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December 7th: A Date that will Live in Infamy

The tangled wreckage of ships line Battleship Row in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on December 7th, 1941.

The tangled wreckage of ships line Battleship Row in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on December 7th, 1941.


It was 75 years today that Japan’s Imperial Navy launched a surprise attack on the Hawaiian Naval base of Pearl Harbor that would result in the United States entering World War II.

The attack, designed by Japan to be a preventative action to keep the U.S. from interfering with their military actions in the Philppines, Guam, Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore,and Wake Islands as well as other areas in Southeast Asia, would draw the U.S. into World War II and spell ultimate defeat to Japan and their military ambitions.

At 7:48 Hawaiian time, 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo aircraft, from six Japanese aircraft carriers north of the islands, would swoop into Pearl Harbor and wreak havoc on the base, killing 2,403 Americans and wounding 1,178 others. 

Four of eight American battleships were sunk, and three cruisers, three destroyers, a mine-layer, and an anti-aircraft training ship were sunk or damaged. The Enterprise, Lexington, and Saratoga, the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s aircraft carriers would escape the carnage as they were at sea.

The devastating attack took only 90 minutes.

Of the battleships sunk, only one was not raised and repaired. The Arizona (BB-39) exploded and sank, killing 1,177 officers and men. The wreck remains submerged in the harbor to this day. In 1962 the USS Arizona Memorial was built over the hull of the ship.

Also involved in the attack, were five Japanese submarines. Four were destroyed and one was captured.

Although a majority of Americans believed that war with Japan was imminent, the attack on Pearl Harbor without a declaration of war came as a shock to America. It was widely thought then that any initial attack would take place in the Philippines.

Although a surprise to the American people, the plan to attack Pearl Harbor had been planned by Japan as early as the spring of 1941. By November 5th, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito approved the attack plan, and by December 1st, the final approval was given.

The day following the Japanese attack, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would call December 7th, “a date which will live in infamy,” and war would be declared on the island nation.

For the past 75 years, U.S. flags have been lowered to half-mast in memory and mourning for those lost during that December morning attack.

Alaska’s Governor, Bill Walker issued the annual proclamation remembering December 7th as Pearl Harbor Day, proclaiming:

WHEREAS, December 7, 2016, marks the 75th year of solemnly remembering the attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and

WHEREAS, on December 7, 1941, a surprise invasion of the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, claimed the lives of over 2,400 Americans and injured over a thousand others, launching the U.S. into World War II the next day; and

WHEREAS, after the attack, in which all 8 battleships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were sunk or badly destroyed and 350 aircraft were destroyed or damaged, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt acknowledged December 7, 1941 as “a date which will live in infamy,” and it has stood as a solemn day of remembrance ever since; and

WHEREAS, reflecting on the loss and devastation of that day serves as a vivid reminder of the invaluable service and selfless sacrifice of all our armed servicemen and women, who risk their lives and safety to shield our nation from harm and preserve our nation’s founding principles and liberties; and

WHEREAS, today we pause in remembrance of those who fought and died on December 7, 1941, and honor their bravery and ultimate sacrifice; and

WHEREAS, we are deeply grateful for members of our nation’s military and their families, who willingly risk all for the good of others.

NOW THEREFORE, I, Bill Walker, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF ALASKA, do hereby proclaim December 7, 2016 as:

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

in Alaska, and encourage all Alaskans to remember the invaluable service of our nation’s veterans. I also direct that the Alaska flag be flown at half-mast in honor of remembrance of the American lives lost at Pearl Harbor.

On December 6th, Governor Walker ordered flags to be lowered and made a brief statement, saying, 

“I encourage all Alaskans to pause in remembrance of those who fought and died while defending our country on December 7, 1941, and to honor their bravery and sacrifice,” Governor Walker said. “Reflecting on the loss and devastation of that day serves as a vivid reminder of the invaluable contributions our armed service people make every day; risking their lives to shield our nation from harm, and preserving our founding principles and liberties.”