PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – It was a typical Sunday morning in Hawaii. But just before 8 a.m. 68 years ago, the serene morning quickly turned hellish.
From the morning sky, 353 aircraft Japanese descended on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor intending “to destroy America’s military establishment in the Pacific.” A total of 2,400 Americans – 1,177 on the USS Arizona alone – were killed in the sneak attack.
“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said the following day.
Following the attack, the United States entered into World War II. “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve,” Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto supposedly said following the attack. He was right.
A visit to Pearl Harbor is indeed a moving one. Perhaps the most famous tribute to that horrible day is the USS Arizona Memorial.
The 184-foot-long memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day 1962. Today, 1.5 million people visit the memorial each year.
“The structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory,” the memorial’s architect, Alfred Preis, said, according to the U.S. National Park Service. “…The overall effect is one of serenity. Overtones of sadness have been omitted to permit the individual to contemplate his own personal responses…his innermost feelings.”
The USS Arizona Memorial is a somber tribute to a fateful day that forever changed the course of history.