Pearl Harbor 77th Anniversary: Facts About Japanese Attack, Live-Stream of Remembrance Day Ceremony

Almost 80 years after a pivotal moment in United States history, America still pauses to honor those who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In 1994, Congress declared December 7 to be known as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day to acknowledge the December 7, 1941, attack at Pearl Harbor. A moment of silence is held each year at 7:55 a.m. HST, the exact moment the Japanese began to attack Pearl Harbor, a naval base near Honolulu.

As is customary, a ceremony will take place on the Ceremonial Lawn at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Admiral Philip S. Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, will deliver the keynote address to attendees, which includes survivors, World War II veterans, family members and local dignitaries.

The 199th Fighter Squadron will lead a missing man flyover to be followed by the Hawaii Air National Guard and the 19th Fighter Squadron. During the ceremony, the Navy’s Pacific Fleet Band will perform and the Marine Corps will conduct a rifle salute.

For those who cannot travel to Hawaii to attend the ceremony, interested viewers can watch the events through a live stream on the Pacific Historic Parks and the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites website. The stream will begin at 7:50 a.m. HST, which is equivalent to 9:50 a.m. PST and 12:50 p.m. EST.

pearl harbor Pearl Harbor survivor Aaron Chabin, 89, attends a ceremony commemorating the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 2012, in New York City. Following the attack in 1941, America declared war first on Japan and then all Axis powers. John Moore/Getty Images

On Sunday, December 7, 1941, shortly before 8:00 a.m. HST, the territory of Hawaii woke up to hundreds of Japanese fighter planes overhead, according to History.com. American military leaders believed that any attack from the Japanese would take place in the Dutch East Indies, Singapore or Indochina because those areas were closer to Japan. As a result, the base, which housed almost the entire Pacific Fleet and hundreds of airplanes, was largely undefended.

Ten minutes after the attack began, a 1,800-pound bomb smashed through the deck of the battleship USS Arizona and the explosion trapped over 1,000 men inside. A torpedo also hit the USS Oklahoma, causing the ship to roll onto her side and slip underwater with 400 sailors aboard.

During the two-hour attack, every battleship in the harbor sustained significant damage. The USS Oklahoma, USS California, USS West Virginia, USS Maryland, USS Pennsylvania, USS Tennessee and USS Nevada were all able to be salvaged and repaired. Some of the ships returned to the war to fight future battles, but have all since been taken out of service.

Unfortunately, the USS Utah and USS Arizona permanently sank in the harbor. A total of 20 American ships and over 300 airplanes were destroyed in the surprise attack. 

In addition to the loss of military equipment, 2,403 soldiers and civilians were killed and an additional 1,000 people were wounded during the attack.

pearl harbor anniversary Two members of the U.S. military stand at attention after then-President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe laid wreaths at the USS Arizona Memorial on December 27, 2016, at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. A moment of silence is held each year at 7:55 a.m. HST, the exact moment the Japanese began to attack Pearl Harbor. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Following the attack, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation and characterized December 7, 1941, as a “date which will live in infamy.”  He called the attack sudden and deliberate and criticized Japan for essentially engaging in false peace talks.

Roosevelt said that at the time of the attack, America was at peace with Japan and an hour after the bombing began, the Japanese ambassador to the United States delivered a formal reply to an American message. The reply stated that it seemed useless to continue diplomatic negotiations, yet, contained no threat or hint of war or an armed attack.

“It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago,” Roosevelt said. “During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.”

Roosevelt concluded his speech with a call on Congress to declare war in light of the attacks. Only one member of Congress voted against the declaration, according to History.com. Jeannette Rankin, a representative from Montana, said that as a woman she couldn’t go to war, and “I refuse to send anyone else.”

The attack on Pearl Harbor was meant to cripple the U.S. forces so America would be forced into lifting economic sanctions against Japan and be in a weakened state to respond. However, following the attack, America declared war first on Japan and then eventually on all Axis powers.

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve,” Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the planner of the attacks, wrote in his diary.

Survivors of the USS Arizona can opt to be interred on the ship after their death or also choose to have their ashes scattered over Pearl Harbor. As of February 22, 2018, 43 people were interred on the ship. 

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