Remembering Pearl Harbor

  • Published
  • By Allyson B. Crawford, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs
On this date in 1941, Japanese planes attacked naval base Pearl Harbor. The attack on Hawaii - then an American territory - killed 2,403 individuals. Another 1,100 were wounded. Many of the Americans killed in the attack were sailors aboard the U.S.S Arizona (completely destroyed) or the U.S.S. Oklahoma (capsized). In all 19 American ships and hundreds of planes were also damaged or destroyed. 

Hawaii is one of the most remote island chains in the world and is located 2,000 miles from the U.S. mainland. Military officials did not foresee an attack on such a far-flung American installation.
When the Japanese attacked, they also hit the U.S. Army Air Forces fields and facilities. The massive nature of the sneak attack meant few American pilots got airborne to fight back. 
The Japanese had one goal: to destroy the Pacific fleet. Damaged and destroyed ships would mean the Americans would have difficulty fighting the Japanese. Still, the attack did not cripple the Pacific fleet as the U.S. Navy salvaged and repaired what they could and the Americans also expanded air operations. The attack lasted about two hours, but left an indelible mark on world history. 
President Franklin D. Roosevelt learned of the attack during lunch. Soon he was working on a speech to Congress where he would ask for a declaration of war. The speech became one of the most important – and famous – in American political history. Congress quickly gave Roosevelt his war declaration.
Sixteen million Americans fought in World War II with around 240,000 still living, including some individuals who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. We thank them for their service and remember them today – and every day.