History

Remembering Pearl Harbor on the 75th Anniversary

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Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, an assault which killed two thousand, four hundred and three Americans at the naval base in Hawaii, left one thousand, one hundred and seventy-eight wounded, and catapulted the United States into World War II.

“…a date which will live in infamy…”

Remembering Pearl Harbor on the 75th Anniversary

Photo: Wikipedia

The attack began at approximately 7:55 a.m. on that sunny, Sunday morning. When it was over, in excess of 300 aircrafts were destroyed or damaged and 21 ships were sunk, including the USS Arizona. As a result, President Roosevelt notably declared Dec. 7 “…a date which will live in infamy”. His speech being brief but dramatic, he spoke with resolution and requested a declaration of war from Congress. Response to the speech was fiercely positive, and within the hour, Congress passed the declaration against the Empire of Japan.

The USS Arizona

Remembering Pearl Harbor on the 75th Anniversary

Photo: Wikipedia

The USS Arizona, which sank with some of its sailors still onboard, was hit by a bomb which discharged ammunition and fuel supplies, taking victims down quickly in the wreckage. Recalling that day, one of the ship’s survivors, Donald Stratton (aged 94) said of the disaster, “We sacrificed 1,177 men on that ship, and I was one of the lucky ones to get off.” Stratton is only able to speak as a survivor due to his perseverance at the time in climbing down a rope line approximately 80 feet to an awaiting boat, after which he spent a year in the hospital prior to his medical discharge. Stratton reenlisted the following year, and participated in five assaults after being assigned to a destroyer. In an interview with NBC news, Stratton said “It was so hot and I was burned so bad I don’t have any fingerprints anymore.”

Unable to Bear a Return and Never Spoke About That Day

Remembering Pearl Harbor on the 75th Anniversary

Photo: Facebook/US Pacific Command

And Stratton isn’t the only survivor to experience the attack on Pearl Harbor and go on to reveal its harrowing details. One of the oldest known survivors, at age 104, Ray Chavez is returning to Hawaii today to recognize the 75th anniversary of the event and to honor the dead. Chavez will join remaining survivors commemorating the attack, and honoring those that were lost in a moment of silence at 07:55 local time at Pearl Harbor – the time which marked the commencement of the attack on the base, on December 7, 1941. In an interview with People.com, Chavez’s daughter Kathleen said that although eager to attend, her father was unable to bear a return to Hawaii before, and never spoke about that day. “But now, he is ready. And now he’s so proud to have survived this long and to tell his story so that people don’t forget about Pearl Harbor,” she said.

Pass-In-Review Honors and a Missing Man Flyover

Remembering Pearl Harbor on the 75th Anniversary

Photo: Facebook/US Pacific Command

KHNL in Honolulu has reported that approximately 4,000 people are expected to attend the commemoration ceremony at Pearl Harbor today, where a moment of silence will be held, together with ceremonies at Hickam Air Force Base (commemorating the attack on Hickam Field) and Kilo Pier. The attack, which killed 2,335 service members as well as 68 civilians, will be recognized with pass-in-review honors to the USS Arizona from the guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey, as well as a missing man flyover during the commemoration ceremony.

A Message of Reconciliation

Remembering Pearl Harbor on the 75th Anniversary

Photo: Wikimedia

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not be in attendance at the Pearl Harbor commemoration ceremony but will visit with President Barack Obama towards the end of December, becoming the first leader of Japan to come to the site since the surprise attack. In a statement announcing his forthcoming visit, Abe said, “We must never repeat the tragedy of the war. I would like to send this commitment. At the same time, I would like to send a message of reconciliation between Japan and the U.S.” Speaking with the press after his statement, Abe implied that this visit is in return for Obama’s visit to Hiroshima earlier in 2016. He stated, “President Obama’s message for the world without nuclear upon his visit to Hiroshima was engraved in the heart of the Japanese people. I will visit Pearl Harbor with President Obama. This will be a visit to soothe the souls of the victims. We should never repeat the ravages of the war.”

“…they are the ones that should be called the heroes.”

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Photo: Wikimedia/U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sarah Murphy

Other survivors of the USS Arizona have said that the nation should always remember those sailors that never made it out alive. Louis Conter, a 95-year old survivor, helped pull people from the flames as well as bodies from the wreckage after the ship exploded in the harbor, and stayed onboard until water was up to his knees on the quarterdeck. “People call us heroes, and we’re not the heroes. The heroes are the 1,177 who were killed that day,” he said in an interview. “We lived through it and came home and got married and had children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and lived a big life. They lost theirs immediately and they are the ones that should be called the heroes.” The National Park Service has identified that the remains of John Anderson and Clarendon Hetrick, two of the men onboard the Arizona during the attack, will be interred at the USS Arizona Memorial during the 75th anniversary commemoration ceremony.

Commemorating the Past and Honoring the Fallen

Remembering Pearl Harbor on the 75th Anniversary

Photo: Wikimedia

Japan had envisioned the attack on Pearl Harbor as a preemptive strike in efforts to prevent interference in military actions planned for the UK, the Netherlands, and the US. 353 Imperial Japanese fighter planes, torpedo planes, and bombers were launched in two waves from six aircraft carriers. Of the eight US Navy battleships in the harbor, the damage included four sunk and four more damaged. All sunken ships except for the USS Arizona were later raised, and six of the ships in total were eventually returned to service in World War II. Among the sank or damaged also lay three destroyers, three cruisers, a minelayer, and an anti-aircraft training ship. 188 US aircraft were also destroyed in the attack. The Japanese sustained light losses with 65 servicemen killed, five midget submarines lost, 29 aircrafts destroyed, and the capture of one Japanese sailor.

Sources:

NBC News

Wikipedia

BBC

CNN