Eighty years ago this morning, citizens and service members alike in Hawaii faced terror, as Japanese planes from their Imperial Navy rained fire on the island in a devastating and surprise attack.
The assault quickly pulled the United States into a world-changing war, the largest and most destructive in human history. In the end, the Allied forces triumphed over the fascism of Germany, Italy, and Japan. The latter nation, by attacking the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, ensured that a titanic struggle for mastery of the vast Pacific Ocean and its surrounding waterways would be waged to the ultimate end.
The Second World War cost 75 million people their lives, most of them civilians.
None of the U.S. Navy’s seven active aircraft carriers were at Pearl Harbor that fateful morning. More than 2,000 servicemen — about half from the USS Arizona alone — were killed and nearly 1,200 wounded.
“I remember my mother crying, and Roosevelt coming on the radio, declaring war,” my stepfather, Ron Friedman, who was in first grade in 1941, explained to me. “We were told to get blackout shades and there were air raid warnings. Kids starting playing with soldiers. But for me at my age, life was mostly the same. We probably didn’t realize the enormity of it.”
Friedman said all his older cousins joined the U.S. Army, with one killed while flying his aircraft near London.
Today, there are two war memorials at Pearl Harbor: One for the battleship USS Arizona and the other for the battleship USS Utah. More than a million people visit each year. You can also view a photo gallery of the day’s events here.
Moments of silence in memory begin just before 8 a.m. local time Tuesday.