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The Smithsonian Institution National Air & Space Museum:

“A day that will live in infamy” – FDR

On December 7, 1941 the Japanese attached Pearl Harbor, Hawaii leading the United States into World War II.

At 7:48 am, Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time, on December 7, 1941, the stillness of Sunday morning was disrupted when the first wave of 183 Japanese torpedo bombers, dive bombers, and escorting fighters attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A second wave of 171 aircraft struck the naval base and airfields shortly before 9 am. Devastation was total. Americans killed in the attack numbered 2,403, with 1,143 wounded. All eight of the U.S. Navy battleships at Pearl Harbor were damaged and four were sunk including the USS Arizona. Numerous other ships were sunk or damaged. On December 8, the United States declared war on Japan. The United States had entered World War II.

USS Arizona (BB-39) sunk and burning furiously, 7 December 1941. Its forward magazines had exploded when it was hit by a Japanese bomb. At left, people on the stern of USS Tennessee (BB-43) are spraying fire hoses on the water to force burning oil away from their ship. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives and Records Administration, 80-G-19942).

December 7, 2021, is the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Each year the news mentions the attack that took place on December 7, and each year we have fewer eyewitnesses who survived that attack. This ‘day of infamy’ became personal for me through a chance encounter many years after the attack.

On December 14, 2007, my wife Cheryl and I were at the San Francisco airport to pick up our nephew. After meeting him outside of security, we were at a baggage claim carousel watching as bags appeared from multiple flights when my attention was drawn away by what I saw on the back of a jacket in front of me: ‘USS Arizona Survivor.’ I leaned over to Cheryl and said, “that is something you don’t see every day.”  Quickly my curiosity got the better of me and I approached the gentleman wearing the jacket to ask him about it. He was returning from a reunion event at Pearl Harbor, on his way to his home in the Puget Sound area near Seattle. He then proceeded to enthrall the three of us with a remarkable account of the day of the attack.

Video courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

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