December 7th, 1941: Remember Pearl Harbor!

December 7th, 1941:
Remember Pearl Harbor!

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The Battle of Pearl Harbor: a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaii Territory on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941.

There were also coordinated Japanese attacks on the United States in the Philippines, Guam and Wake Island and on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong.

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Remember Pearl Harbor!

United States Naval Ships lost or damaged:

Battleships

  • Arizona (RADM Kidd’s flagship of Battleship Division One): hit by four armor-piercing bombs, exploded; total loss. 1,177 dead.
  • Oklahoma: hit by five torpedoes, capsized; total loss. 429 dead.
  • West Virginia: hit by two bombs, seven torpedoes, sunk; returned to service July 1944. 106 dead.
  • California: hit by two bombs, two torpedoes, sunk; returned to service January 1944. 100 dead.
  • Nevada: hit by six bombs, one torpedo, beached; returned to service October 1942. 60 dead.
  • Pennsylvania (ADM Kimmel’s flagship of the United States Pacific Fleet): in drydock with Cassin and Downes, hit by one bomb and debris from USS Cassin; remained in service. 9 dead.
  • Tennessee: hit by two bombs; returned to service February 1942. 5 dead.
  • Maryland: hit by two bombs; returned to service February 1942. 4 dead (including floatplane pilot shot down).

Ex-battleship (target/AA training ship)

  • Utah: hit by two torpedoes, capsized; total loss. 64 dead.

Cruisers

  • Helena: hit by one torpedo; returned to service January 1942. 20 dead.
  • Raleigh: hit by one torpedo; returned to service February 1942.
  • Honolulu: Near miss, light damage; remained in service.

Destroyers

  • Cassin: in drydock with Downes and Pennsylvania, hit by one bomb, burned; returned to service February 1944.
  • Downes: in drydock with Cassin and Pennsylvania, caught fire from Cassin, burned; returned to service November 1943.
  • Shaw: hit by three bombs; returned to service June 1942.

Auxiliaries

  • Oglala (minelayer): Damaged by torpedo hit on Helena, capsized; returned to service (as engine-repair ship) February 1944.
  • Vestal (repair ship): hit by two bombs, blast and fire from Arizona, beached; returned to service by August 1942.
  • Curtiss (seaplane tender): hit by one bomb, one crashed Japanese aircraft; returned to service January 1942. 19 dead.
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Pearl Harbor on October 30, 1941, looking southwest

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Monday, December 8th, 1941

On December 8th, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the United States Congress declared war on Japan.

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“December 7th, 1941, A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”

Within six months, five battleships and two cruisers were patched and sent to shipyards in Pearl Harbor and on the U.S. mainland for extensive repair. USS Oklahoma, was raised, never repaired and capsized while under tow to the mainland in 1947. USS Arizona and the target ship USS Utah were too heavily damaged for salvage and much of their armament and equipment was removed and used aboard other vessels. Today, the two ships remain where they were sunk, with USS Arizona becoming a war memorial.

Throughout World War II, Pearl Harbor was frequently used in American propaganda:

One further consequence of the attack on Pearl Harbor and its aftermath (notably the Niihau Incident) was that more than 110,000 Japanese American residents and citizens on the west coast were relocated to interior internment camps. In Hawaii, where 150000+ Japanese Americans composed over a third of the population, only 1200 to 1800 were interned in high-security camps such as Sand Island at the mouth of Honolulu harbor and Kilauea Military Camp.

Today, the USS Arizona Memorial on the island of Oahu honors the dead. Visitors to the memorial reach it via boats from the naval base at Pearl Harbor. The memorial was designed by Alfred Preis, and has a sagging center but strong and vigorous ends, expressing “initial defeat and ultimate victory” and it commemorates all the lives lost on December 7, 1941 (both American and Japanese).

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USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

Ceremonies are held annually at Pearl Harbor and although December 7 is known as Pearl Harbor Day, it is not a federal holiday in the United States. The USS Missouri, the last U.S. Navy battleship ever built, where the war ended on September 2, 1945, is now a museum ship moored near the USS Arizona memorial.

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USS Missouri (Photo by Justin Brockie Wolcott, Connecticut)

The attack on Pearl Harbor, without a declaration of war and without explicit warning, was judged by the Tokyo Trials to be a war crime.

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World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

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