On 7 December, the United States will mark the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a 90-minute Japanese aerial assault on a US naval base in Hawaii that left nearly 2,500 people dead and sparked the direct involvement of the US in the Second World War.

Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
A sailor standing amid wreckage watches as the USS Shaw explodes at the Naval Air Station, Ford Island, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The USS Nevada is also visibleFox Photos/Getty Images

Relations between the US and Japan had broken down, and the rivalry over the Pacific between the two nations was intensifying. When the US imposed oil sanctions on Japan, the state's response was to remove the US out of the Pacific with a surprise attack, which would allow Japan to conquer South-East Asia, a region rich in resources.

The first wave of 177 aircraft was launched from six Japanese carriers at 6.05am on Sunday 7 December from a position just north of Oahu.

Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
An aerial photograph taken the year before the Japanese raid shows the East Loch and the the Fleet Air Base on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. Visible are the carrier Yorktown, 10 battleships, 17 cruisers, two light cruisers, and more than 30 destroyersUS Navy/National Archives/Reuters
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
A chart that was recovered from a Japanese aircraft that was downed during the attack on Pearl Harbor identifies ship mooring locationsUS Navy/National Archives/Reuters
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
Japanese bomber pilots are pictured receiving their orders on board an aircraft carrier prior to commencing their mission of bombing Pearl HarborKeystone/Getty Images
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
An officer on the Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku watches as planes take off to attack Pearl Harbor. The inscription at left is an order to pilots to do their duty to destroy (the enemy)US Navy/National Archives/Reuters
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
A Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M2 'Zero' fighter, tail code A1-108, piloted by Sakae Mori, takes off from the aircraft carrier Akagi, on its way to attack Pearl Harbor on the morning of 7 December 1941US Navy/National Archives/

At 7.51am – without explicit warning, without a declaration of war, and while the US and Japan were still in the middle of peace negotiations – the Japanese planes began their assault, dropping torpedoes and armour-piercing bombs on the most important battleships of the Pacific fleet. A second wave of 167 planes followed, targeting US air bases and aircraft carriers.

Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
An aerial photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack shows an explosion as a torpedo hits USS West Virginia. Other battleships can be seen listing to one side. Japanese planes (circled in red) are visible over Ford Island and over the Navy Yard. US Navy planes on the seaplane ramp are on fireUS Navy photograph
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
An aerial photo taken from a Japanese aircraft during the attack on Pearl Harbor shows the battleship USS Arizona burning on Battleship Row. Ships seen are (L-R) USS Nevada, USS Arizona with USS Vestal moored outboard, USS Tennessee with USS West Virginia moored outboard and USS Maryland with USS Oklahoma capsized alongsideUS Naval History and Heritage Command/Reuters
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
An aerial view of Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor – photographed from a Japanese aircraft during the early part of the bombing attack. Ships seen are (L-R): USS Nevada; USS Arizona with USS Vestal moored outboard; USS Tennessee with USS West Virginia moored outboard; USS Maryland with USS Oklahoma moored outboard; and USS Neosho, only partially visible at the extreme right. A bomb had just hit Arizona near the stern, but she has not yet received the bomb that detonated her forward magazines. West Virginia and Oklahoma are gushing oil from their many torpedo hits and are listing to port. Oklahoma's port deck edge is already under water. Nevada has also been torpedoed.Official US Navy photograph/US Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation/Reuters

More than 200 US aircraft were destroyed and eight battleships were hit, and many other ships were sunk or damaged beyond repair. Some 2,403 American citizens (2,335 members of the US military and 68 civilians) were killed and a further 1,200 injured.

More than half of the US casualties were on the USS Arizona, which was hit with an armour-piercing bomb that penetrated the forward ammunition compartment, blowing the ship apart and sinking it within seconds, with 1,177 crew members entombed in the wreckage.

The Japanese lost just 64 men, 30 planes and five mini submarines.

Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
The destroyer USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, home of the American Pacific Fleet during World War IIKeystone/Getty Images
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
Testifying to the extent of the Japanese attacks are these three stricken US battleships. Left to right: USS West Virginia (severely damaged); USS Tennessee (damaged); and USS Arizona (sunk)US Library of Congress
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
Sailors in a motor launch rescue a survivor from the water alongside the sunken battleship USS West Virginia during or shortly after the Japanese air raid on Pearl HarborUS Navy/National Archives/Reuters
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
Disregarding possible explosions, United States sailors man their boats at the side of the burning USS West Virginia, to better fight the flamesUS Library of Congress
Pearl Harbor
The USS Arizona burns after the Pearl Harbor attackHulton Archive/Getty Images
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
The gun turret and tower are swallowed by the sea as USS Arizona sinks. The Arizona received the greatest battle damage – 1,177 crew members were killed and 100 remained entombed in the shipUS Library of Congress
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
The USS Oklahoma lies capsized in the harbour following the Japanese attackUS Library of Congress
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
A car with a dead driver is seen eight miles from Pearl Harbor. Three civilians were killed in this shrapnel-riddled car by a bomb dropped from a Japanese plane on 7 December 1941US Library of Congress
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
The body of a sailor killed during the Japanese air attack at Naval Air Station Kanoehe Bay lies on the shoreline at Pearl HarborUS Navy/National Archives/Reuters
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
Sailors attempt to save a burning PBY amphibious aircraft at during the Japanese raid on Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay, HawaiiUS Naval History and Heritage Command/Reuters
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
The damaged battleship USS California lists to port after being hit in the attacksUS Navy/National Archives/Reuters
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
USS Nevada is seen ablaze off the Ford Island seaplane base, and a huge cloud of fire and smoke issues from USS Shaw, which is burning in the floating dry dock in the left backgroundUS Navy photograph/Reuters
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
The jumbled mass of wreckage in front of the battleship USS Pennsylvania constitutes the remains of the destroyers USS Downes and USS Cassin, bombed by the Japanese during the raid on Pearl Harbor. The ships were in drydock. The torpedo-damaged cruiser USS Helena is in the right distance, beyond the crane. Visible in the centre distance is the capsized USS Oklahoma, with USS Maryland alongsideFox Photos/Getty Images
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
The US Pacific Fleet burns in its home base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, after Japanese warplanes made a massive surprise attack on 7 December 1941AFP
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
Battered by aerial bombs and torpedoes, the USS California settles slowly into the mud of Pearl Harbor. Clouds of black oily smoke pouring up from the California and her stricken sister ships conceal all but the hulk of the capsized USS Oklahoma at extreme rightUS Library of Congress
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
The twisted remains of the destroyer USS Shaw burn in drydock at Pearl HarborUS Navy/National Archives/Reuters
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
Hickam Field aircraft hangar at Pearl Harbor, destroyed by Japanese bombsEvans/Three Lions/Getty Images
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
The wreckage of a Japanese fighter bomber brought down during the attack on Pearl HarborKeystone/Getty Images
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
A Japanese Type 00 (Zero) fighter with markings from the carrier Akagi is seen after it crashed during the attack at Fort Kamehameha, near Pearl HarborUS Navy/National Archives/Reuters
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
A Japanese midget submarine is pictured after having been raised by the US Navy at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard in December 1941. This submarine had been sunk by USS Monaghan (DD-354) during the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack and was subsequently recovered and buried in a landfill. The submarine's hull shows the effects of depth charges and rammingUS Navy photograph

After the attack, President Franklin D Roosevelt delivered a speech before Congress, calling 7 December a "date which will live in infamy". The attack prompted the US to declare war against Japan the next day. On 11 December, Nazi Germany and fascist Italy declared war on the US, which reciprocated the same day.

Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
People read the newspaper at the corner of Montgomery and Market Streets in San Francisco, on the morning of Monday 8 December – the day after the Japanese attacks on Pearl HarborUS Library of Congress
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
8 December 1941: A Marine rifle squad fires a volley over the bodies of 15 officers and men killed at Naval Air Station Kanoehe Bay during the raid at Pearl HarborUS Navy/National Archives/Reuters
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
8 December 1941: Ship's chief petty officers listen to the radio broadcast of President Franklin D Roosevelt's address to Congress requesting a declaration of War against the Axis powers. Note the photograph of President Roosevelt on the bulkheadUS Navy/National Archives/Reuters
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
8 December 1941: The front page of the New York World Telegram, with news that Congress had voted to declare war on JapanExpress/Express/Getty Images
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
8 December 1941: The day after after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, young men line up to volunteer at a Navy Recruiting station in Boston, MassachusettsHulton Archive/Getty Images
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
A war propaganda poster calls upon Americans to be patriotic following the attack on Pearl HarborThree Lions/Getty Images
Pearl Harbor attack December 1941
Remember December 7th: US Government propaganda poster of 1942US Library of Congress

Three and a half years later, the war came to an end after the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, and on Nagasaki three days later. Japan surrendered on 15 August. The assault on Pearl Harbor remained the deadliest attacks on US soil until 11 September 2001.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won't apologise for Japan's attack when he visits the US naval base at Pearl Harbor on 27 December, a government spokesman has said. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that "the purpose of the upcoming visit is to pay respects for the war dead and not to offer an apology".

Abe will be the first Japanese leader to go to the site of the Japanese attack that propelled the United States into the Second World War. The unexpected announcement came two days before the 75th anniversary of the attack and six months after Obama became the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima for victims of the US atomic bombing of that city at the end of the same war.