It’s been 80 years since the quiet of a Sunday morning in paradise was shattered by an attack from Japanese forces that would claim 2,400 lives in 75 minutes and launch the U.S. into a world war that would last for four years.
The attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, began at 7:55 a.m. and each year on the anniversary, a bell tolls at that time to remember those who lost their lives that day.
Here are some things you may not have known about the attack on Pearl Harbor and the people who saw it that day.
1. Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto came up with the idea of attacking Pearl Harbor, in part, after reading a novel by Hector Bywater called “The Great Pacific War. It was written in 1925 and gave an account of a clash between the United States and Japan that was started with the Japanese destruction of the U.S. fleet. In addition to the book, Yamamoto was said to have taken inspiration from the successful attack of the Italian fleet at Taranto, Italy, by Britain’s Royal Air Force on Nov. 11, 1940.
2. There were 37 pairs or trios of brothers on the USS Arizona on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. Twenty-three sets of brothers were killed in the attack. A father and son stationed on the ship, Thomas and William Free, were also killed in action.
3. The USS Arizona was hit four times by Japanese bombers before it sank with more with 1,177 crewmen aboard. A 1,760-pound bomb hit the ship and lifted it out of the water before it went down. Among the dead were all 21 members of the Arizona’s band, known as U.S. Navy Band Unit (NBU) 22. When the attack began, most of its members were up on deck ready to play music for the daily flag raising ceremony.
4. There were 102 ships stationed at Pearl Harbor when the attack happened, eight were battleships. Seven battleships were sunk during the attack with the USS Arizona, the USS Oklahoma, and the USS Utah being total losses. The USS Nevada made a run for the channel to get out of the harbor, but was forced to run aground after it was damaged so as not to block the channel opening. Sixty-nine vessels received no damage at all. Top military commanders were later criticized for being unprepared for the attack. They generally believed that Pearl Harbor was too shallow to allow for a successful attack with torpedoes.
5. The ashes of a 2-year-old girl rest in the hull of the sunken USS Utah. A sailor stationed on the ship had brought the ashes of his daughter aboard to eventually bury at sea, but he never got the chance. Sixty-four men and the ashes of the little girl are entombed with the ship.
6. Opana Point, a radar station on the northern tip of the island of Oahu, spotted the incoming planes from the Japanese fleet. Radar technology was new then and the men who were manning the site were inexperienced. The planes were misidentified as American planes scheduled to be coming in that day from the US mainland.
7. Only two survivors from the USS Arizona – Lou Conter and Ken Potts – are still alive on the 80th anniversary of the attack.
8. Elvis Presley played a large role in funding the memorial at Pearl Harbor. In 1961, Elvis performed a benefit concert at Pearl Harbor that raised nearly $65,000 for the Memorial. Presley had just finished a two-year stint in the Army.
9. Far from demoralizing the U.S., the attack on Pearl Harbor galvanized support for America to enter World War II.
10. Today, 80 years after the attack, oil still leaks from the hull of the USS Arizona. It’s believed between 14,000 and 64,000 gallons of oil have leaked from the ship since the attack, and that about nine quarts of oil escapes from the ship each day. The National Park Service estimates it could continue to leak for 500 years. Survivors of the attack have called the leaking oil the “black tears of the Arizona.”
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