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2,400 Americans died at Pearl Harbor 79 years ago today

Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (U.S. National Archives/Released)
December 07, 2020

December 7th is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, and this year marks the 79th anniversary of the Japanese attack on American troops at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii that shook the nation.

At 7:50 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft appeared in the air over Pearl Harbor. Less than two hours later, 2,403 Americans were dead, 18 ships were damaged, two U.S. Navy battleships — USS Arizona and USS Utah — were sunk, and 180 aircraft were destroyed. Of the dead, 1,177 came from the USS Arizona alone.

A total of 1,143 were wounded, including 710 Navy, 69 Marines, 364 Army and 103 civilians.

Japan launched two waves of attack against the U.S. base with 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft, including fighters, dive bombers and torpedo bombers.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan the next day, entering the country into World War 2 and described it as “a date which will live in infamy.”

The attack was a surprise, but experts say the United States and Japan had been edging toward war for decades. Japan attacked because it wanted to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet away from its military plans in Southeast Asia.

The Japanese surrendered after the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear weapons on August 6, 1945, and August 9, 1945, respectively.

On Aug. 23, 1994, Congress designated Dec. 7 as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, according to the National Park Service.

In honor of the anniversary, all flags should be lowered to half staff at sunrise and raised at sunset; flags that cannot be lowered respect for the day can be shown by tying a black ribbon or cord at the top of the flagstaff.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Pearl Harbor remembrance event will be held virtually on Monday, beginning at 12:40 p.m. EST.