The U.S. wasn’t officially at war with Japan on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese navy bombed Pearl Harbor, killing 2,403 people. Congress declared war only the next day, December 8. So when Arthur and Freda Rosenau filed a claim for their son Howard’s $1000 life insurance policy, they were surprised to hear back from Idaho Mutual denying the claim on the grounds that Howard, a Navy seaman killed at Pearl Harbor, had died at war.
Many insurance policies—not just life insurance—exclude coverage for acts of war on the grounds that war is so unpredictable, and potentially catastrophic, that insurers simply cannot model it or cover the resulting losses. Policyholders tend not to worry too much about these exclusions because they don’t imagine that war is likely to affect them.