Key point: From a strategic perspective, attacking Pearl Harbor was a bad idea.
Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, strike leader for Operation Hawaii and 20-year veteran of the Imperial Japanese Navy (Kaigun), strapped himself into the observer’s seat as his Nakajima B5N2 “Kate” torpedo bomber, piloted by Lieutenant Mitsuo Matsuzaki, and lifted off from the carrier Akagi on the black morning of December 7, 1941.
The top secret mission, he had been told, was to strike a crippling blow at the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, with the aim of gaining concessions from the United States and ensuring that America would not go to war with Japan.
There was not even a ghost of a dawn at approximately 6 am, but Fuchida and Matsuzaki gained altitude and circled in wait for the launching of the rest of the attack force of the 1st Combined Air Fleet (Kido Butai). Down below in the darkness, all six of Japan’s fleet carriers—the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku, and Zuikaku—were grouped 200 miles north of Hawaii.
The attack force included Val dive bombers, Kate level bombers, and Kate torpedo aircraft—all escorted by feared Zero fighters. As Fuchida watched and waited for his strike force to assemble in the air, his thoughts no doubt centered on the details of the coming attack and its prospects for success, and probably did not extend back to the decades of misunderstandings and miscalculations that had led to this fateful moment. It is worthwhile, however, to consider them here.