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Defining Moments

The Attack on Pearl Harbor

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The infamous attack on December 7, 1941, on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor was supposed to be the Empire of Japan’s final step in a its quest for total domination of the Pacific. Instead, the attack served to mobilize the U.S. to fight wars on two simultaneous fronts. The result was the defeat of Japan, the destruction of global fascism, and the emergence of the U.S. as a modern superpower.

Defining Moments: The Attack on Pearl Harbor presents an authoritative account of the origins and progression of the Japanese assault that triggered America’s involvement in World War II. It also explores the event’s lasting impact on America’s political and cultural landscape. The volume is organized into three distinct sections—Narrative Overview, Biographies, and Primary Sources—which offer a one-stop resource for student research.

  • The Narrative Overview section provides a detailed, factual account of what led up to the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the events and issues during the era, and its legacy in American society
  • The Biographies section presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with the Pearl Harbor attack
  • The Primary Sources section collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era, including official documents, song lyrics, memoirs, editorials, and other important works

Other notable features include a glossary of important people, places, and terms; a detailed chronology featuring page references to relevant sections of the narrative; an annotated listing of selected sources for further study; an extensive general bibliography; and a subject index. For a more complete understanding of the coverage offered in The Attack on Pearl Harbor, please see the Sample Pages.

Standard Features

  • Library binding, 7 1/4 x 9 1/4
  • 240 pages
  • 30-40 photographs and other illustrations
  • Narrative Overview section: Provides a detailed, factual account of the “defining moment”
  • Biographies section: Presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with the event
  • Primary Sources section: Collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era
  • Research Topics: Proposes a list of topics suitable for conducting historical research and writing reports, a valuable starting point for student research
  • Source Attribution: Contains references for primary sources and other quoted material that guide users to other historical research resources
  • Glossary of Important People, Places, and Terms: Gives brief definitions for the many terms used in the book
  • Chronology: Highlights the related events in chronological order, along with “see” references that direct the reader to pages in the narrative with additional information
  • Sources for Further Study: Provides annotated citations for selected sources that are most useful to students
  • Bibliography: Lists books, periodicals, web sites, and videos consulted in preparing the volume
  • Subject Index: Includes people, places, organizations, events, and other topics

Research Topics

Each volume in the Defining Moments series covers a wide range of topics that students can use as starting points for further research. Potential research topics for Defining Moments: The Attack on Pearl Harbor are below:

  • Describe the rise of fascism in Europe and Japanese aggression in Asia
  • Defend or oppose America’s policy of isolationism prior to the Japanese attack
  • Review the political and economic forces behind Japan’s decision to attack the United States
  • Explore the factors that contributed to the United States’ failure to anticipate and prepare for such an attack
  • Summarize eyewitness accounts of the destruction of the USS Arizona and other targets of the Japanese air raid
  • Survey the reaction of U.S. leaders and the American people
  • Compare and contrast major battles in the Pacific Theater during World War II, including Midway, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa
  • Describe the Allies’ successful “island-hopping” strategy
  • Defend or oppose President Truman’s decision to use newly developed atomic weapons against Japan
  • Evaluate the postwar U.S. occupation and reconstruction of Japan
  • Explain the legacy of Pearl Harbor on U.S.-Japanese relations and world history


“Beyond its fine organizational structure and the remarkable amount of research contained in this text, its most impressive feature is its readability. Written more like an interesting story than a dry historical reference, this book should not only enlighten but also hold the attention of middle and high school students, particularly boys.”

—VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, Oct ’09; VOYA Nonfiction Honor List, 2009

“The quality of Hillstrom’s clear prose and meticulous research is first-rate. Events are extensively chronicled to give readers a sense of what transpired. Black-and-white photos appear throughout. This work is a must-have for reports and assignments.”

—School Library Journal, Aug ’09

“With this volume, Hillstrom adds another well-written book to the publisher’s Defining Moments series, which provides concise information on specific American historical events. … Like all books in this series, this affordable volume would make a nice addition to a school media center or public library collection.”

—Library Journal, Aug ’09

“This title will serve as a useful starting point for research on this topic and will serve its intended audience well.”

—American Reference Books Annual, 2010

“This book explores every aspect of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Written with a neutral viewpoint and chock-full of factual information, it will encourage students to read out of curiosity.”

—VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, Aug ’10