Aero Club members and guests learn about Pearl Harbor attack


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Why the Japanese decided to attack Pearl Harbor was the topic of a presentation to the Sun Lakes Aero Club gathering on December 17 at the Sun Lakes Country Club. Approximately 80 club members and guests attended. Speaker Tony Contrabasso started with events occurring in 1885 and other events related to Japan’s decision to go to war with the U.S. Most of his presentation centered on what happened in Japan between the 1920s and the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941.

He said war between Japan and the U.S. had been a possibility that each country had been aware of, and planned for, since the 1920s. Japan’s need for resources such as oil, timber and rubber spurred its decision to begin an expansion program with eyes on new sources of raw materials in the resource-rich European colonies of Southeast Asia.

Tensions between the U.S. and Japan did not seriously grow until Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931, he said. Starting in December, 1937, events such as the Japanese attack on the USS Panay and the Nanking Massacre swung U.S. public opinion sharply against Japan.

As tensions grew, President Roosevelt moved the Pacific Fleet from San Diego to Hawaii. He also ordered a military buildup in the Philippines, taking both actions in the hope of discouraging Japanese aggression in the Far East. Japanese Admiral Yamamoto spent months planning an attack that aimed to destroy the Pacific Fleet and destroy morale in the U.S. Navy so that it would not be able to fight back as Japanese forces began to advance on targets across the South Pacific.

At first, the Pearl Harbor attack looked like a success for the Japan. Its bombers hit all eight U.S. battleships, sinking four and damaging four others, destroying or damaging more than 300 aircraft and killing some 2,400 sailors at Pearl Harbor.

But the attack had failed in its objective to completely destroy the Pacific Fleet. The Japanese bombers missed oil tanks, ammunition sites and repair facilities, and not a single U.S. aircraft carrier was present during the attack.

Now in its 24th year, the Sun Lakes Aero Club has monthly gatherings featuring speakers on a wide variety of aviation-related topics.

Additional information on the club is available from Cannon Hill at 509-539-7857, Gary Vacin at 480-298-7017 or by visiting the club’s website,