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What was most importantly not at Pearl Harbor during the attack?

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There were three objects of great importance to the US Navy that were not located at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on the morning of December 7, 1941. Those were the three Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers, the USS Lexington (CV-2); the USS Enterprise (CV-6); and, the USS Saratoga (CV-3). If the Japanese had succeeded in sinking even one of the US carriers at Pearl Harbor, it would have been a crippling blow to the US Navy, which needed the carriers to launch aircraft into battle at sea.

Five months after Pearl Harbor, from 4 May 1942 to 8 May 1942, the Japanese Navy and the US Navy fought the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first naval battle in history in which aircraft carriers engaged one another, and it was also the first naval battle in history in which the battling ships could not see one another and did not fire on one another.

Just one month later, in June, 1942, the US and Japanese carriers and their task forces fought the Battle of Midway. Once again, fighter aircraft were crucially important. US Navy fighters and dive bombers sank four Japanese aircraft carriers in the Battle of Midway, and that was the beginning of the end for the Imperial Japanese Navy in WWII.

Airplanes were of crucial importance in the Pacific Campaign of World War II, because they did a tremendous amount of the fighting. In the Battle of the Coral Sea, fighter planes did almost all of the fighting. The airplanes could not have been in the battles without the carriers, because many of the battles were fought long distances from land or US military bases.

Nine days after the Japanese attacked Peal Harbor, the carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) was transferred from the Atlantic Fleet to the Pacific Fleet. Later, the USS Hornet (CV-8), which was newly commissioned at the time, joined the Pacific Fleet.
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