The above image shows the sinking of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.
December 7, annually, was formerly known as Pearl Harbor Day from 1942 until 1993. It was observed in the USA as a day to remember all of the lives lost during the airborne attack by the Empire of Japan on the U.S. Pacific fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor in the then-U.S. territory of the Hawaiian Islands (since 1959, the U.S. State of Hawaii). As the event occurred without a formal declaration of war, the effects of the bombardment were catastrophic and the loss of life severe.
On August 23, 1994, the U.S. Congress designated December 7, as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. On November 29, that same year, then – U.S. President Bill Clinton issued a proclamation declaring that December 7, 1994, as the very first Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
Within hours after the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, the Dominion of Canada announced that a state of war existed between Canada and Japan. It was the first Allied nation to respond to the aggression. The USA would go to war against Japan on December 8, 1941, following an address by then – U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt requesting Congress to enact legislation to that effect. The U.S. had finally entered the conflict that had embroiled the rest of the world since 1939. The U.S. was now a part of the Allied effort in World War II.
Soldiers bathing bare (above)
In the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese killed 2,403 servicemen and wounded 1,178 armed service personnel and civilians. It was the single deadliest event in the USA until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
A total of 4 naval battleships were sunk and an additional 4 others were damaged. Three naval cruisers were damaged, 3 naval destroyers were damaged and one minesweeper was sunk. A total of 188 military aircraft were destroyed and an additional 159 others were damaged. In one single morning, the Japanese gained naval dominance in the Pacific Ocean.
Airmen and soldiers washing in a river, 1940’s
The reason behind the Congressional action to change the designation of December 7, from the original Pearl Harbor Day to the designation Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day was simply a matter of age. At the 50th Pearl Harbor Anniversary in 1991. a number of Pearl Harbor survivors associations announced that it was to be the last of their annual gatherings. The majority of members, the actual survivors of the attack, were physically aging and too feeble to travel back to Pearl Harbor every year.
As fewer citizens were of an age to recall the events of Pearl Harbor and/or to have known any of the actual survivors, it was hoped that the new designation would encourage families and educators to explain to the young the significance of the day and the event.
Members of Congress took notice of this reality and proposed the new designation in hopes of passing the legislation before the last survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack all died. At the time the new designation passed both houses of the legislature, a mere handful of survivors remained alive.
The above picture shows the USS Arizona Memorial, which rests on the water above the sunken battleship. The ruins were never raised nor salvaged and serve as a permanent tomb to the sailors and marines who “went down with the ship.” The USS Arizona Memorial is operated as part of the Pearl Harbor National Park and is open to visitors throughout the year.
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is not an officially recognized public holiday in the USA. Government offices and postal offices remain open unless the date falls on a weekend. Schools and universities continue to hold classes. On Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, it is customary for the U.S. flag to fly at half-mast until sunset on all public facilities. “Moments of Silence” in memory of the dead are arbitrary and not mandatory. Some religious institutions and private institutions hold ceremonies to commemorate the date.
Sailors saluting the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii