U.S. Navy sailors in a motor boat launch rescue from the water alongside the sunken battleship USS West Virginia. (Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, December 06, 2012 6:29 PM
The unprovoked attack on the U.S. Navy ships at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, is not just an event in the history books. It is a reminder of the price of liberty, the need for military preparedness and a tribute to the generation that fought World War II.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt called it “a date which will live in infamy,” and that label has stuck for 71 years. Now the date is officially recognized as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
Here are some of the facts about the Pearl Harbor attack: The Japanese Imperial Navy launched an air raid on Pearl Harbor without a formal declaration of war. The direct strike force included 353 Japanese aircraft and five midget submarines, from a fleet of six aircraft carriers, two battleships, two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, nine destroyers, eight tankers and 23 fleet submarines.
The attack came in two waves, which sank or badly damaged all eight U.S. battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship and one minelayer of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Also destroyed were 188 U. S. aircraft. But the irreplaceable losses were the 2,402 Americans killed in action. There were also 1,282 Americans wounded.
While the U.S. Navy was caught by surprise, there were many individual cases of heroism. The Japanese losses included 29 aircraft shot down, all five of the midget submarines lost (including one that was grounded and captured) 65 personnel killed or wounded. The Japanese commander of one of the submarines became Prisoner of War No. 1 for the Americans.
The greatest single loss of American personnel on a ship came when the USS Arizona sank when it was attacked by 10 Japanese bombers carrying armor-piercing shells. The Arizona suffered four direct hits and three near misses. Seven seconds after the last bomb hit at 8:06 a.m., there was a massive explosion and catastrophic damage. The explosion took the lives of 1,177 of the ship’s 1,512 crewmen on board at the time.
Before the Pearl Harbor attack the United States was deeply divided over getting involved in World War II. Afterward, the U.S. became more united than it has ever been and fought the war until complete and unconditional victory over of the Axis powers was achieved.
While the number of World War II veterans is fast dwindling, honor those who are still with us, as well as those who died in the war and the many veterans who have died since.
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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.