USS Arizona sinks in Pearl Harbor
The USS Arizona burns and sinks following the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. In the background are the battleships USS West Virginia (left) and USS Tennessee, both damaged during the attack.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 7, 2011) -- Seventy years ago on Dec. 7, 1941, at 7:55 a.m., more than 350 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes from six aircraft carriers roared across the Hawaiian sky and began unleashing their deadly payloads.

As ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and planes of the Army Air Force at Hickam Field on the main island of Oahu, Hawaii, began exploding and burning, Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and Airmen ran for their weapons or helped the wounded to safety.

In less than two hours Japanese Imperial forces had killed more than 2,400 Americans and left another 1,282 wounded. That 110-minute attack also resulted in the award of 15 Medals of Honor, 51 Navy Crosses, 53 Silver Stars, four Navy and Marine Corps Medals, one Distinguished Service Medal and three Bronze Stars.

The next day, as the country lay in shock, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan with his famous "day of infamy" speech, officially bringing America into World War II. Four years would pass until the globe was at peace again.

Seven decades following the attack, President Barack Obama proclaimed Dec. 7 as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day encouraging businesses, local governments, groups and individuals to fly the American flag at half-staff.

"We honor the more than 3,500 Americans killed or wounded during that deadly attack and pay tribute to the heroes whose courage ensured our nation would recover from this vicious blow," Obama wrote in the proclamation.

"Their tenacity helped define the Greatest Generation and their valor fortified all who served during World War II. As a nation, we look to Dec. 7, 1941, to draw strength from the example set by these patriots and to honor all who have sacrificed for our freedoms," the proclamation states.

In a later statement issued by the White House press secretary, Obama drew a parallel to today's service members.

"And, as today's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan come to an end and we welcome home our 9/11 Generation, we resolve to always take care of our troops, veterans and military families as well as they've taken care of us," he said.

(Compiled by J.D. Leipold from White House releases.)

Page last updated Wed December 7th, 2011 at 00:00