December 7 is a day that will forever live in infamy. One of the worst tragedies on American soil occurred on this date 75 years ago.
At approximately 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft launched a surprising attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor near the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Some of the crew was at church service that Sunday morning, or just waking up, completely unaware of the impending danger.
In a matter of 90 minutes, the attacks claimed the lives of 2,403 Americans and another 1,178 were injured.
Nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, and more than 300 aircraft were destroyed. Four of the eight battleships sunk, with all but the USS Arizona later raised. Six of those battleships returned to service and later fought in war.
The USS Arizona, which now serves as a historical monument in Oahu, absorbed a massive explosion from a 1,800-pound bomb. The ship exploded and subsequently sunk with more than 1,000 Americans trapped inside. Torpedoes then sliced through the USS Oklahoma, sending the ship on its side and under water.
By the end, all of the battleships – USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS California, USS West Virginia, USS Utah, USS Maryland, USS Pennsylvania, USS Tennessee and USS Nevada – sustained extensive damage.
The next day after the attacks, Congress approved President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s declaration of war despite one dissenting vote, which came from Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor effectively initiated the United States’ entry into World War II.
The United States annually observes December 7 as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day to remember and honor those who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor. In recognition, the American flag is flown at half-staff until sunset.
Visit Remember Pearl Harbor for more on the 75th anniversary.