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History and Heritage

Pearl Harbor 75th Anniversary

Remembering the attack that led the U.S. into WWII

Two waves of attacking planes. Taken by surprise. A date which will live in infamy.


On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, the first Imperial Japanese plane hit its target just shy of 8 a.m. By approximately 1 p.m., the aircraft carriers which launched the planes more than 250 miles off the coast of Oahu were on their way back to Japan.

They left numerous casualties in their wake, damaged or sunk some of the finest warships in the fleet, and almost crippled future U.S. warfighting efforts in the Pacific.

"The whole harbor was on fire," recalls Raymond Chavez, a Pearl Harbor survivor. "You could see the black smoke from one end to the other because the ships were on fire. I started crying - I'm not ashamed to admit it - because of all the Sailors that were trying to save themselves, all the dead bodies, oil, and the ships [that] were on fire."

75 years later, Americans will gather together in remembrance of the men and women who gave their lives that fateful day, as well as those who survived and whose lives were never the same as before.

"It was a day that you never forget," said Adam Romero, who was stationed aboard USS Dobbin during the attack. "To me, anyway, it was a surprise - complete surprise. They sounded general quarters, and one of the petty officers, he came running out and he says 'the Japs are attacking.'"

This year's theme, "Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future," pays homage to all whose lives were directly affected the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt said "the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."
Three photo collage of attack on Pearl Harbor.


It also serves to recognize the steadfast perseverance, loyalty, and dedication for all who have served and continue to serve the nation in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor - Inspiring the Future.

In 2011, President Barack Obama called for flags on U.S. federal buildings to be flown at half-mast and said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families for whom this day is deeply personal - the spouses, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters who have known seven decades without a loved one but who have kept their legacy alive for future generations."

This 75th commemoration carries with it much of the same reverence for both those who endured the attack on Pearl Harbor and their families.

The USS Arizona Memorial, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and countless others around the island of Oahu stand as constant reminders of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to a grateful nation. This anniversary aims to make a lasting memory of its own - one of the utmost respect and gratitude, which reflects a true sense of Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future.

Photo of Ray Emory.