Dec. 7 is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

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Provided by Prince William County

On Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, more than 2,400 people died and more than 1,000 were wounded when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii.

During the attack, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes dropped bombs that sank the USS Arizona and the USS Oklahoma and damaged or destroyed nearly 20 other naval vessels including eight battleships. Some of those damaged ships capsized and killed crew members on board. The attack, which included a rain of bullets from the air, also destroyed more than 300 U.S. aircraft parked in nearby airfields, according to

Each year on Dec. 7, National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the nation honors those who died or were wounded in the attack.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Dec. 7 “A date which will live in infamy” and asked a joint session of the U.S. Congress to declare war on Japan on Dec. 8, 1941, Congress approved Roosevelt’s request that day.

Germany and Italy, Japan’s allies, declared war on the United States three days later. Congress answered by declaring war on the two European powers, which together with Japan, became known as the Axis alliance.

Up until the attack, the United States remained uncommitted to World War II, which had been furiously raging for two years. The attack led the U.S. to change its position on its involvement in the war.

Military leaders expected the Japanese would attack but thought the action would likely occur on European colonies in the South Pacific such as Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, or Indochina, which are much closer to Japan than Hawaii, which is about 4,000 miles away from Japan.

Since the United States’ leaders never expected an attack on the Hawaiian Islands, Pearl Harbor was lightly defended and represented an easy, irresistible target to the Japanese.

While the attack on Pearl Harbor destroyed or crippled much of the Pacific Fleet, the fleet’s aircraft carriers were away. Some were docked at the mainland. Others were delivering planes to the island of Midway, The Japanese attack also missed key fleet components such as shipyards, oil storage depots, submarine docks, and repair shops, leaving the U.S. Navy able to recover from the attack.

In 1994, Congress designated Dec. 7 as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

Today, organizations and citizens across the nation remember the attack and pay tribute to the memory of those who fell. The American flag is typically flown at half-staff for the day.


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