Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, A Date Which Will Live in Infamy
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is honored each year on Dec. 7. It’s the day when the Empire of Japan bombed the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii and the Pacific territories. Pearl Harbor signaled the end of a major debate in United States foreign policy at the time and altered the course of history, sending American troops into the vicious maw of World War II and embroiling the Allied nation in international conflict. The events of that day are worth solidifying in the country’s memory, lest we become complacent to the horrors of war and apathetic to growing geopolitical tensions.
Pearl Harbor History
Where is Pearl Harbor Located?
Pearl Harbor is a lagoon and deep-water naval base on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. It has long been the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Even before it was officially recognized as such, naval ships have been docking there. While it still belonged to the Kingdom of Hawaii, the United States used the port for commercial purposes, including trade and whaling. American diplomats and warships were sent to Hawaii to advise the island kingdom in its burgeoning international relationships, and the hand of colonization began to close on the archipelago. Over the years, U.S. interests deepened and extended the harbor and its access to the ocean so that ships could more easily dock and control the surrounding waters. Hawaiin King Kalakaua and the leadership of the kingdom gave exclusive access to Pearl Harbor to the United States in 1874, and a repair station for American ships was built there. In 1899, a U.S. base was built.
What Happened at Pearl Harbor?
On Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941, Imperial Japanese pilots appeared in the skies above Oahu, Hawaii. Over 350 aircraft including fighters and dive bombers flew toward the base, making two waves in a surprise attack that would live in American memory for generations to come. Close to 20 naval ships were destroyed, including U.S. destroyers, cruisers, and a minelayer, and severe damage was incurred by more. 188 American planes were destroyed. Crucial base facilities were crippled. 2,403 Americans were killed. 1,178 others were injured. Japan lost just 29 planes and 5 small subs, but the commander of the submarine unit was captured by U.S. forces.
What time was Pearl Harbor attacked?
7:48 on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941.
How long did the attack on Pearl Harbor last?
The surprise attack lasted less than 2 hours in all. At the end of which, more than 3,000 Americans were killed or wounded.
Who bombed Pearl Harbor?
The Empire of Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in a tactical move to cripple the U.S. Pacific Fleet and keep the United State from entering World War II.
How many Americans died in Pearl Harbor?
2,403 American were killed at Pearl Harbor. Included in this count are 1,000 seamen who were trapped inside the USS Arizona as Japanese bombs fell on the forward magazine, causing an explosion that tore the ship in half and sunk the vessel before most on board could escape.
What Happened After Pearl Harbor?
The United States Entered WW2
Later on the same day following the attack, the Empire of Japan declared war on the United States. The very next day, the United States declared war on the Empire of Japan. The other Axis powers of Germany and Italy also declared war on the U.S. The entrance of America into the war had a lot to do with who was president during Pearl Harbor.
Roosevelt had been opposed to Japanese aggression in the Pacific and his administration was aiding its enemies. Though it was a delicate balancing act to appease the isolationist movement in the United States, which included high-profile advocates such as former war hero and famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, who backed the influential America First Committee.
The stated goal of the America First initiative was to keep America out of the war, but many prominent historians viewed them as Nazi sympathizers, as they denied or downplayed many of the crimes perpetrated by the early invasions and propaganda of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels. They did not believe that America should join the Allied effort against the Axis powers.
The United States and Japan Relationship Prior to WW2
Before the surprise attack, the U.S. and Japan had been valued trading partners. And in the years before the war, FDR continued a policy of trade between America and Japan that had been mutually beneficial. As the Pacific War progressed, however, the U.S. began slowing its exports of valuable resources the Japanese military required to keep up its efforts and maintain its equipment, resources like machine parts and oil.
At the same time, America and European nations began to increase trade and financial support for China, attempting to enable the country to fight off the Japanese invaders. The attack on Pearl Harbor stopped all that, and the U.S. unequivocally ceased trade with Japan and shrugged off the rhetoric of the America First Committee and the isolationists, officially entering the war on the side of the Allies.
