Photo above: Naval Air Station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii after attack on December 7, 1941. Photo courtesy Library of Congress. Right: The battleships USS West Virginia and USS Tennesse after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Photo courtesy NARA.
A day like no other in the anals of American history, when an attack by a foreign power on the soil of the United States awoke the sleeping giant in the United States and signalled our entry into World War II. December 7, 1941. A day that would live in infamy, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt would say in his address to the nation after the Japanese bombing of the 6th Fleet of the United States Navy in the Hawaiian harbor.
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- Then and Now
- Things You Should Not Miss
The war had raged in Europe and Asia for over two years prior to the surprise attack. There had been much debate about what our role in this conflict should or should not have been. But there was no doubt once the Japanese zeros flew over the territory of Hawaii that day, sinking the fleet into the harbor. Above, the USS Arizona, now memorialized, as it lists, on fire, toward the water. 1,177 men lie beneath the memorial inside the battleship.
Pearl Harbor is located five miles west of Honolulu and has been one of the best naval anchorages in the world since the U.S. navy deepened the channel in 1900. In December of 1941, it was home to the Pacific Fleet, which included seven battleships among its seventy-four naval vessels. When the three hundred and sixty warplanes of the Japanese nation roared into the harbor at 7:55 a.m. from the flotilla of thirty-three warships two hundred miles north, the United States fleet and force were surprised. By the end of the attack two hours later, three thousand, five hundred and eighty-one people were dead, eighteen ships sunk, and one hundred and seventy-four planes destroyed. The Pacific Fleet was in shambles, and the United States, with a declaration of war one day later, now involved in the struggle against the Axis Powers, eventually on two fronts. By the end of World War II, over 405,000 soldiers of the United States of America were dead, of the nearly 15 million from all nations and 670,000 U.S. soldiers were wounded.
Photo: Aerial photo of the USS Arizona and USS Arizona Memorial. Courtesy National Park Service.
Pearl Harbor Then
Naval Air Station - Although less publicized than the attack on the ships in the harbor itself, the devastation on the Ford Island Naval Station was also very severe, although pilots were able to scramble aircraft to pursue the Japanese planes during the attack despite the heavy damage. The U.S. Navy and Army lost a total of 169 planes during the attack with an additional 159 damaged. The Japanese lost 9 fighter planes and 20 bombers. Pearl Harbor U.S. Naval Fleet - Tension between Japan and the United States had been on the rise from 1940 and the majority of the U.S. Pacific Fleet had been brought back to Pearl Harbor and placed in small groups in case of a sabotage attack. There were about 185 ships in the harbor when the attack began. The attack lasted approximately two hours. After the USS Arizona had been hit, it took only nine minutes to sink. 337 service members on the Arizona survived the attack. For more information about the attack, check out the website of pearlharbor.org.
Pearl Harbor Now
Pearl Harbor Today- The memorial to the USS Arizona is one of the most poignant national historic sites in the nation. It is now known as part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. The memorial of the Arizona signifies the valore and honor of the men and women who died in the attack on the U.S. fleet. Additional memorials to other ships, as well as museums on other facets of the attack and World War II, are sited in the Pearl Harbor area and on Ford Island. If you wish to visit all of the museums, tours, and exhibits, it can take up to six hours. Other memorials are still in the works, too, including one to the men of the USS Oklahoma.
Photo above: Maiden voyage from New York City of the USS Arizona on November 10, 1916. Courtesy National Park Service.
1. Stop by the Visitor Center to begin the journey. On the Aloha Court, you can get tickets and orientation, plus view exhibit galleries on the Road to War and the Attack.
2. The USS Arizona Memorial. This is a timed ticket experience that includes the visitor center film, 23 minutes long, a short boat ride, and self guided tour through the memorial. Tickets can go fast in peak tourist months, and you can have up to a three hour wait until your time. Tickets are free. You may want to reserve your ticket in advance.
3. The other museums on site are also well worth the visit. These are run by private groups and require a fee. Visit the Pacific Aviation Museum on the military base and see what the role the air played in the battle and attack on Pearl Harbor. This museum is housed in the hangers of the Ford Island Naval Station.
Photo above: Visitor Center at the World War II, Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Courtesy National Park Service.