations and the aircraft formation on the ground which made them sitting ducks for Japanese bombers. The film showed that the American response to the attack was ineffective except for the two pilots who managed to radio Haleiwa Field and have their fighters ready in advance. There is doubt to whether these two pilots did any significant damage like both this film and Pearl Harbour showed [K. Short, 2008 & Ill mention of Agawa’s ‘The Relucatant Admiral’].

‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ gave an insightful view of the Pearl Harbour attacks with optimum accuracy not usually experienced for a movie. It would be fair to say that it could even be called a documentary which some people did think [A. Leong, 2001]. Its vast informative approaches which showed how the United States were introduced into the war gave me a better understanding of both the U.S. and Japanese perspectives of which the film did so well.


Tora! Tora! Tora! 1970, DVD, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp in association with a Japanese film company

In this film, 'Tora! Tora! Tora!’ revisits the events leading to the attack on Pearl Harbour and the attack itself by giving two different perspectives; one from the U.S. and the other from the Japanese. The film was widely depended on the two directions (Richard Fleischer and Kinji Fukasaku) as the portrayals and perspectives were relied upon the two directors – Richard showing the American’s point and Kinji showing the Japanese’s point of view. The main limitation of this was that I only got to watch it once so missing any information whilst note-taking may have allowed me to not include certain information. This film was the foundation of my essay and I relied upon it heavily as this source would be the only one available to complete my essay.

Wikimedia Foundation 2001, Wikipedia, Online Encyclopedia, viewed 18/06/08

In this website, Wikipedia gives a brief insight on the film ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ and also by giving a the cast list. The website gains its information through various online users therefore not making its sources reliable however, for the purposes of this assignment, it was useful as the cast listing with the full names helped me with the names. The main limitation of this website was that it could only be used as a source for cast listing. This website will not form any major foundation of my work but only to aid me in writing the people’s names.

Hiroyuki Agawa 2000, ‘The Reluctant Admiral’, Bibliography, Kodansha International, Japan

Anthony Leong 2001, ‘Tora! Tora! Tora! Movie Review, Website, viewed 19/06/08

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MLA Citation:
"Tora! Tora! Tora!." 29 Nov 2015

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