When is Pearl Harbor Day?
We honor Pearl Harbor Day on Dec. 7, the day in 1941 that Japan launched the surprise attack on U.S. territories in the Pacific. To remember those lost and injured, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Oahu holds a special ceremony annually, surrounded by the wreckage of the surprise attack and the site where it happened.
This year’s Pearl Harbor ceremony, with the theme Above and Beyond the Call, is closed to the public to protect the health of the World War II veterans and other survivors in attendance. However the 79th annual National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony will be live streamed for the public beginning at 7:50 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time (12:50 EST) on the Pearl Harbor National Memorial Facebook page and at www.pearlharborevents.com. Follow those sites for updated information about the ceremony.
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day was established in 1994 by a joint resolution of Congress that was signed by President Clinton. Each year across the United States, museums and other institutions focused on World War II mark the anniversary of the day with commemorative events. Check with museums and organizations near you to find what local events are available and how COVID-19 may be affecting those plans.
Interesting Facts About Pearl Harbor
We’ve learned that our audience loves facts and trivia about our nation and its military. So we’ve gathered interesting tidbits about Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
– Pearl Harbor was only one part of a coordinated attack by the Empire of Japan on the U.S. naval presence in the Pacific. To prevent America from entering the war, and to prevent them from interfering with invasions of other countries to obtain the resources the U.S. was no longer exporting, Japan had to make sure the U.S. Pacific Fleet was entirely disabled. Also involved in the surprise attack were the Philippines, Guam, and Wake Island. Japan also attacked the British-held territories of Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. (Click to Tweet this)
– In total, the coordinated attack on U.S. and European military assets in the Pacific lasted around 7 hours. (Click to Tweet this)
– The intent to declare war before the attack was hotly debated. For years it was thought that it was simply an accident that the message wasn’t sent in time. It was only later that the Japanese army and navy pushed hard for the government to give no sign of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Unbeknownst to them, U.S. forces had already intercepted and decoded the message that was later sent through official channels, though there was no sign of an imminent attack inside. (Click to Tweet this)
– Aircraft carriers became a vital piece of the war effort that led to an Allied victory. As luck would have it, all of the American aircraft carriers in the Pacific Fleet were away from Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. (Click to Tweet this)
– The Pacific War had been raging for years before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Empire of Japan and the Republic of China had been openly fighting since 1937. Even before that though, aggressions were flaring. As far back as 1931, Japan invaded and occupied the Chinese territory of Manchuria. (Click to Tweet this)
– Mere hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese-Americans were rounded up and placed into internment camps. Close to 120,000 people would live in the camps before the last one was finally closed in 1946, most of them were American citizens. (Click to Tweet this)
– A national memorial was built over the wreck of the USS Arizona in the 1960s. The site is operated by the National Park Service and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Click to Tweet this)
– The 2001 film Pearl Harbor was universally panned by critics. The film starred Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale, and was directed by Michael Bay. (Click to Tweet this)
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor successfully removed a number of American assets from the chessboard of the Pacific theater. The Empire of Japan had been counting on the devastation to force the U.S. to reenter trading negotiations and provide vital resources to Japan’s military. Instead, it brought a formerly indecisive nation to a swift and resolute commitment to enter the war and challenge the Axis aggressors at all cost. And the aircraft carriers that were absent from the base at the time proved to be important pieces in the fighting and subsequent island hopping in the Pacific. Through the combined effort of Great Britain, France, China, the Soviet Union, and now America, the war was fought and won on multiple fronts and the Axis powers were beaten. Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day celebrates those men and women present at the very beginning of the U.S. involvement. These men and women witnessed the horrors of war up front and firsthand, many of them losing their lives.
The nation remembers these 2,403 Americans who died on this “date which will live in infamy” as it has taken its place as one of America’s most important dates. (Click to Tweet this)
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