Texas Tech University

Historian Available to Discuss Pearl Harbor, America’s Entry into World War II

Glenys Young

December 4, 2015

Ron Milam is an associate professor of U.S. history with a specialty in military history.


World War II began in Europe with the joint German and Soviet Union invasion of Poland in September 1939. But despite increasing tensions and multiple United States allies fighting against the Axis powers, the U.S. maintained a policy of non-interventionism.

In the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 1941, the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in the then-U.S. territory of Hawaii was attacked by 353 Japanese fighter planes, bombers and torpedo planes in two waves. The Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor consisted of eight battleships, eight cruisers, 30 destroyers and 54 other ships, including four submarines. The Empire of Japan attacked from the air at 7:48 a.m. local time, destroying seven battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers and 350 aircraft; killing 2,400 military personnel and wounding 1,200.

The surprise attack shocked the nation and directly led to the American entry into World War II in both Pacific and European theaters. The U.S. declared war on Japan on Dec. 8, 1941. Both Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. on Dec. 11, and the U.S. reciprocated the same day.

Texas Tech University's Ron Milam is an associate professor of U.S. history with a specialty in military history. In advance of the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Milam is available to speak about the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II.


Ron Milam, associate professor of history, (806) 283-2354 or ron.milam@ttu.edu

Talking Points

  • Isolationist voices in the U.S. delayed American entry into the European war.
  • The U.S. threatened to stop selling oil to Japan because of their attacks on China.
  • The U.S. fleet had been relocated from San Diego to Pearl Harbor ostensibly in response to Japanese expansion in the South Pacific.
  • U.S. aircraft carriers were on operation away from Pearl Harbor.
  • Japan delayed declaring war on America until after the attack had been completed.


  • “Through the lend-lease program, enacted in March 1941, the United States tried to buy its way out of the war in Europe by lending ships and repairing British ships in American shipyards. As a result, America was not yet a participant in what was essentially a world war.”
  • “To supply their militaristic empire with oil and rubber, the Japanese targeted United Kingdom and American territories in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Guam and Hong Kong. Japan feared the U.S. would expand its Pacific fleet so it planned an attack on the naval facilities at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.”
  • “The American fleet was isolated in a harbor in Hawaii, along with aircraft to protect it. But the aircraft were located away from the harbor for fear of Japanese sabotage.”
  • “By sheer luck, the largest ships were at sea and thus were not damaged, allowing them to be available for subsequent naval operations.”
  • “President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war the next day, before Japan's declaration had been received.”
  • “With Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy having declared war on the U.S., America was now in the war in both Europe and the Pacific, thus completing the involvement of all of the largest countries in the world.”
  • “With the declaration of war having been approved by Congress, America adopted a war footing that involved the entire country, and war planners set out to aggressively fight a war on two fronts.”

Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at Texas Tech Today Media Resources or follow us on Twitter.