December 7th: The Attack on Pearl Harbor, Winecoff Hotel Fire and Other Events of the Date
A number of important events have taken place on December 7th in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them.
1941 – Second World War: Pacific Theater: The Attack on Pearl Harbor
American politicians, even those who were considered to be “isolationists,” and didn’t want the U.S. to participate in the Second World War at all, had always seen Japan as the main opponent of America in the Pacific region, thus – they had done everything in their power to counteract that country by imposing economic sanctions and trade restrictions. There also are some versions according to which the opposite of the “isolationist” party, who actually wanted the war – simply let the naval base be attacked by ignoring reports that Japan would attack the U.S. in Hawaii. So, a combination of these forces, as well as some other objective factors led to the brutal Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor.
This became one of the worst disasters in the history of the U.S. military. The attack commenced at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time (18:18 GMT), when Pearl Harbor was attacked by 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft (including fighters, level and dive bombers, and torpedo bombers) in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. As a result, all eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four sunk. All but the USS Arizona were later raised, and six were returned to service and went on to fight in the war though. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, as well as one minelayer.
The casualties were quite severe, as 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; at least 2403 Americans were killed and 1178 others were wounded. Opposite to it, Japanese losses were quite light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines were lost, along with 64 servicemen killed. One Japanese sailor, Kazuo Sakamaki, was captured.
Interestingly, important base installations such as the power station, dry dock, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities were not attacked, that also gave birth to some conspiracy theories regarding the nature of this brutal raid. No matter what it really was, beginning on December 7, 1941 and lasting until September 2, 1945 the U.S. would be engaged in the Second World War, fighting in the Pacific, Africa and in Europe.
1946 – Winecoff Hotel Fire
Five years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1946, America suffered the deadliest hotel fire in its history.
The fire killed 119 hotel occupants, including the hotel's owners. Located at 176 Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, the Winecoff Hotel was advertised as "absolutely fireproof." Of course, this was far from the truth, since while the hotel's steel structure was indeed protected against the effects of fire, the hotel's interior finishes were combustible, and the building's exit arrangements consisted of a single stairway serving all fifteen floors.
All of the hotel's occupants above the fire's origin on the third floor were trapped, and the fire's survivors either were rescued from upper-story windows or jumped into nets held by firemen. The Winecoff Fire was also notable for the number of victims who jumped to their deaths, and a photograph of one survivor's fall won the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for Photography.
1993 - The Long Island Rail Road shooting
America is a country that has been tackling the issue of mass shootings for decades, but as it was decades ago, and as it is now – sometimes it seems like the problem can’t be fought at all.
25 years ago, December 7, 1993, a mass shooting occurred when a Long Island Rail Road train pulled into the Merillon Avenue station in Garden City, New York. Shortly after a passenger, identified as Colin Ferguson, pulled out a Ruger P89 9mm pistol and started firing at other passengers. When the rounds were fired, 6 people were killed and 19 were wounded. The number of victims could be even worse, if Ferguson wasn’t stopped by other passengers: Kevin Blum, Mark McEntee, and Mike O'Connor – who were true heroes that saved numerous lives that day.
Ferguson's trial was notable for a number of unusual developments, including Ferguson’s firing of his defense counsel and his insistence on representing himself and questioning his own victims on the stand. Eventually, on February 17, 1995, he was convicted of the six murders and of attempted murder for wounding nineteen passengers. To this day he is still serving his sentence of 315 years and 8 months to life at the Upstate Correctional Facility in Franklin County, New York.
These are the most notable events in U.S. history that occurred on December 7th, at least in our view.