Friday, December 7, 2012

Pearl Harbor

The most memorable day in United States History - Pearl Harbor Day - December 7, 1941

Japanese aircraft during the bombing of Pearl Harbor
December 7, 1941

On December 7, 2012, we will remember one of the most significant days in the history of the United States of America. On this day 71 years ago,  the US became a participant in the European Conflict later to be known as World War II. Our involvement began as a result of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the home of the Pacific Fleet in Oahu, Hawaii.

We honor those killed in the attack that hit just before 8:00 AM on December 7, 1941, that is now known as Pearl Harbor Day. This attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy was intended to neutralize the US Pacific Fleet so that Japan could advance its military into Southeast Asia without threat from the US. 

World War II
Pearl Harbor attack.

Surprise Attack - December 7, 1941! 

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took the US by complete surprise.  The United States military commanders felt that if Japan were to attempt an attack on US soil, it would come in the form of submarine warfare.  They didn’t believe that Japan had the firepower in their Air Force to accomplish such a feat. The US commanders had placed battleships and other vessels along with aircraft close together around the Oahu military installation, thinking it was enough protection to ward off such an attack. They didn’t believe that Japan’s air power was strong enough to sustain a prolonged attack overseas.  Looking back, it is easy to see just how wrong our military was at that time. 

Japan’s air force had no trouble reaching the US port in Hawaii. Just seven minutes after the attack President Franklin D. Roosevelt was notified of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He immediately ordered a formal investigation into the surprise hit, and then he addressed the shocked nation the following day. This began the United States war with Japan.

In May of 1940, President Roosevelt had ordered the American Fleet out of San Diego, California, to go to the Hawaiian Territory which then placed US naval power closer to the British interest.  FDR felt that this was a “vital” move to help our European allies, while serving as a naturally protected safe haven for our fleet. 


The intensity of the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan crippled the Pacific Fleet before anyone really knew what had happened, leaving the US with inoperable anti-aircraft guns. The attack destroyed 188 US planes and put the US Pacific Fleet almost out of commission. Along with the loss of our air power and ships, the attack on Pearl Harbor left 2,403 Americans dead.  Of the 360 planes launched by the Japanese only 29 were lost and only 64 Japanese soldiers perished in the attack. In one well planned air strike on our military installation in Hawaii, the United States became an active participant in what was to become World War II.  On December 8, 1941, the United States declared war on Japan. The attack itself was said to have "awoken a sleeping giant."  Japan was an ally of Germany in the European Theater and, therefore, provided the incentive for the US to get involved in this conflict. 

USS Arizona - Memorial
at Pearl Harbor, HI.
The USS Arizona, one of the ships sunk on that dreadful morning, is known as “ground zero” for the US involvement in World War II. The remains of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors killed aboard that ship still lie at the bottom of the ocean on the island of Oahu. This memorial is visited by more than one million people annually who wish to pay their respects to the sailors who gave their lives serving our country as well as those who fought for us in World War II.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in world history."  This is a day to think about all those who have gone before us and the sacrifices they made, and think of what happened in our past.  We will never forget them. Hopefully, we can learn from those dark days and honor their sacrifices and live our lives with a more peaceful vision of our future.

Cindy Foley
Contributing Writer


  1. Wasn't it "a date which will live in infamy"?

  2. The commenter above is correct. Please read the speech here:

  3. It can also be called Pearl Harbor Day, National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Below are a couple of links that show how different names have been given to the day. The important thing is to remember those who died on that day and the significance of the day itself.

  4. The attack on Pearl Harbor was NOT a "complete surprise". That is an enduring myth. Do some research. FDR and his cronies wanted it to happen. They suppressed intelligence information from the local commanders, Admiral Kimmel and General Short. FDR should be remembered as a cynical president who was willing to sacrifice US servicemen. His economic policies were a disaster, and he wanted to be a war hero president.