82nd Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Attack Observed

Every year, on December 7, we remember our past and we render honor to the sacrifices made by both our military and the American people during the tragic events that took place at the Pearl Harbor attack.

On this “date which will live in infamy,” December 7, 1941, bombers launched from aircraft carriers of the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked and decimated the fleet of U.S. battleships that lay moored at the naval base at Pearl Harbor, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. In addition to 2,400 people killed and nearly 1,200 wounded, the attack left behind a wake of destruction to the U.S. fleet, with 4 out of the 8 battleships present sunk and the remaining 4 damaged, numerous other smaller ships sunk or damaged, and 188 aircraft destroyed at nearby airfields. At the behest of President Franklin Roosevelt, Congress declared war on Japan the following day, launching US involvement in the Second World War.

As horrific as the attack certainly was, things were not as bad as they might have been, and the Japanese realized only partial fulfillment of their primary objective, which was to thoroughly cripple the US Pacific Fleet, allowing Japan to dominate the Pacific Rim uncontested in the months that followed. Most fortunately, none of the aircraft carriers of the US Pacific Fleet were in Pearl Harbor at the the time of the attack. (Though they continued to play a role in the US Navy for decades to come and more were subsequently built, it had already been recognized that battleships were a nearly obsolete weapon, and that the future of naval warfare was vested in the aircraft carrier, as this attack well demonstrated.) Furthermore, 6 of the 8 battleships involved at Pearl Harbor were eventually repaired and returned to service. (The capsized USS Oklahoma was eventually righted and partially salvaged. The destroyed USS Arizona was left to lie where she sank in the shallow waters, her hulk serving as a permanent memorial to the attack and as a tomb to many of the 1,177 of her servicemen killed in the attack whose bodies still lie buried within the wreck.)

While the number is nearly impossible to calculate accurately, out of an estimated 60,000 veterans who were survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor, it is likely that fewer than 2,000 remain alive at the time of this writing.