Today, December 7th, we pause to remember the surprise attack and terrifying battle at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii which catapulted the United States into World War II. In the morning hours of December 7th, 1941, the Japanese launched a broad-scale attack with war planes and submarines, not only against Pearl Harbor, but against the surrounding air bases and barracks.
130 ships from the US fleet lay in the harbor, brought there in preparation for a war that arrived a little bit too soon. Complete chaos reigned that day, as the US Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force struggled to rebuff the two waves of buzzing bombers. When the smoke cleared, 21 huge ships had been sunk or damaged, cluttering the harbor. 323 aircraft had been destroyed or damaged. But that loss was as nothing compared to the 2,390 people killed, and 1,178 wounded. These numbers included about 84 civilians.
One of the first ships to sink was the USS Arizona, which exploded when an armor-piercing bomb cannon-balled through her deck and into the ammunition magazine. In less than 9 minutes, she went under with 1,177 of her crew. The USS Arizona still sleeps on the floor of Pearl Harbor, and today the USS Arizona Memorial floats serenely above it.
Like a ghost from the past, the outline of the mighty warship can be seen through the clear blue water.
Today, let's honor the courage, sacrifice and loss of the brave men and women who fought at Pearl Harbor. Some fought to repel the Japanese, some fought to create order out of madness, some fought to defend their homes on this beautiful island, and many fought to save the lives of others.
For a first-hand experience (fictionalized), try Early Sunday Morning: The Pearl Harbor Diary of Amber Billows by Barry Denenberg
For true stories from Pearl Harbor survivors, facts, and statistics, visit this great website by the National Park Service.