Day in History 7 December – Pearl Harbor

On this day in 1941, Japanese imperial forces attack Pearl Harbor and the island of O’ahu.  Four U.S. Navy battleships were sunk (two of which were raised and returned to service later in the war) and four other battleships were damaged.  Also sunk or damaged were three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, one minelayer and 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed.  Casualties included 2,402 military personnel killed and 57 civilians killed.  The attack came as a profound shock to the American people and led directly to the United States entry into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters.  The following day the United States declared war on Japan.  Domestic support for isolationism, which had been strong, disappeared.  Clandestine support of Britain (for example the Neutrality Patrol) was replaced by active alliance and full participation in the European Theater.  Subsequent operations by the U.S., as well as the Axis alliance, prompted Germany and Italy to declare war on the U.S. on December 11, which was reciprocated by the U.S. the same day.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed 7 December 1941, “a date which will live in infamy”.  The Final Footprint –  The USS Arizona Memorial marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors killed on the USS Arizona during the Attack on Pearl Harbor and commemorates the events of that day.  Elvis staged a benefit concert to raise money for the construction.  The memorial, dedicated in 1962 spans the sunken hull of the battleship without touching it.  Historical information about the attack, boat access to the memorial, and general visitor services are available at the associated USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, opened in 1980 and operated by the National Park Service.  The sunken remains of the battleship were declared a National Historic Landmark on 5 May 1989.   The shrine at the far end is a marble wall that bears the names of all those killed on the USS Arizona, protected behind velvet ropes.  The inscription reads; “To the Memory of the Gallant Men Here Entombed and their shipmates who gave their lives in action on December 7, 1941, on the U.S.S. Arizona.”  Contrary to popular belief, the USS Arizona is no longer in commission.  She is, however, an active U.S. military cemetery.  As a special tribute to the ship and her lost crew, the United States flag flies from the flagpole, which is attached to the severed mainmast of the sunken battleship.  The USS Arizona Memorial has come to commemorate all military personnel killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.  To this day, oil can still be seen rising from the wreckage to the surface of the water.  The oil seeping is sometimes referred to as “the tears of the Arizona” or “black tears.”

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