October 18, 2017

Pearl Harbor Day Commemorates 70th Anniversary of Attack

December 7th 2011 marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 by the Empire of Japan. At precisely 7.55am, the Empire of Japan executed a surprise air attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, which killed 2,402 Americans, and wounded 1,282. Within 2 hours the attack had effectively destroyed half of the entire United States Navy, but unified our great nation in common purpose to declare war against the Empire of Japan. NavyHandbook.org salutes all of the brave sailors who fought at Pearl Harbor. It is with great reverence that we honor and remember those who were killed in the attack, those injured in the attack, and the survivors.


This attack came without provocation, without warning, without the Empire of Japan having declared war on the United States of America, and at time in which peace negotiations were ongoing.

The USS Arizona sinking after sustaining extensive damage in the Attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan on December 7, 1941.

The USS Arizona sinking after sustaining extensive damage in the Attack on Pearl Harbor

In total, 8 battleships were either sunk or seriously damaged. Nearly half the casualties were on the USS Arizona, when a bomb detonated the ship’s munitions depot, killing 1,177 of the 1,400 member crew. When the attack was over, a total of 20 ships were sunk or seriously damaged, and 164 aircraft were destroyed.

Declaration of War

“A date which will live in infamy”

The following day, President Roosevelt addressed Congress, calling December 7th “A date which will live in infamy,” and the attack “unprovoked and dastardly.” 33 minutes after his speech, the US declared war on Japan. This was a turning point in World War II – isolationism was now over. 3 days later, Hitler declared war on the United States, probably his greatest error. This ensured that the US would now join the war in Europe, changing the course of history, and ultimately leading to Germany’s defeat.

The USS California sinking from damage sustained during the Attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan.

The USS California sinking from damage sustained during the Attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan.

Pearl Harbor Memorial Ceremonies

The few remaining survivors of the attack will lead commemorations of the 70th anniversary. 120 veterans will join Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and military leaders at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, the entrance to the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, as a moment of silence is observed at the exact time that the attack started. The US Navy destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) will render honors to the USS Arizona, after which F22 jets from the Hawaii Air National Guard will fly overhead in the ‘missing man’ formation. More than 3,000 guests will attend the event, at a site that overlooks where the USS Arizona sank during the bombing, including 7 survivors of that battleship’s crew. US flags will be flown at half mast on federal buildings around the country, marking National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

This week, five survivors of the attack, who have since died, will have their ashes scattered at Pearl harbor, rejoining their fallen shipmates. On Tuesday, Navy Divers took an urn holding the ashes of 90 year old Lee Soucy down to the USS Utah, the ship he was serving on that day 70 years ago. In a sunset ceremony, the ashes of Vernon Olsen will be interred on the USS Arizona.

Pearl Harbor Survivors

With time, the number of survivors of Pearl Harbor lessens. The Star-Advertiser of Hawaii wrote today: “There were 60,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who served in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. The Pearl Harbor Association…now down to 2,700 members, has decided to end the organization on Dec. 31 as a corporation, but to keep social events going as long as it can.” Source: Hawaii Star Advertiser

President Obama’s Statement

In a statement, President Obama said, “On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we honor the more than 3,500 Americans killed or wounded during that deadly attack and pay tribute to the heroes whose courage ensured our Nation would recover from this vicious blow. Their tenacity helped define the Greatest Generation and their valor fortified all who served during World War II. As a Nation, we look to December 7th, 1941, to draw strength from the example set by these patriots and to honor all who have sacrificed for our freedoms.”

Ships in Pearl Harbor During the Attack of December 7, 1941

In addition to massive loss of life and many injured, many Naval ships were sunk or heavily damaged. Some ships were total losses, while some were able to be raised to the surface, repaired, and return to join the war against Japan and Germany. Below is a list of all of the ships that were sunk or damaged in the Attack on Pearl Harbor, as well as a brief note about their status after the attack.

Battleships

USS Arizona (BB-39) – sunk, complete loss, rests at bottom of Pearl Harbor.
USS Oklahoma (BB-37) – capsized, complete loss.
USS West Virginia (BB-48) – sunk, later raised to the surface, was repaired and then rejoined fleet July 1944.
USS California (BB-44) – sunk, later raised to the surface, was repaired and then rejoined fleet May 1944.
USS Nevada (BB-36) – extensive damage, grounded, was later repaired and then rejoined fleet December 1942.
USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) – in drydock at time of attack – some damaged, repaired and then rejoined fleet August 1942.
USS Maryland (BB-46) – some damage, repaired and rejoined fleet February 1942.
USS Tennessee (BB-43) – some damage, repaired and rejoined fleet March 1942.

Cruisers

USS Helena (CL-50) – major damage, repaired and then rejoined fleet June 1942.
USS Honolulu (CL-48) – some damage, repaired and then rejoined fleet January 1942.
USS Raleigh (CL-7) – major damage, repaired and then rejoined fleet July 1942.

Destroyers

USS Cassin (DD-372) – in drydock at time of attack – major damage, was rebuilt then rejoined fleet February 1944.
USS Downes (DD-375) – in drydock at time of attack – major damage, was rebuilt then rejoined fleet November 1943.
USS Helm (DD-388) – some damage, stayed active on patrol, was later repaired and then rejoined fleet January 1942.
USS Shaw (DD-373) – in floating drydock at time of attack – sustained major damage and was repaired.

Minelayers

USS Oglala (CM-4) – sunk, later raised to the surface, was repaired and then rejoined fleet February 1944.

Auxiliaries Ships

Seaplane Tender – USS Curtiss (AV-4) – damaged, repaired and rejoined fleet January 1942.
Harbor Tug – USS Sotoyomo (YT-9) – with Shaw – sunk, raised, repaired and rejoined fleet August 1942.
USS Utah (AG-16) – capsized, on bottom of Pearl Harbor.
Vestal – heavily damaged, beached, refloated, repaired and rejoined fleet February 1942.
YFD-2 – sunk, raised, refloated, repaired and rejoined fleet May 1942.

Aircraft

U.S. Navy – 92 lost, 31 damaged.
U.S. Army – 77 lost, 128 damaged.

Links and Resources

For a complete account of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, visit the U.S. Navy History Site.

For a list of all ships present at Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack, go to U.S. Navy History Site – Ships at Pearl Harbor.

For more images of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, go to the U.S. Navy History Site – Images.

The Pearl Harbor Memorial which includes the USS Arizona Memorial which is an active U.S. military cemetery, was dedicated as the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument by President George Bush on Dec. 5, 2008.


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