“December 7, 1941 – a date,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously proclaimed, “which will live in infamy.”
On Thursday, Americans will mark the 76th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Here are some facts surrounding that fateful day:
Just before 8 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese planes made a surprise raid on Pearl Harbor, a major U.S. Navy base near Honolulu, Hawaii, according to the History Channel. During the raid, which was launched from aircraft carriers, nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, were damaged or destroyed, as well as more than 300 aircraft. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, including civilians, and at least 1,000 were wounded.
Why was it a pivotal moment in U.S. history?
In short, the attack brought the United States into World War II. Until the raid, the U.S. had hesitated to join the conflict, which had started on Sept. 1, 1939, after Germany invaded Poland. In those nearly two-and-a-half years, the U.S. had extensively aided the United Kingdom, virtually the sole source of resistance to the Nazis in Europe, but a general mood of isolationism – brought on, according to the State Department’s Office of the Historian, by the Great Depression and the memory of huge losses during World War I – led Roosevelt and Congress to be wary of intervention. Pearl Harbor reversed that in under a day, with Congress, less than an hour after Roosevelt’s speech, issuing a declaration of war.
How does the Pearl Harbor attack compare with 9/11?
The official death toll in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack was 2,403, according to the Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau, including 2,008 Navy personnel, 109 Marines and 218 Army service members. Added to this were 68 civilians. Of that number, 1,177 were from the USS Arizona, the wreckage of which now serves as the main memorial to the incident. A complete list of those who died can be found here. Fifty-five Japanese also were killed.
In comparison, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, led to 2,997 deaths, including the 19 terrorists. Of those, 2,606 died at the World Trade Center in New York City, 125 at the Pentagon and 246 on the four planes involved (not including the terrorists). Some of those counted died of illnesses caused by the dust at the World Trade Center site, meaning the total could rise further.
Where are remembrance ceremonies taking place?
The main ceremony will take place at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument located in Pearl Harbor, a property managed by the National Park Service. According to a press release, the observance will begin at 7:50 a.m. local time and a moment of silence will occur at 7:55 a.m., the time the attack began. A flyover by the U.S. Air Force and the Hawaii Air National Guard will follow. In attendance will be Pearl Harbor survivors, World War II veterans, family members and dignitaries. The ceremonies will be live streamed on the monument’s YouTube and Facebook accounts, as well as on pearlharborevents.com.
How many survivors remain?
As of July this year, only five survivors of the USS Arizona, the ship most heavily hit in the raid, were still alive. They are Lauren Bruner, of La Mirada, Calif; Lou Conter, of Grass Valley, Calif.; Lonnie Cook, of Morris, Okla.; Ken Potts of Provo, Utah; and Donald Stratton of Colorado Springs, Colo. All are in their mid-90s. Beyond those who survived on the USS Arizona, the totals are less clear and depend on just who are counted as survivors. In March of this year, the oldest living survivor of the attacks, Californian Ray Chavez, turned 105, according to NBC News. He was aboard a minesweeper, the Condor, when the raid occurred.
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