On December 6, 1941, Pearl Harbor, a lagoon harbor on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu, was quiet with soldiers and sailors preparing for the holidays with their families. The United States still had not entered World War II, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt transferred the U.S. Navy Fleet to Pearl Harbor to thwart the Japanese from a Pacific attack. On December 6, many of the soldiers, sailors and Marines tucked their families into bed for the last time.
On December 7, 1941, at 7:45 a.m., seven U.S. battleships on the east side of Ford Island were bombed. Japanese torpedo planes attacked the USS Helena, USS Utah and USSA Raleigh, USS California, USS Nevada, USS Oklahoma and USS West Virginia, as bombs sunk the USS Arizona.
The Japanese telegraphed: “tora, tora, tora,” code for surprised attack achieved.
The Americans valiantly fought back and saved many ships, and no aircraft carriers were destroyed. But, more than 2,400 Americans died and most of the combat planes were destroyed. Within two hours, the Japanese dealt a major blow to American forces, effectively ruining the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s battleship force.
On December 8, Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “Yesterday, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked. … No matter now long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.”
The “Sleeping Giant” was awake and entered World War II. But, the people of Pearl Harbor were left with the cindering shambles. Since the day of infamy, America has remembered the people of Pearl Harbor, including the 49 civilians killed.
Every December 7 is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and the American flag is to be raised at half-staff. We will always honor those who sacrificed all on December 7, 1941.