DEC. 7, 1941 Seventy-five years ago this week, the first Japanese bomber appeared over the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii just before 8 a.m. local time. It was part of a surprise attack by a fleet of almost 200 aircraft that within 30 minutes destroyed the USS Arizona.
“Japan, Axis partner of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, struck the first blow in the long-feared battle of the Pacific,” Edward T. Folliard wrote in the Dec. 8, 1941, edition of The Washington Post. That initial report put the death toll at 104. The final tally was more than 2,300, with more than half dying on the Arizona. A total of 21 U.S. vessels and 323 military planes were sunk or damaged.
The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the ambush “a date which will live in infamy,” and asked Congress for a declaration of war on Japan. The Pacific war lasted until September 1945.
An estimated 2,000 to 2,500 out of 60,000 survivors of the attack are still alive, but their numbers are dwindling, The Post noted in a story last September on the death, at age 94, of Raymond Haerry, who was on the Arizona when it was hit. This month, a group of military organizations is honoring Haerry and other survivors, as well as those lost that day, during 11 days of events commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack.